A cookie it is a record that is stored by a web server on the user's hard drive. The file received is a combination of characters made up of numbers and letters, which assigns a certain identity to the user (customer). They may not exceed a maximum size of 4 KB and will contain, for example, information on the length of the visit or on what the user has clicked. When the client or user returns to the web later, the cookie information is sent back to the server. The goal is to recognize the user and their settings.
How does it work?
There are two possibilities for the operation of cookies on a website:
- A cookie can be transmitted through the header of requests and responses through HTTP. Cookies are created on the client when an additional cookie line with HTTP headers is transferred when accessing a web portal.
Cookie information is stored locally in the browser, usually in a cookie text file. When the web server is accessed again, the client's browser only selects the cookies that have the same domain as the web server. These cookie data are then transferred to the web access header, so they are returned to the web server from which they originated.
In general, cookies can be transferred with any file transmitted, including image files or any other type of file. This also applies to embedded items (for example, advertising banners) from other servers, so that the same web portal can give rise to several cookies from different servers.
Users usually visit several websites that are not always part of the same network, and receive a cookie in each case. In such cases it can be difficult to assign the cookie to the correct network.
If a user buys a product in an online store and has previously visited another network, the cookie points ensure that the assignment is correct and that the tracking system that led to this purchase only sees the cookie. This avoids various remunerations and provides a fair and transparent way to distribute or allocate commissions within various affiliate networks.
To technically perform the cookie points, the tracking and existing cookies are extended with parameters and special directories that allow the trigger network identification. The query on the cookie switcher itself, which occurs at the end of the customer's journey, shows precisely the cookie that triggered the purchase. Some providers offer special solutions that include both conventional tracking and corresponding cookie switches.
Cookies are managed exclusively by the client and stored or deleted as you like. Many browsers allow the user some configuration options for handling cookies:
- Do not accept cookies.
- Accept only cookies from the server of the page being accessed (not cookies from third-party servers).
- Ask any user of cookies for permission.
- Remove all cookies when closing the browser.
At the same time, most administrative actions, such as displaying cookie data or deleting individual cookies, can be carried out. The client can independently modify, empty or delete the content of the cookies.
Apps for use
- Cookies are generally used to store the personal configuration of the visited websites (for example, forums, social networks). This avoids the user having to constantly register when visiting the same website and can comfortably carry out the usual activities.
- Cookies are also suitable for caching the actions and inputs of users when the connection with the server ends. Therefore, the lost information can be recovered from the server when the connection is restored. The respective web application recognizes the sequence of the cookies generated and marks the cookies that have already been processed or deletes their content. As a result, no data is lost and the app can run as before after termination.
One source of danger is the misuse of the customer's unique badge. Cookies can be used to create user profiles on a user's browsing behavior. An online store can use this data to send targeted email messages. At the same time, other servers may also use image files (advertising banners, tracking pixels) to determine so-called third-party cookies. These are also known as "tracking cookies" and lead to the fact that the visit of different websites can be assigned to a single user. This can be used to draw conclusions about the specific interests of users and websites can be modeled ('customized') accordingly.
- Public internet access
In environments where several users have access to the same PC (for example, in schools), there is a risk that the subsequent user of the PC may continue to use valid cookies or even abuse them to continue a session. This can be avoided by deleting all cookies before closing the browser or, if necessary, by configuring the respective browser.
- Cookie dropping
Cookie dropping refers to a fraud process that begins with the cookie scam and is not visible to the normal user. Cookies are normally only stored in the Internet user's browser when an active click is made on the respective advertising medium. However, by dropping cookies, these clicks are artificially caused, that is, without the user acting actively. If the Internet user now carries out a transaction by the provider in the course of his Internet activity, the fraudulent owner of the agent's home page will be identified and will receive a commission. Since cookie drops also simulate clicks on malware or infected websites, this operation can be considered an Internet fraud.
Cookies offer both advantages and disadvantages for the corresponding customer. A compromise in the handling of cookies could be reached by configuring the browser in such a way that persistent cookies are not allowed or only against consultation. This makes it difficult to create user profiles and session cookies can also be allowed automatically, for example for purchases on the web. At the same time, most browsers offer the option to selectively accept cookies for certain domains and reject cookies other than from the third-party server without prompting. These individual protection measures can be taken mainly by means of small additional programs (plug-ins). This allows cookies to be generally disabled and exceptionally allowed if a registration is to be made with an online service.
In the field of SEO, success can be achieved by improving and perfecting the friendliness of the web for search engines. One aspect of this is ensuring that the search engine crawler can easily visit all the links on the web and that important, information-rich pages can be indexed accordingly. However, pages that can only be viewed by accepting cookies from the crawler program represent a problem. Most crawlers cannot accept cookies and therefore it is not feasible to visit or index the page in question.