These days, whenever you visit a new website, you’ll see a notification about cookies and a request to accept them. But, while most of us have heard of cookies, it’s not always clear what exactly they are or what they do.
Unlike their delicious chocolate-chipped namesake, the cookies we’re talking about are small text fragments kept on a web browser. These cookies provide a tailored user experience by collecting data and enabling user-specific features such as personalization and tracking.
But, there are many different types of browser cookies, all with slightly different functions. Keep reading to find out more about how these different cookies work and what you can do about them.
What Are Cookies For?
Although cookies have a lot of other uses, their most important functions are:
- Session Management – Cookies make it easier to navigate websites by remembering your preferences and recognizing you as the same user. This means that you don’t have to keep starting from scratch when you click between different pages or return later.
- User Personalization – This function allows cookies to provide the necessary information for websites to show you targeted ads, set frequency caps, and other personalized features.
- Tracking – Here, cookies track your internet activity profile and use it to show you ads for products similar to those you’ve recently viewed.
What Are the Different Types of Browser Cookies?
Now you know a little more about what cookies are and what they do, let’s take a look at the different kinds of cookies out there:
Every time you visit a website directly, you encounter the first-party cookies set by the website publisher. These cookies collect data that the publisher then uses for analytics and to optimize functionality. It’s these cookies that recognize you as an existing user and store information about how you navigate the site.
First-party cookies are deemed essential for performing key features and enabling effective session management. But, website publishers can and do share the data gathered by these cookies with advertisers for ad targeting.
Set by domains that you as a user don’t visit directly, these cookies come from third-party elements such as ads, social plug-ins, or chatbots.
Once they’re in place, third-party cookies also save and track your information for research purposes. Areas of interest include spending habits or website user demographics. Advertisers use these to ensure that they market products and services to the right audience.
Session cookies (also called temporary or non-persistent cookies) are like a website’s short-term memory. They expire as soon as the session is up and web browsers don’t store them. But, they’re invaluable for website publishers to track user activity across various pages within a session.
Session cookies are common on e-commerce and shopping websites. Without them, for example, the items in your shopping cart would disappear before you have a chance to proceed to the checkout.
Persistent or permanent cookies remain in operation long after you’ve closed the web browser.
These cookies remember your passwords, language preferences, login details, and more. They ensure that you don’t need to change your settings or re-enter information every time you go back to a site.
Persistent cookies must have an expiration date by law, although the exact time can vary a lot between domains.
Only HTTPS website domains can set secure cookies. These are cookies with an encrypted connection for preventing data leakage.
Secure cookies often appear on the checkout and payment pages of e-commerce websites to make transactions safer. Online banking websites must also use secure cookies for security reasons.
Clearing Your Cookies
Cookies can help your pages load faster and make web browsing easier and smoother. But, they can also take up a lot of space and slow down your device. If your browser is full of cookies from websites you’re unlikely to visit again anytime soon, it’s counterproductive to have them hanging around on your server.
For added speed and security, it’s a good idea to clear cookies on a regular basis. But how do I clear my cookies? And how often should I do it? Let’s take a look!
How To Clear Cookies
There are two ways to clear your cookies. The manual method involves going to each of the browsers that you use and deleting the cookies there. But, an easier way is to use a cleaner app to help you clear your cache and cookies, as well as any other junk on your system.
Check out https://setapp.com/how-to/clear-cookies to find out more about clearing your cookies on each of the most popular browsers.
How Often Should I Clear My Cookies?
Make a habit of clearing your cookies at least once a month on all your personal devices. Not only will doing this clear space and speed up your devices’ processing times, but you’ll also protect information about your browsing habits.
When using a public computer at the library or an internet cafe, make sure to clear your cookies and browser history right after your session for security reasons. This way, even if you haven’t logged out of a site correctly, the next user won’t be able to access your passwords and other private information.
Your Guide to the Different Types of Cookies
As this guide shows, there are many different types of browser cookies, all with distinct purposes, lifespans, and requirements.
Some cookies ensure that you can browse online with ease and safety, while others only serve to help advertisers and agencies. But, by clearing your cookies on a regular basis, you can help protect your information and speed up your system at the same time.
Want more informative updates and advice like this? Be sure to check out our other blog posts for all the latest on everything from health to business.