What is the difference between cookies and cache in the browser?

What is the difference between cookies and cache in the browser?

Often when surfing the net, we come across cookies and cache on various websites.

Often we are required to do things that involve cookies and cache and we may not fully understand them. Some websites ask the user to allow cookies and although we do not know why we tend to just skip the process by clicking “Allow”. What exactly are cookies, and why do websites need us to allow them?

What Cookies Do in the Browser?

 Cookies are small pieces of data stored on a user’s computer from a given website. Cookies are used to store the user’s information in a way that the webserver would recognize the user upon their next login. The cookies enable web servers to provide the user with personalized pages based on their online activity.

Cookies are usually sent to your computer by the websites you have visited. Cookies are designed in such a way that they help the website to remember specific information about your computer as well as your previous activities on the website. Activities include “shopping cart items” for e-commerce websites, pages visited as well as links followed, and of course login details.

Cookies are basically the means by which your computer acquaints itself with websites that allow it. It enables the website to optimize the user experience and make useful suggestions.

There are various types of cookies often used on the internet. Let’s examine a few.

Different Types Of Cookies

Session cookies; These cookies are temporary and are usually deleted once the browser is closed, hence they are not harmful in any way.

Persistent cookies are usually stored on your computer, they usually expire after a given period of time, but they can be manually deleted.

Secure cookies: These cookies are encrypted in such a way that hackers are unable to read the information they carry. They are used to secure sensitive websites, especially when financial transactions are conducted.

Cookies are also classified based on the purpose for which they are created.

HTTP Cookies are web cookies that are usually saved by websites for the purpose of saving your interaction. They save information like your date and time of visit as well as IP addresses and clicks.

Authentication cookies: These cookies are very important as they are used to authenticate user accounts. In other words, they are used to know which user is logged in where. Authentication cookies are always secured and encrypted to prevent hackers from gaining access to sensitive user information.

Tracking Cookies are third party cookies used by organizations to keep track of a user’s online history for the sole purpose of providing the user with targeted ads. Tracking cookies have sparked several concerns as they are seen as a means for websites to gather too much information about internet users.

Now that we have a good idea of what cookies are, let us examine the cache.

What is Cache?

A Cache is a secret storage space that your browser keeps certain information for future use. Browser cache is usually a means to store important elements of certain web pages for future use.

In simpler terms, when you open a certain website, the website may load a bit slowly, but the second time you access the website, it loads much faster. This is because your browser was programmed to store certain elements from the website for future use.

Benefits Of Cache

This means the second time you open the website, your browser will simply go to your computer’s storage and pick these elements, then download the rest from the internet. This makes pages load much faster and reduces your bandwidth usage.

 Elements saved on the browser cache are usually recurring elements that may appear on several web pages throughout the website. For instance, logos or header images as well as certain plugins and java scripts.

Saving these elements in the cache eliminates the need to download them over the internet every time they are needed on a web page. Hence the browser loads web pages much faster and less bandwidth is consumed.

Apart from the advantage of the speed and reduced bandwidth consumption, caches also have some indirect advantages for the website. The speed ensures that the overall user experience is fluid and effortless. Internet users generally do not like to wait, and cache allows the browser to load all necessary elements in a web page in a few seconds. Let us examine E-commerce websites for a second. If in addition to all the images of various products being loaded, elements like buy now button also needed to be loaded, it could take a few minutes to load the entire web page, this wait will negatively affect the overall user experience to a great extent. This will, in turn, affect the income of the e-commerce website.

Cache has a few downsides but they can be easily rectified by simply refreshing the cache memory. The process of refreshing the cache memory on your computer involves erasing all cache data from your computer. This is done manually and can be done partially by specifying a timeframe from which cache should be cleared, or by wiping the entirety of the cache memory as the need arise.

Difference between Cookies and Cache.

  • A major difference between a cookie and cache lies in the functions each one serves. Cookies are used to store a user’s information as well as online activity and history while the cache helps the browser to load web pages faster.
  • Cookies enable the webserver to recognize the user and provide a more personalized browsing experience for the user, while cache helps the browser to recognize web pages that have been opened before so as to speed up the process.
  • Another difference between cookies and cache is the lifespan. Cookies have a time-frame after which they expire, while cache has to be cleared manually, else they remain on your computer indefinitely.

The cookies and cache are both essential tools in optimizing your browsing experience, and although they play distinct roles, each role is directed towards a single goal, which is to make sure you have a great time surfing the net.

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