In terms of computers, a cookie is "a message given to a web browser
[like Internet Explorer] by a Web server [a computer that delivers web
pages]. The browser stores the message in a text file. The message is
then sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page
from the server." ("Cookie:"
Perhaps the most typical use of a cookie is when you enter a website
that requires a username and password. Typically, there is a box you
can check to allow the website to "remember you." When you check this
option, a cookie is put into motion. Next time you visit the website,
you won't have to bother signing in, because a message is sent to the
web server, noting who you are. Cookies, essentially, save you time.
"Cookies are also used for online shopping. Online stores often use
cookies that record any personal information you enter, as well as any
items in your electronic shopping cart, so that you don't need to
re-enter this information each time you visit the site. Servers also
preferences at a site that uses this option, the server places the
information in a cookie. When you return, the server uses the
information in the cookie to create a customized page for
you...Webmasters have always been able to track access to their sites,
but cookies make it easier to do so. In some cases, cookies come not
from the site you're visiting, but from advertising companies that
manage the banner ads for a set of sites...These advertising companies
can develop detailed profiles of the people who select ads across
their customers' sites." ("What Are Cookies?"
Microsoft adds that a cookie is "essentially your identification card,
and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely
yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you."
("Information about Cookies:"
http://www.microsoft.com/info/cookies.mspx ) Cookies "cannot be used
to get data from your hard drive, get your email address or steal
sensitive information about your person. Early implementations of Java
these security leaks have been plugged." ("What Are Cookies?"
The name "cookie" comes from from UNIX objects called magic cookies.
These are tokens that are attached to a user or program and change
depending on the areas entered by the user or program." (UNIX was a
popular operating system developed at Bell Labs in the early 1970s.)
A cookie can be as large as 4 kilobytes or 4000 characters in length
("What Are Cookies?" http://webmaster.info.aol.com/aboutcookies.html )
"Depending on the browser you're using, cookies you download will be
stored in different ways and in different places on the [computer].
Netscape stores all cookies in one text file called cookies.txt on the
PC or magiccookie on the Mac. If you open cookies.txt you'll see that
each cookie has its own line and they are grouped by domain. Internet
Explorer stores cookies from each domain in separate text files stored
with the cache. All the cookies in one file are stored in one string
separated by delimiters."
For more technical information about cookies, please see The
Unofficial Cookie FAQ: http://www.cookiecentral.com/faq/ and All
About Cookies: http://www.allaboutcookies.org/
"So You Want A Cookie"
"FAQ About Cookies" http://www.pts.se/Sidor/sida.asp?SectionId=1930&Languageid=EN
"Creating & Using Cookies:"
"Cookie FAQ:" http://www.perlservices.net/en/faq/cookies.shtml
What are cookies?