Meaning & Definition
A cookie, in the context of computing and the internet, is a small piece of data that a web server sends to a user’s web browser. The browser then stores this data, and it’s sent back to the server with each subsequent request made by the user.
Cookies serve various purposes in web applications and online browsing, including:
- Session Management
Cookies are often used to manage user sessions on a website. They can store session identifiers or tokens that help the server recognize and associate requests from the same user during a single session, allowing users to stay logged in or maintain their state while navigating a website.
- User Authentication
Cookies can store user preferences and settings, such as language preferences, theme choices, or shopping cart contents. This enables websites to provide a more personalized experience for users.
- Tracking and Analytics
Cookies are commonly used for tracking user behavior and gathering analytics data. Website owners can analyze this data to understand how users interact with their site, which pages they visit, and what actions they take.
- Targeted Advertising
- Remembering Shopping Carts
Cookies can be used to enhance website security. For example, they can be used to prevent cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks.
- Remembering Login Credentials
When a user chooses the “Remember Me” option during login, cookies can store login credentials, making it more convenient for users during subsequent visits.
It’s important to note that cookies are often classified into two categories:
- Session Cookies
These cookies are temporary and exist only for the duration of a user’s visit to a website. They are often used for session management and are deleted when the user closes their browser.
- Persistent Cookies
Persistent cookies have a specific expiration date or duration set by the website. They can remain on the user’s device even after they close their browser. Persistent cookies are commonly used for personalization and tracking.