What the hell are cookies?

What the hell are cookies?

If you use the internet you're familiar with seeing pop-ups on websites asking you to accept their cookies, to which you usually simply agree and move on. Cookies make the World Wide Web go round, but what exactly are they?

Fresh Cookies

Cookies are small files of information that are stored into your internet browser. They were designed in the early days of the internet, as a way for browsers to remember how you use a website. Without cookies, every time you used a website it would be like starting on a completely blank slate. Logging in, adding items to your cart, personalizing any settings (dark mode perhaps), would all be things that you would have to do each and every time you visited the site. Cookies provide the convenience that we've all come to expect from browsing the internet whether we were conscious of it or not.

Burnt Cookies

Like many great things on the internet, cookies have their downside. This is largely due to "third-party cookies", cookies that are being used on a website that actually don't belong to said website. Third-party cookies have become very popular for advertising companies because they allow them to track us across multiple websites and build profiles of us. These days many popular websites have tens (sometimes hundreds) of these invisible third-party cookies built into their sites in order to maximize profits.

Example: An owner of a website will insert third-party advertising cookies into their site because the targeted advertisements to their visitors will bring in some extra dough. Meanwhile, the third-party company is learning more about you on all the different websites you go to.

Cookies were starting to be seen as a privacy threat as early as 1996. In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented in the EU, which forces website owners to inform their visitors about the use of cookies. That's why you see so many of those cookie consent pop-ups these days.

Dessert's Over

Most cookies are essential to the way we use the internet today. Luckily, many popular browsers are starting to block third-party cookies by default without affecting your browsing experience. I recommend you use Brave, but if you insist on using Google Chrome, I recommend downloading the uBlock Origin extension to help beef up your privacy protection for free.

That's all for today. If you enjoyed this newsletter, forward it to a friend who might as well, or share it on social media. You can also buy me a coffee if you're feeling generous, it helps keep this thing going.