lettered dice spelling out the word cookies with a keyboard in the background

Browser Cookies vs Cache: What’s the Difference?

Difference Between Cache and Cookies

Computers use various technologies to store data and facilitate faster web browsing. Two of these technologies are cookies and cache. Both cookies and cache are means of storing data from your website on a guest’s device.

Defining Browser Cache

Browser cache is the temporary storage location of Internet files that are stored by the client machine (your computer). When you visit a web page, the browser cache stores those cache files in a specific folder. Cache allows for quicker access to commonly requested files. Like when you visit a website with a JPG image logo, your computer will download the image and store it in a specialized folder on your computer called a cache folder.

This makes it easier to access the logo each time you visit that web page. The cache file could also store other things. Things such as video files, JavaScript files, CSS files, images, and different sorts of media that are delivered on the internet.

How Cache Works

Imagine you’re researching an assignment, and you need to consult a book from the library. You could go to the library every time you need a piece of information, but instead, you will most likely take the book home with you and put it on your desk for faster access. In this example, your desk becomes a cache. Instead of making round trips to the library, which slows your progress, you will grab the book straight from your desk. This example intuitively helps you understand how cache works.

Defining Browser Cookies

The second technology is browser cookies. Browser cookies are small files stored on a guest’s device which contain specific data about a particular client. The server stores this information. When you visit a website, its server can store a file on your computer. This file can then be used for various actions. Browser cookies’ main function is to store text-based data like sessions, IDs, web visit histories, IP addresses, and many more. Cookies also enable the collection of more accurate data collection by owners of specific websites.

Their Functionality

As you visit a website for the first time, for this example, an online store, the website utilizes a unique identity code to plant a cookie in your computer hard drive. The website then uses this identification code to monitor all of your sessions. This helps monitor activities such as what products you choose to view or put in your online shopping cart, among other things you may have looked at while on the site. With this, you will get similar suggested items despite leaving the website and then returning to it.

Types of Cookies

There are two main categories of cookies:

Session cookies: A session cookie is stored in the guests’ machine but never actually saved. It is only operational during a visit to the website by the guest. But when the guest closes their browser, the session cookie becomes unavailable permanently.

Persistent cookies: This type of cookie stays on the guest’s machine while active and persists for a while on occasional visits to the website. Despite its persistent nature, this cookie has an expiration date.

Both cookies and cache are technologies that have paved the way for more accessible access to internet services. Despite their almost similar functions, these technologies work differently. It is important to know the difference between the two in order to enhance your understanding of the way your devices store information from visited websites.

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