All about Cookies

Following on from my previous article about the new EU Cookie Law, many will be asking what exactly is a Cookie ?

Cookies are simple text files containing small amounts of information which are downloaded to your device when you visit a website for the first time.

They contain information about your computer and generally do not include any personal data at all. They cannot be used to infect your device with viruses or malware etc.

Each individual Cookie is made up of 4 basic parts:

  1. Website name:  The name of the domain or sub-domain that set the cookie,
  2. Cookie name: The cookie’s name, which is unique to the site that set it.
  3. Expiry date:  Some cookies will expire when you close your browser (called session cookies), other cookies will be automatically deleted once it reaches the expiry date that has been set (called persistent cookies).
  4. A value:  This is the information in the cookie that the website uses to “remember” your previous visit. The value might look something like this:ID=03bld4f3936 9971:LD=en:NR=10 …

Some examples of typical cookies (values are not shown for security reasons) – note that we have added the information column to give some explanation,  this is not actually included in the Cookie:

Domain name Cookie Name Expires Information
www.scalarenterprises.co.uk __atuvc 719 days The __atuvc cookie is created and read by the AddThis social sharing site JavaScript on the client side in order to make sure the user sees the updated count if they share a page and return to it before our share count cache is updated. No data from that cookie is sent back to AddThis and removing it when disabling cookies would cause unexpected behavior for users.
.scalarenterprises.co.uk __utma 730 days Google Analytics – Tracking service used by a lot of websites
.scalarenterprises.co.uk __utmb Less than one day Google Analytics – Tracking service used by a lot of websites
.scalarenterprises.co.uk __utmc Date not set Google Analytics – Tracking service used by a lot of websites
.scalarenterprises.co.uk __utmz 182 days Google Analytics – Tracking service used by a lot of websites

Each time you return to that website, those Cookies are sent back to the originating website, (or to another website that recognises that cookie in the case of third party cookies). Cookies are useful because they allow a website to recognise a user’s device and selected preferences.  This information can assist in navigating between pages efficiently, remembering your preferences, and generally improving the user experience. They can also help to ensure that adverts you see online are more relevant to you and your interests.


This video from Google presents a really good overview and explanation about cookies and how they work:



There are in actual fact, a number of different types of Cookies but we will leave that for another post.

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Image credit: rtimages / 123RF Stock Photo