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#38: HTTP cookies: from saving shopping cart to online tracking

Before we fully appreciate how important HTTP cookies are, let’s imagine the web without them. HTTP is inherently stateless. This means that the HTTP server is not allowed and not capable of storing any context between requests. It has no memory of prior questions from the same client. Contrary to stateful protocols like FTP or SSH. They have a concept of long-running session. If you change the working directory during a session, subsequent commands take that into account. This is not the case for HTTP. For example, imagine you just logged in to GMail to see the list of unread e-mails. Now you click the most important one, from the Nigerian prince. Sadly, the server has no idea you are the person who just logged in. You must log in again. And again. This is where cookies help tremendously.

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