WINDOWS Magazine, July 1997
Rev Up the Web for Free || Editor Mike Elgan on the Web ||
Message Exchange || Reviews and Related Resources || July Issue ||
Go to Cover Story Online Front Page



Well Connected
Browsers Get Better
Perfect Plug-Ins
Useful Utilities
Find It Fast
Cookie Monsters
Search Success

Modem Mastery
Quick Connections
Ready, Willing and Cable
Tune In to the Web

If You Build It, They Will Come
Construction Sites
Picture This
Sounds Good
Action ... Reaction
The Next HTML

A Host of Hosts
Serve Yourself
Watch What Gets In
Know Who's Visiting
Find a Gracious Host
Get Surfers to 'Hit' on You

The Top 20 Business Sites

Cookie Monsters
Tasty tidbits--or just desserts?

Cookies may be delectable morsels, but the Web variety is sometimes a little hard to digest. The concept is relatively simple. When a Web site you visit dishes up a cookie, it sends a small piece of data to your hard drive. You probably won't even know when this happens. The cookie "brands" your PC with a permanent profile that the site can use to identify you if you visit again.

A variety of Web sites use cookies. Virtual stores with shopping-cart transactions use cookies to store a list of user-requested items. If you don't empty your cart before you leave the site, the cookie will remind the server of your selections when you return. In other cases, a cookie may serve as "permanent" password, so you don't have to retype it each time you visit a protected site.

Online advertising agencies such as DoubleClick and Focalink send out cookies along with banner ads to help track how many times a user sees a specific ad. Agencies can also determine the path you took to get to their ad site. They use that information to see what your interests are and then match them to specific ads.

Cookies might sound creepy, but remember-they can't read your hard drive or record anything you don't volunteer. Still, many users are uncomfortable with the thought of a site depositing anything on their hard disk. To help address concerns about privacy, a cookie standards proposal (RFC 2109) headed up by Lucent Technologies' David Kristol has been submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force for review. The proposed plan ( would make the presence of cookies more obvious to users.

In the meantime, you can set your browser to warn you before accepting a cookie. With Internet Explorer, select View/Options and check the box labeled "Warn before accepting 'cookies'" on the Advanced tab. In Navigator, select Options/Network Preferences/Protocols and check the box labeled "Show an alert before accepting a cookie." Navigator 4.0 includes advanced filtering, which lets you automatically reject all cookies. For a list of cookies on your system, open cookies.txt in the Navigator directory or scan IE's Cookies directory in the Windows directory.

You can also visit for demo downloads of the NSClean and IEClean cookie monitoring tools. In addition, Pretty Good Privacy ( offers a cookie filtering app called PGPcookie.cutter for Windows NT 4.0.

Well Connected: Search Success