Cookies are small pieces or strings of data that websites save on your computer through a browser, for keeping track of certain parameters related to your activity on that site or for other purposes. They enable the web page to become more interactive, by delivering tailor-made pages to users. The web server accesses cookies through the browser to achieve this. There may be inbuilt programming on the page, which enables access to these saved pieces of information, in order to deliver certain functionality to the site.
A cookie file, saved by a web page, is essentially a table of values assigned to specific information parameters that the site needs to access and enables it to deliver dynamic web pages. For example, when you log into a site, your login name, the start of your session time, along with the options that you select on the site, are saved on your computer through the browser. Information about every session can be carried forward to the next with the help of cookies. If you are accessing certain e-shopping sites, then they will carry information about your shopping cart details.
A web page is accessed by millions of users simultaneously. If the server saves all user related information on its side and has to retrieve it every time, the site may slow down. Instead, cookies are saved on the client computer side itself, which enables speedy delivery of pages, from the server side. They can be temporarily or permanently saved on a computer. Some have a 'self-destruct' mode and they get deleted, as soon as the browser is closed. So, it is essential that you know how to disable and enable cookies in a browser.
They come in two types: 'First party' and 'Third Party'. First-party cookies belong to the same site which you are visiting, while third-party ones belong to other sites. Generally, the latter are blocked. Cookies may also contain scripts and some of them may be malicious. It is a good practice to enable them in such a way, that the browser asks you whether to save them or not. You can also set up an anti-spyware/malware software which detects such malicious cookies for you. You can also block all of them and allow only specific sites to save them.
Enabling Cookies in Different Browsers
The cookie implementation facility is dependent on the browser, rather than the operating system. There are a plethora of web browsers available now and each varies in its features and settings. The enable/disable option is available in the settings of every browser. Most of the browsers give an option to block specific sites.
- To enable them, click on the 'Tools' option and click on 'Options.'
- A window with various tabs will open. Select the 'Privacy' tab. The 'Firefox will accept Custom settings for history' option will be selected and you will see a list of check boxes below.
- Click on the check box which says 'Accept cookies from sites'. There will be an exceptions tab, where you can specify sites from which you do not want cookies to be saved.
- To disable third-party cookies, uncheck the box that says 'Accept third party cookies'.
- You can also choose the duration for which you want the cookies to be stored through the 'Keep until' option.
- Click on the tools tab of IE8 and then select 'Internet Options' from the drop down window.
- A window with various tabs will open. Select the 'Privacy' tab and click on the 'Advanced' button.
- The cookie-handling window will open. The check box titled 'override automatic cookie handling' must be in a checked state. Look at the options given below.
- IE8 provides a set of three options - 'Accept, Block, or Prompt' for first and third-party cookies. Select the 'Accept' option for first-party ones or 'Prompt,' and you may choose to block the third-party cookies (recommended) or select the 'Prompt' option for them too.
- Click on the tools tab, symbolized by a spanner symbol.
- Next, click on the 'Options' in the drop down list.
- Click on the 'Under the Hood' tab. You will see a 'Cookie Settings' section. Set the option to either 'Allow all cookies' or 'Restrict how third party cookies can be used'.
- Click on 'Tools' and select 'Preferences'. Then go to the 'Advanced' tab. Select the 'Accept Cookies' option or 'Accept cookies only from the sites I visit' (recommended).
- You can also enable specific site blocking of cookies.
- Click on the 'Tools' tab in the right hand upper corner, symbolized by a gear.
- Select the 'Preferences' option. Go to 'Security' option and in it, select the 'Always' or 'Only the sites I visit' (recommended) options to enable cookies.
With advanced features available in browsers, you can totally customize your web experience.