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Q: Cookies ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Cookies
Category: Computers
Asked by: patrice29-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 18 Jun 2005 09:12 PDT
Expires: 18 Jul 2005 09:12 PDT
Question ID: 534555
How did cookies get their name?
Subject: Re: Cookies
Answered By: clouseau-ga on 18 Jun 2005 09:48 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello patrice29,

Thank you for your question.

Wikipedia is a great resource for finding the origin of terms. This page notes:

"...Cookie - A packet of information that travels between a browser
and the web server.

The term was coined by web browser programmer Lou Montulli after the
term "magic cookies" used by Unix programmers..."

Following the links provided, we find a bit more:

"...In computer programming, a magic cookie or cookie is a token or
short packet of data passed between communicating programs, where the
data is typically not meaningful to the recipient program. The
contents are opaque and not usually interpreted until the recipient
passes the cookie data back to the sender or perhaps another program
at a later time. The cookie is often used like a ticket - to identify
a particular event or transaction.

For example, when one visits a website, the remote server may leave a
cookie on one's computer, see HTTP cookie..."

And about the programmer who coined the term:

"...Lou Montulli is a programmer who is well known for his work in
producing web browsers.

In 1991 he wrote a text web browser called Lynx while he was at the
University of Kansas. This web browser was one of the first available
and is still in use (as of January 2004).

In 1994 he was hired by Netscape Communications and programmed the
networking code for the first versions of the Netscape web browser. He
was also responsible for several browser innovations, such as HTTP
cookies, the blink tag, server push and client pull, HTTP proxying,
HTTP over SSL, and encouraging the implementation of animated GIFs
into the browser. While at Netscape, he also was a founding member of
the HTML working group at the W3C and was a contributing author of the
HTML 3.2 specification.

In 1998 he worked as an engineer at [1]
( which is now"

A site called Domino Power relates a bit of the story as well:

"...In my February 2002 article, "Using cookies in Lotus Domino
applications is in your future," at, I
speculated on the reason why browser cookies are called cookies.
You'll recall from February that Netscape's cookie specification
document (at
says, "The state object is called a cookie, for no compelling reason."
I doubted that there was no compelling reason for the state object to
be called a cookie, and I suggested that browser cookies were probably
named after Chinese fortune cookies. My theory was that Chinese
fortune cookies contain small chunks of text and so do browser
cookies, thus the origin of the term. As it turns out, the Netscape
cookie specification document is wrong. My Chinese fortune cookie
theory is wrong, too.

I know this for a fact, because the guy who invented browser cookies told me so.

Whilst cruising the Web recently I found a Web site called Technology
Review (at, which describes itself as
"MIT's magazine of innovation." Technology Review has an interesting
yearly roundup of "100 innovators under 35" (at This
list is an extremely interesting read in itself, and I encourage you
to check it out. One of those innovators is Lou Montulli (at, one of the pioneers at Netscape. Lou is
responsible for innovations such as Web proxying, the blink tag, and
the incorporation of animated GIFs into the Web browser. Lou also
invented cookies.

I dropped Lou an email asking him for the real story. Here's his response:

Cookies are named after the computer science term "magic cookie".

Lou doesn't mince words, but there it is--cookies are named after the
term "magic cookie" used by Unix programmers. The link in Lou's email
points to The New Hackers Dictionary, which defines a magic cookie as
"Something passed between routines or programs that enables the
receiver to perform some operation."..."

Search Strategy:

origin of term cookie OR cookies

So there you have it!

If a link above should fail to work or anything require further
explanation or research, please do post a Request for Clarification
prior to rating the answer and closing the question and I will be
pleased to assist further.


patrice29-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

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