How Did Browser Cookies Get Their Name?

joshualjohnson profile image Joshua Johnson Originally published at ua1.us on ・2 min read

my cookies can't be dipped in milk t-shirt

My Cookies Can’t Be Dipped In Milk

One thing software developers do very well is name things. Typically, after an engineer gets done developing a piece of software or a concept, they look around for a name. Quite literally, they look around at objects that are sitting near them and adopt that as the name for their new widget. If you’ve been developing anything recently, you will see many funny names. For example, I had no clue this actually existed, but I searched for “bananajs” and guess what!? Github hosts a project called BananaJS. You get my point? We know that there are many funny names for libraries, but I’ve always been intrigued by that text file the browser uses to store data about your session, the Browser Cookie! How did browser cookies get their name?

The Real Story Behind Browser Cookies

There are many myths around how browser cookies got their name. Many of which turned out to be proven as false. The one viable standing theory is that browser cookies were named after a pre-existing concept in computer science called “magic cookies.” Magic cookies were designed to carry information between two communicating applications.

Usually, the secondary application cared nothing about the magic cookie that was passed to it. Rather when the secondary application responded back to the primary, the magic cookie was passed back to provide the primary application with some context about the response it got back.

Back To The “How Did Browser Cookies Get Their Name” question

What we do know is that browser cookies most likely got their name from the concept of magic cookies. But what is unclear is the context about how magic cookies got their name.

Magic Cookies Name Origin – My Best Guess

If I had to guess, from the research I’ve done, magic cookies (the computer science concept) got their name from a drug, LSD, popularized around the time of the computer science concept. LSD was frequently referred to as “magic cookies”

Here’s why:

The tie between the concept of the two different meanings behind “magic cookies” are that they were both popularized in the same time frame. Also, we do know from the explanation of Steve Job’s experience with LSD that there were many software engineers at the time partaking.

Or maybe it’s all just a coincidence. What are your thoughts?

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Joshua Johnson


a developer looking to share cool things.


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