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What are cookies?

A cookie is a piece of information in the form of a tiny text file that is placed on an internet user’s hard drive. It is generated by a web page server, which is basically the computer that operates a web site. The information the cookie contains is set by the server, and it can be used by that server whenever the user visits the website. A cookie can be thought of as an internet user’s identification card, which tells a web site when the user has returned.

Example of a Cookie

  1. {expiry: 1605046213,…}
    1. expiry: 1605046213
    2. val: {seenCount: 6, skippedThisCycle: 0, nextCycleStart: 1574115029652, seenThisCycle: 6}

Origins of the Magic Cookie

The term “cookie” was coined by web-browser programmer Lou Montulli. It was derived from the term “magic cookie”, which is a packet of data a program receives and sends back unchanged, used by Unix programmers.

Magic cookies were already used in computing when computer programmer Lou Montulli had the idea of using them in web communications in June 1994. At the time, he was an employee of Netscape Communications, which was developing an e-commerce application for MCI. Vint Cerf and John Klensin represented MCI in technical discussions with Netscape Communications. MCI did not want its servers to have to retain partial transaction states, which led them to ask Netscape to find a way to store that state in each user’s computer instead. Cookies provided a solution to the problem of reliably implementing a virtual shopping cart.

Together with John Giannandrea, Montulli wrote the initial Netscape cookie specification the same year. Version 0.9beta of Mosaic Netscape, released on October 13, 1994, supported cookies[citation needed]. The first use of cookies was checking whether visitors to the Netscape website had already visited the site. Montulli applied for a patent for the cookie technology in 1995, and US 5774670 was granted in 1998. Support for cookies was integrated into Internet Explorer in version 2, released in October 1995.

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