Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cookies (and not the kind you bake)

Has anyone else noticed a trend of food blogs trying to put cookies on your machine? In the last few days, I have had several instances when accessing a newly-discovered food blog, in which the blog tried to "cookie" me. I am somewhat paranoid about stuff like that, and so I get a prompt any time a site tries to download a cookie, and I nearly always say "always block" (except in a few rare instances). However, I been rather surprised to see this from food blogs and am curious - can anyone tell me why a foodblogger might want to install cookies on visitors machines?

This post was written by Lynda at Food, Books, and FoodBooks.

7 comments:

Derrick said...

I'd assume the food blogger isn't doing it deliberately, but is using some on-screen widget that does it for them. For instance, traffic monitoring. Perhaps something has come into vogue, or one of the popular tools has added this?

Cybele said...

I suspect it's a traffic cookie. I think StatCounter puts a cookie on my readers' computers.

The only thing I get from that is to know how many of my readers are unique ... that's all I can glean from that. All other info I get is from their IP address (which tells me what their click-thru path was and a general location).

The other cookie that might be left is from the advertisers on a blog. It depends on the ad code a blogger has inserted. I think that Amazon ads have cookies. I don't think BlogAds utilize cookies.

Sometimes a cookie can be used for things like polls, so that your votes in the poll are displayed to you the next time you visit. The same with blogs that have customizable templates.

Some blogs have forums associated with them that create session cookies if you've registered.

There are lots of innocuous reasons that blogs use cookies. I usually allow all cookies and then blow them out regularly.

Cookies have a bad reputation, and in many cases they've been abused. Keep blocking them if you're concerned.

maki said...

Most of the time it's for stats. Hosted blogs on Blogger, Typepad, Wordpress.com etc don't allow for server side statistics (well typepad does but....mumble) so most people have statcounter, sitemeter, or other widget on their blogs. Even self-hosted sites have a cookie-baking javascript-using stats thingie since they tend to yield more readable information than server side stats programs. No need to worry in most cases.

Tery Spataro said...

Does the blog have ads? Some ad serving software will put a cookie on visitor's computer. They are usually harmless but annoying never the less.

I use adware to sweep my computer of cookies. Anyone have a good cookie deleting software?

Sam said...

I am pretty sure, especially judging by how difficult most of us find it to do just about anything technical, that none of us are putting these cookies in place on purpose.

would love to know if my site leaves cookies. How can we do that?

kitchenmage said...

Lynda,

May I ask what you are "paranoid" about? (seriously) What do you think will happen if you let sites set cookies? (Have you been listening to the corporate media yell "be afraid of the Internet, it will reach through your monitor and seduce your unborn daughter!"? grin)

Seriously, cookies are much misunderstood and thus much maligned. They (at least most) aren't really trying to track your every move. My site uses StatCounter cookies for statistics, nothing more and, like Cybele, I don't get too much added value from them other than knowing if someone is a repeat visitor. Every so often there is something amusing: one person has visited this page about eight times in the last week...which makes me wonder...but only that.

Lynda, how do you decide what to accept? I've got entire top-level domains (.ru, .jp, others I never need) blocked in Firefox, along with the obvious ad sites and URLs with strings that indicate they are the ad servers of a site I visit. I've also got a few additional layers of security that seem much more useful than cookie blocking: ZoneAlarm, a NetGear firewall/router, Pest Patrol, AVG Anti-virus and Mailwasher. (ZA, AVG and mailwasher all have free versions for home users) I'd be a lot more concerned about that sort of protection than about cookies.

Sam, no cookies at your site for me and I don't have them blocked at the domain level since I have cookies for both blogspot and several blogs there. To see, go there w/Firefox, then check:
Tools-->Options-->Privacy-->Cookies-->ViewCookies

FYI (for both Lynda and Sam), your code has blogger cookie stuff in it though that I don't have time to wade through, so I am not sure what's going on there. But no cookies are being set on my system.

paul said...

Don't be afraid of cookies, all they are is a bit of text containing a creation date, a number, the domain that sets it and an expiration date. It's used for too many benign, mundane tasks to mention here.

Every blogspot site uses a javascript cookie setting script, as does the S'cool. Scroll through your cookie file and you'll see all the familiar names you see around here (assuming you read them).

As mentioned here, there's other things like spyware and adware to be much more afraid of.