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What is a Cookie?
A cookie is either a small text file that is stored on your hard drive, or some information that is stored in memory until you close your browser. Some websites may save information on your system in the form of a cookie to allow: a personalized browsing experience, access to a secure implementation, or to better track usage of their websites.

There is some concern that cookies can access and read other areas of your hard drive, or that personal information about you can be read by the website. Webpages that write and read cookies can only interact with the cookie file(s) for your browser and a cookie can only be accessed by the same domain server that sent it.

What is its purpose?
Some websites may allow you to register or choose personalization options so they can dynamically direct you to information on the web pages that suit your interest. By using a cookie, their site can automatically read your preferences and customize the pages without any action on your part.

Other websites may require you to login. In this case your username may be stored in a cookie, so they can fill in the username field for you on subsequent visits, however almost all sites won't store your password in a cookie. Once you login you may be sent several cookies that will be stored in memory only. If you do not choose to accept these cookies, your access to any of the secured pages on their sites may be restricted.

How does it help me?
Some statistics programs will issue you a cookie when you first come to a site and then use that information to allow them to gather more detailed information about your activity on their site. Instead of using an arbitrary amount of inactivity time to signal the end of a visit, activity from the same cookie is considered a visit. They cannot determine your name, or other personal information from the statistics cookies. It does provide them with much better information about which areas of their sites are popular or not so popular, navigation routes etc.

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