Milking your current cookies to extract the optimum web experience

21st September 2018

Earlier this week, we discovered together just what cookies are and just what we should be doing with all those cookie policy pop-ups we all keep seeing. Now let’s take a closer look at the many benefits cookies provide, their disadvantages and when (and how) you may want to browse without cookies.

I’m going to go with the good news first. The second oldest age-old question – after that old chicken-and-egg chestnut – has created a paroxysm of indecision. However, psychologists based at the University of California in a study entitled, ‘Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News First? The Nature and Consequences of News Order Preferences’, think they have the answer.

And, it’s because I want to change the way we use the Internet for the better, that I’m hitting you with the good news first. The Californian study demonstrated that, although hearing the bad news last would leave most of us feeling worse, we would also be more likely to act upon it.

Cookies are the reason underwear models have been following you around the Internet

So, the good news, cookies not only remember which websites you have been to, they also remember information about forms. That’s why filling out online forms is so easy. An online shopping company will remember: your billing address; your delivery address; your mobile number; your shoe size.

Thanks to cookies, browsing your favourite sites has never been easier. All you need to do is type the first few letters into the address bar and up it will come. Plus, your chosen search engine will remember recent and favourite search terms.

Cookies are used to serve you up, Minority Report-style, things you never knew you wanted well before you even knew these things existed. It is why Amazon can offer you up related products, it’s why Google can tailor searches to your tastes, your location and your habits and why Facebook can do pretty much anything it wants with your mind, from steering your voting preferences, to influencing prejudice and shaping your friendship group.

This information can be used to serve us up articles that float our boat, new music recommendations, concert ticket ideas, holiday suggestions, essentially anything that can help monetise our surfing habits.

Targeted advertising
Remember that lingerie set you bought online for your wife because you couldn’t quite face asking questions of an M&S shop assistant? Well, that’s the reason underwear models have been following you around the Internet ever since, which should hopefully ease the worries of you and your wife (if this is a persistent problem, tune in next week to find out more about ‘incognito’ browsing).

Courtesy of cookies, marketing companies can collect detailed browsing data and so target us with bespoke campaigns and offers aimed at a very specific market segment including product group, geo-location, search terms used and our demographic.

Are you experienced?
Websites use cookies to optimise our experience of them, oftentimes in subtle ways we don’t consciously notice. They use the information they collect through the cookies (depending on their consent settings) to track each visitor, including how we entered the site, the page we landed on, how long we stayed there, what we clicked on and where we went next.

Tracking us this way gives web publishers all the ‘analytics’ they need to improve the functionality and content of their sites. Essentially, in return to agreeing to certain cookies we receive better content delivered in a smoother manner.

So, that’s the good news. And with that delivered, there’s no point dampening spirits ahead of the weekend by moving on to the bad, so let’s leave cookies in peace for now and see you all again next week.