Digital Cookies: How They Slow You Down


Slowing Down Your Internet Experience

Not the yummy kind, the digital kind.

Cookies, temporary and permanent, are small text files, usually no bigger than one to two kilobytes (KB) in size, that a website uses to recognize you if you have visited that site in the past. Websites will transfer a cookie with a unique ID tag to the hard drive of your computer, while maintaining a copy of the cookie on its server. As a result, when you revisit the website, the cookie will allow the website to recognize you and provide you with certain preferences.

These preferences might be for certain products that you viewed on a retailer’s website, a language that you used to view the website, or color choices. Although some privacy advocates complain about cookies, they tend to make the web browsing experience easier, since cookies often remember passwords and names. Thanks to cookies, you don’t have to retype your information on every site that you visit or transaction you want to complete online.

Because they are text files, cookies cannot run programs or carry viruses that slow down your computer. Cookies are also so small in size that thousands of them would not take up much room on your computer. Therefore, cookies do not actually slow down your computer. However, cookies can slow you down in some other ways.

Cookies Affect Browsing Performance

First, cookies can slow down website performance. When you revisit a website, the information stored in your cookies may prompt the website to tailor the loading screen to fit your preferences. For instance, the website might load a sales video that is customized to your interests or perhaps a retailer will provide list of new items from your favorite brand. This might result in a delay in the website loading initially.

Next, cookies may slow down your search engine’s performance. Cookies may cause your search engine to attempt optimizing your search results based on your past searches, preferences, and web page views. As a result, it may take longer to get search results when you use your search engine.

Despite these potential disadvantages to cookies, deleting all of your cookies from your computer has its own set of disadvantages. In reality, not having cookies can actually slow you down, as well. If you delete cookies on a regular basis, a website will not remember your information when you revisit them, even if you visit it frequently. Instead, you will have to re-enter that data each time you visit the website.

Another potential disadvantage to disabling cookies is that you may be unable to use some websites. Some websites require that you set your internet browser to enable cookies in order to visit them or view information on them. In this case you don’t have much choice about whether to accept cookies from that website’s server.

As these examples illustrate, there are ways that having cookies stored on your computer can slow down your web surfing experience, but there are disadvantages to disallowing or deleting cookies, as well. Only you can decide whether cookies are more helpful or harmful to your overall user experience.

Additional Resources




  • Cookies, by Jason Kneen, available on iTunes for free
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