Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cookies - 1st Party & 3rd Party

Its been long time since i blogged last. Recently have been working on Analytics for websites. So thought of writing about a key enabler for collecting visitor data from the information or knowledge i gained
Many of us would have seen or heard about cookies. Every website you visit will download a cookie to your hard disk. But there are different types of cookies and their need which i would try explaining below.

First, What are cookies? There are many definitions like
-- A small data file placed on your computer by a website that you visit.
-- A piece of code placed in your browser by a website server.
-- A text file placed on a hard drive to store and transmit information to the server browsing behaviour of customer.

Reports and research on the subject of website tracking tell us that the rejection of third-party cookies is growing. Increasing numbers of people are either manually blocking third-party cookies, or deleting them reguarly.

How many people delete 3rd party cookies? The numbers given can be as high as 40%. If you count that many anti-spyware applications and default privacy settings also block 3rd party cookies, then it is possible that a high percentage of cookies are being blocked.

What is a (third-party) cookie?
A cookie is a small script placed on the hard drive of your computer by the server of a website that you visit. The cookie is placed there for the purpose of recognising your specific browser / computer combination, were you to return to the same site.

All cookies have an owner which tells you who the cookie belongs to. The owner is the domain specified in the cookie. The word "party" refers to the domain as specified in cookie; the website that is placing the cookie. So, for example, if you visit and the domain of the cookie placed on your computer is, then this is a first-party cookie. If, however, you visit and the cookie placed on your computer says, then this is a third-party cookie.

Then the question - Would these first party cookies not deleted or blocked? will arise.
It is estimated that a very low percentage of people block first party cookies, less than 5%. The reason for this is primarily that it is very difficult to surf the internet without accepting these cookies. First party cookies are necessary in order for you to be recognised as an individual. Any site that you login to as an individual requires a way of identifying you as "you". Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, online banking, ebay, Amazon, etc.

Also software targetted for Cleaning the hard disk for unused, temporary files, anti spyware etc., do not target first-party cookies.

We use cookies to keep track of long-term visitors. These visitors remain anonymous, the point is to be able to see who returns, if and when, for example, for conversion analysis.

When cookies are in place, and not blocked or deleted, total visitor counts will remain comparatively low. If a person constantly deletes cookies, they will be counted as a new "unique" visitor with every subsequent visit.

In response to these trends, the first step is to find out if the statistics that you collect utilise first-party or third-party cookies. Ask your statistics or tracking company. Asking questions usually leads to more questions, always a good thing when it comes to gathering and analysing data.

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