Updated: 01/31/2023 by Computer Hope
Chocolate chip cookie

First introduced with Netscape 0.9 on October 13, 1994, a cookie is a small amount of text-only data saved on your computer or phone while you browse a website. Websites can use this information to help create custom pages for you upon your return visits or save session information. For example, when you put items into an online shopping cart, cookies allow the host site to save them for when you return later.


A cookie is similar to the ticket you get when you take your clothes in for dry cleaning to help the dry cleaner find your clothes when you return. The same analogy could be applied to the ticket you get for a repair being done, valet parking, and coat check.

The term "cookie" was coined by Lou Montulli, who got the idea from the term "magic cookie," which are data packets a program receives and sends on Unix computers.

Are cookies safe?

Cookies received over the Internet should be considered more useful than dangerous. Without cookies, you cannot have customized settings and must verify your identity whenever you visit a secure site. Because cookies can track you while at a site and contain private information, the information could potentially be compromised, but it is unlikely.

If you're concerned about web pages gathering information about your viewing habits, you can turn off cookies or increase browser security to prompt you before any cookie is created. However, realize some web pages require cookies to be enabled to work.

Are cookies programs or viruses?

No. Cookies are plain-text files stored on your computer containing data that helps a website identify your computer. Because these files are plain-text, they cannot be executed and cannot infect or destroy other data on your computer.

What is a tracking cookie?

A tracking cookie is one used by Internet advertisers and marketing companies. It contains unique information about your computer and browsing history, which the company uses to deliver advertisements it believes you'd be most interested in viewing.

Another type of tracking cookie is a third-party cookie. These cookies are added to a computer by a website other than that for which the cookie is used. For example, the website has a button for liking them on Facebook. Clicking the Facebook Like button on adds a Facebook cookie to your computer. Because the cookie for Facebook came from, the cookie is considered a third-party tracking cookie.

Why do anti-spyware programs warn me about tracking cookies?

Because these cookies can track your computer, they can be considered an invasion of privacy. It's up to you to decide whether to save or delete these files. Besides the potential privacy concerns, tracking cookies pose no threat to your computer and do not contain malware or viruses.

What is cookie stealing?

After logging in to a site, a cookie containing a unique token is saved to your computer and identifies you as an authorized visitor. Cookie stealing or cookie theft is a method of grabbing that cookie from your computer using XSS (cross-site scripting) to access your account. Once stolen, any computer with that cookie can access your account without needing login details, as long as the cookie hasn't expired or changed.

Do cookies make computers slow?

No. Cookies do not affect the speed of a computer.

What is the cookie law?

The cookie law or EU cookie law was enacted in the European Union, requiring those doing business in the EU to notify visitors how they use cookies on their website. The websites must also allow their site visitors to opt out of receiving cookies.

Browser, Cookie poisoning, Firesheep, Internet terms, Session cookie, Tracking, Web design terms