Netscape aims to employ Cookies without abridging privacy rights

Rohit Khare (
Sat, 17 Feb 96 03:33:04 -0500

Well, we went back-and-forth with them in the cookies subgroup, but publish
*one* article in the Wall Street Journal, and wham! it's done...

Thanks to Lou and Dave Kristol :-)

Rohit Khare


Netscape aims to employ Cookies without abridging privacy rights

By Elinor Mills
InfoWorld Electric

Posted at 8:39 PM PT, Feb 16, 1996

Future versions of the Navigator browser will retain a feature that gives
World Wide Web sites information about user activity but will make changes
that may appease privacy rights advocates, a Netscape Communications Corp.
product manager said Thursday.

The feature tracks how long users spend browsing a site and what they do
there and stores the information on the user's hard drive in a file called
"Cookies.txt" in the Netscape directory. Each site can only update and get
information out of cookies files that the site's server generated. The feature
allows electronic merchants to learn about the user's habits and preferences
and tailor a page for the user.

Servers have other ways of tracking a user's footsteps, such as mapping a
user's IP address, said Jeff Treuhaft, product manager at Netscape. Cookies
actually give the user more control of the profile information, Treuhaft said,
noting that since the cookies are stored on the user's hard drive, the user
can delete them anytime.

Cookies can save time and money for users, according to Treuhaft. Microsoft
Network (MSN) uses cookies to allow users to build a custom MSN home page and
marketplaceMCI uses cookies to store items a user has ordered while the user
browses through other pages, rather than requiring users to order on each page
individually, Treuhaft said.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has also seen the value of this
feature and is currently planning on standardizing similar functionality under
the term State-Info. The organization asked Netscape to formally submit a
specification for the cookie functionality as the core component of the
State-Info, Treuhaft said.

IETF chairman Paul Mockapetris said cookies are a "good contribution toward
that kind of technology." However, he added that he was not sure that cookies
"gets the whole job done."

"There will most likely be a new preference concerning cookies in some future
version of the Navigator that will alter the way the program uses cookies,"
Treuhaft said.

For instance, users might be able to prevent sites from tracking user
activity over time, such as days and months, instead of tracking a single
Internet session at a time.