HTTP Cookies: Standards, Privacy, and Politics

David M. Kristol

David M. Kristol, HTTP Cookies: Standards, Privacy, and Politics, ACM Transactions on Internet Technology, 1(2):151-198, November 2001.

How did we get from a world where cookies were something you ate and where "non-techies" were unaware of "Netscape cookies" to a world where cookies are a hot-button privacy issue for many computer users? This paper will describe how HTTP "cookies" work, and how Netscape's original specification evolved into an IETF Proposed Standard. I will also offer a personal perspective on how what began as a straightforward technical specification turned into a political flashpoint when it tried to address non-technical issues such as privacy.


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