Computer cookies were so named by the original developer of this technology, Lou Montulli, as an homage to an earlier piece of computer monitoring technology known as "magic cookies." This earlier technology performed a function similar to modern cookies. They transmitted short code segments between machines for identification. Montulli developed the modern cookie in 1994 while working for the Internet company Netscape.
Cookies are small files that are delivered and installed on a visitor's browser for the purpose of tracking the visitor's activities on that particular site. The level of monitoring can extend to the user's overall web and computer activities. There are two primary categories of cookies. One is the session cookie. These cookies are stored in temporary memory and remain valid only while the web browser is open. Once the browser is closed, these cookies are deleted. The second type is the persistent cookie. These cookies remain embedded within the browser for a predetermined period of time during which the cookies send back specific information to the website server about the viewer's activity. The traditional tracking cookie falls under the latter category.
In general, cookies are used to personalize the user's web browsing experience, authenticate page visitors and customize the serving of ads.