"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 10 April 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

C Is For Cookie


[Cookie Monster]

The first Thursday of every

month, the unmarked white trucks

come to SOMA, combing the

streets in early evening, their

drivers equipped with

sunglasses, heavy gloves, and

Maglites. Their quest?

Shopping carts.


Few people know that, when the

net closes periodically for

cleaning, much of the garbage

collection performed is picking

up abandoned shopping carts.


[Supermarket Sweep]

These being virtual shopping

carts, of course, they hold much

more than your usual

store-boughts: you might place

in your shopping cart your

preferred background color, your

favorite websites, or, say,

your annual salary.


[Woodstock Cookie Jar]

Netscape, always working to make

the net more efficient, has

introduced a new way to deal

with all the shopping carts

strewn along the infohighway:

cookies. Before cookies,

shopping carts had the problem

of not being persistent. Once

you (or your browser) walked

away from a shopping cart, you

couldn't use it anymore. More

litter. Cookies fix all that.

Because they're not just

cookies, they're magic cookies.


When your browser hits a

website, that site can ask your

browser to store information

about you in your browser's

cookie file - information like

your preferred background color,

your favorite websites, or,

say, your credit card number.

The next time you visit, your

browser, which could never

accommodate a stable of shopping

carts, hands over the cookies,

so to speak.


[Merlin Cookie Jar]

Not that everything has been

magically fixed. Just as some

people worry about magic

mushrooms, others worry

about magic cookies. They're bad

for you, they say. Soon, you'll

be eating them all the time, they

say. These people want you to

toss your cookies.


[Jack In The Box Cookie Jar]

Nevermind that this already

happens. These cookies are so

magical that Netscape decided

you can only have 300 of them.

The 301st cookie makes your

least-used cookie go away. That

way, we suppose, your cookies

always stay fresh. And only the

most popular sites, like

Netscape, are sure to hold on to

their cookies.



Now, the cyberlibertarians claim

that those aren't cookies your

browser is storing, they're

cookie monsters. Sure, the

cookies don't contain anything

about you that you didn't

already volunteer to the site in

question, and separate sites

aren't allowed to share cookies.

But think of it: a website

might actually know something

about you and your preferences.

It's as if you walk into

your favorite restaurant and

Emille, the waiter, asks if

you'd like the usual. After you

remind him what you usually have.

Besides, with a name like

"cookie," it's got to be




But it's not Big Brother that the

anti-cookie contingent fears.

No, it's Cheers - a place where

everybody knows your name. Even

if the cybersaloon is more like

the airport Cheers, with Cliff

and Norm played expertly by

automatons (not so unlike the

television series), there's

still the lingering image of the

Web surfer as cybercowboy,

unbeholden to women folk and

babies, traveling still further

West to find more wilderness,

in order to avoid

encroaching civilization.

Cybercowboys ride browsers with

no name, and they sure as hell

don't eat cookies.



The mapping of cyberspace onto a

frontier myth is, at best,

unfortunate, but can hardly be

blamed on the likes of John

Brunner and William Gibson, the

latter-day Zane Greys of the

post-apocalyptic generation.

Admit it - considering that the

net is anything but a

face-to-face medium, how could

anyone be taken as the strong,

silent type, except by

themselves? To quote one of our

favorite Westerns, sometimes the

best way around the swamp is

straight through it. Pardon us

as we hunker down, trade in

those guns for cookies, and push

our shopping carts into the

setting sun.

courtesy of Nemo