Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Cookie Machine

When surfing the web, cookies are little blips of information that a web site you've visited stores on your computer. Cookies are good in that they let a site you visit often store your preferences, making it easier to work with. For example, many sites which require registration will save your registration information in a cookie. Cookies are bad because they leave traces on your computer of where you've been. E.g., not that this applies to anyone I know, if you search for some steamy books/videos online, any site which can access that cookie knows what you've been looking for.

Firefox, like all Mozilla (and I suppose all other) browsers, lets you manage your cookies. In Ff > 0.8 you do this by going to Edit => Preferences => Cookies. Here you can examine the cookies on you have stored, delete the ones (or all) you don't like, designate sites which can always leave cookies, and forbid certain sites to leave cookies on your machine.

That's all well and good, but I'd like a slightly better option: There are a list of sites with cookies I'd like to keep, e.g., the Double-Click Opt-Out, various newspaper registrations, SABR, etc. Everything else I'd like to delete just by pressing a button.

And so we have the Firefox/Mozilla extension CookieCuller. It loads just like a regular extension. In Firefox, you then right-click on a blank spot of the navigation tool bar and click Customize. In the box with the icons will appear a large cookie. (It's really too large for the Pinball theme I'm currently using, but never mind.) Drag the cookie onto the navigation tool bar. Now, when you click on the cookies, you'll see list of those on your browser. To the left is a column labeled "Protected". You can toggle the status of a cookie from protected to unprotected. And clicking "Remove All Cookies" does just that -- it removes all cookies you haven't protected. Exactly what I wanted.