Thursday, September 18, 2008


Today's conversation was rather technical. A wants to continue playing the casual game he was playing on his home computer when he goes to his friends' house. He was hoping he could copy the game state info into a flash disk. I explained that web sites use "cookies" to recognize specific computers. Cookies are small files with an identifier that web sites place in your computer and read from it afterwards. I told them how the early web was "stateless" and how each new page request or click was unrelated to the previous ones (there were no shopping carts). And told about how an engineer at Netscape came up with the idea for cookies to resolve this. Initially lots of people complained about this as they felt it was an invasion of their privacy to have web sites write a file on their computers and then read it. We spoke about how often innovations are initially rejected or considered unacceptable but after a while people accept them - and recognize that the trade offs are worth it. Of course, sometimes the trade offs are not worth it and the innonvations don't survive.

We also discussed how advertisers use cookies to target ads based on what you do online, so that you are more likely to click on them. and we went on to talk a bit about the advertising models on the web.

P & N didn't understand much of the conversation, at least not initially, but I wouldn't be surprised if eventually they remember it & understand it - the way kids often don't seem to understand what you tell them but then surprise you down the road...

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