What Are Session Cookies? What You Need To Know

In the world of web browsing, cookies play an essential role in ensuring a seamless and personalized user experience. Among the various types of cookies, session cookies stand out for their specific functionality and temporary nature. This article will explain what session cookies are, their purpose, and how they differ from other types of cookies.

Understanding Session Cookies

Session cookies are a type of cookie that is stored temporarily in a browser’s memory while a user is navigating a website. Unlike persistent cookies, which remain on a user’s device for a set period or until manually deleted, session cookies expire once the web browser is closed. This makes them ideal for tasks that require maintaining information only for the duration of a single browsing session.

Example: Imagine you visit an online store called ShopEase.com. As you browse through various product categories and add items to your shopping cart, session cookies track your selections. These cookies ensure that your chosen items stay in your cart as you navigate the site. Once you complete your purchase or close your browser, the session cookies are deleted, ensuring no residual data is stored.

Purpose of Session Cookies

Session cookies serve several key purposes, primarily centered around enhancing user experience and maintaining the functionality of web applications. Here are some common uses:

  • Maintaining User Sessions: Session cookies help keep a user logged in as they move from page to page on a website, without requiring them to re-enter their credentials repeatedly.
  • Shopping Carts: In e-commerce, session cookies keep track of items added to a shopping cart, ensuring that the selected products are retained as users browse the site.
  • Form Data: These cookies can temporarily store information entered into forms, preventing data loss if a user navigates away from the form and then returns.
  • Personalization: Session cookies can store user preferences and settings during a single session, enhancing the overall browsing experience.

Session Cookies vs. Persistent Cookies

To better understand session cookies, it’s essential to compare them with persistent cookies.

Session Cookies:

  • Lifetime: Exist only while the browser is open; deleted when the browser is closed.
  • Storage: Stored in temporary memory (RAM).
  • Use Case: Ideal for temporary data like login sessions, shopping carts, and form entries.
  • Security: Generally considered more secure since they don’t store data on the user’s device after the session ends.

Persistent Cookies:

  • Lifetime: Remain on the user’s device for a set period, even after the browser is closed, until they expire or are manually deleted.
  • Storage: Stored on the user’s hard drive.
  • Use Case: Suitable for remembering login information, user preferences, and tracking user behavior over time.
  • Security: Can pose privacy risks as they store data for extended periods.

Example Comparison: Imagine you log into ShopEase.com. A session cookie keeps you logged in as you browse different pages. However, a persistent cookie might remember your login credentials and preferences even after you close your browser, so the next time you visit ShopEase.com, you don’t need to log in again.

Session vs. Cookie: Key Differences

When discussing session cookies, it’s important to differentiate them from cookies in general, as “cookie” is an umbrella term that includes various types of cookies.


  • Refers specifically to session cookies, which are temporary and expire when the browser is closed.
  • Used for short-term storage of information needed during a single browsing session.


  • A general term encompassing all types of cookies, including session cookies, persistent cookies, secure cookies, and more.
  • Can be used for both short-term and long-term storage of data on a user’s device.

Session cookies are a crucial component of web browsing, providing essential functionality for maintaining user sessions, shopping carts, and other temporary data. By understanding the differences between session cookies and other types of cookies, users and web developers can make informed decisions about how to use these tools effectively and securely. Whether enhancing user experience or ensuring secure data management, session cookies play an invaluable role in the modern web ecosystem.

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