What’s a cookie? Should we fear them?

CATEGORY: Definitions

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date: July 15 2019

Cookies have a wide back and are often assigned wrongly to functions or properties that they do not have. In this article, we will see what cookies are made of, what are their purpose and how they facilitate our web browsing every day.

Cookie recipe

A cookie is a file that our web browser (explorer, chrome or safari for example) saves on our computer or our mobile device. It’s not a virus or spyware, and it cannot attack our system (phew!). It’s rather a text file, which contains only text. Cookies are generated by the servers of the websites we visit. This is what allows them to recognize us from one visit to another. But for what purpose?

Understanding your clients tastes, its pays off.

Imagine this: you enter a restaurant, the waiter welcomes you and offers a table at the window or a place at the bar. You opt for the bar. He then asks you “mineral or sparkling water?”, to which you answer “sparkling”. A week later, you return to this restaurant. The same waiter welcomes you and, without asking any questions, leads you to the counter and serves you a bottle of sparkling water. Magic? No, cookie.

On the web, a site cannot identify you by your face. Well not yet. To recognize you, it leaves a cookie on your computer the first time you visit it. You surely have already noticed that several sites warn you that they use cookies. The cookie is the identifier that allows a website to recognize you. It allows him to query his database and see that, for example, this is your third visit this week, that your display language is French and that you read articles that deal with travel and photography. In fact, when we have the impression that a site “remembers us” is that there is a cookie to remind us who we are!

Here are some examples of things that a site can “remember” about us through a cookie:

  • Our first and last name, address, and country.
  • The words entered in the search bar of the visited site.
  • Our username and password, which saves us from having to reconnect each time we pick up our mail or update our Facebook status.
  • Our postal code, in order to locate us in relation to the nearest branch.
  • Our interests and the sections that we consult the most, in order to suggest us content related to our interests, hobbies, and work.

« A cookie allows us to resume navigation on a site where we left it. »

It’s with cookies that we make strategies.

Of course, brands and companies are very good at knowing our preferences, our browsing habits and certain information such as our zip code, age, and gender. A cookie allows a website’ administrator to know which section of his site generates the most traffic, how much time users spend on each page and which link, article or image they click on. All of this data is scrutinized by a company’s marketing department to plan the next strategy.

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