Ask Abby

First Time Visitors

Cookies, anyone?

Do you remember how Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs in the forest so they would find their way home? Well, Cookies are used in much the same way on the Internet. A Cookie is a very small bit of information that a web site stores on your hard drive (the permanent storage of your computer) when you visit their site. In this way the web site keeps information about the user (you) and can then access that information the next time you visit their site.

Here’s an example: If you visit to buy a book, they will store a Cookie on your computer that indicates what books you bought. The next time you visit they use that Cookie to suggest books you might be interested in purchasing. Or, if you register with a web site (i.e. the New York Times or Travelocity), the Cookie they store on your computer will save your password information so you don’t have to retype it every time you access the site.

Here are questions I’ve been asked regarding Cookies:

Will Cookies allow a web site to access other information stored on my computer?

No. Cookies are created to retain information about your use of a particular web site. That web site can access only the Cookie it created—no others—nor can it access anything else on your computer.

Do Cookies take up a lot of space on my computer?

No. Cookies are in the form of text and text takes up very little space on your computer. You never need to be concerned about Cookies using up valuable hard drive space.

Should I block Cookies?

You can, but you may not get the most out of some of the web sites you want to visit. I find Cookies to be harmless, but if you feel otherwise you can certainly choose not to accept them.

The bottom line is: Have no fear of Cookies. There are no wicked witches or cauldrons of broth involved. Cookies are merely little crumbs a web site has left behind so it can better serve you the next time you visit.

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