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There's a lot of misinformation about cookies floating around the internet. Some of the more ridiculous claims are that cookies allow people to view things that are on your hard drive, or to get personal information from you against your will. Neither could be further from the truth. In reality, cookies are tools that help us help you.

Cookies are critical to us because the Web page you're reading right now isn't on our server. It's in your browser. Although it seems as if you are in, you've actually called up a snapshot of our site. Because the page essentially "died" when you called it into your browser, we need some way to keep the interactive conversation going. A cookie allows that to happen. Our cookies are not used to gain any secret information from your browser (a myth and, at this point in time, not even possible) and they do not hog your disk space.

In the spirit of openness and honesty, let's go over how we are using cookies on our site.

On the first visit to any page on our site we try to write out a temporary cookie with the word "Welcome" in it. If you accept that cookie, we then overwrite it with a permanent one on the next page you go to. The things we put into this cookie are as follows: a random unique string, today's date, and your user name once you login or register. That's it, pretty simple. Once all this is done, we don't touch the cookie anymore or try to send you anymore. There are a few exceptions to this, like ads and the search results pages, which also write a few cookies.

So, what does this much maligned little fellow look like? Here is what an average cookie looks like:
FIRSTVISIT=1/5/99 10:23:27 PM

What good is all this? A number of things. It allows us to not waste precious Web page space promoting the virtues of registering for our site if you already have. It also helps us know how many unique visitors come to our site. This is very important for the Marketing people as well as for our user interface people.

Some other notes: Our cookies can only be read by our site, no other site can read them. We can put nothing in them that you have not already told us about yourself, for example, your user name. Our cookie is about 150 bytes long, making it smaller probably than any graphic that your browser has downloaded, or about 1/10th the size of this message. We can use up to twenty cookies, but have chosen to keep things lean and neat with one or two cookies. In fact, if you have ever had one of our old cookies, we delete it when setting the new one, in effect cleaning up after ourselves.

We hope this information helps you understand cookies, and we hope that you will turn cookies on in your browser so that our Web site can be a better experience for you. You can always turn on cookie prompts so that you can see exactly what is being written and when. Cookies get a whole lot of bad press (often by companies that want to sell you some kind of anti-cookie software), but in fact are quite benign.

We hope you enjoy, and we hope that you'll agree that the benefits of cookies outweigh the inconveniences. Please know that will never willfully disclose individually identifiable information about its customers to any third party without first receiving that customer's permission.

We hope our explanation makes some good sense to you. For more on cookies, here's a helpful Q&A put together by Netscape: What Are Cookies. If you have further concerns about this or any other privacy issues, please send mail to or feel free to read our privacy statement.


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