Become a WhatWorks® Member and gain access to all research resources.
See our Membership FAQs
Computer "cookies" (also known as "browser cookies" or "tracking cookies") are small, usually encrypted text files that are located in browser directories on a user's computing device. Created by web developers to help users to better navigate their websites and perform certain functions more efficiently, a cookie is created in the user's browser when that user's computer accesses a particular website. The website then sends information to the user's browser, which creates the text file or cookie. Each time the user visits that website, the browser sends this cookie to the website's server. Computer cookies can also be generated from elements on a webpage, such as ads or widgets. Access to a website can be dependent on allowing a cookie to be generated and stored in the user's browser. Cookies can also be used to track and record the activities of a user on the Internet and/or within a website.