After a cookie is set, only the originating host can read the data, ensuring that the user's privacy is respected. Furthermore, the user can configure her browser to notify her of all cookies set, or even to refuse all cookie requests. For this reason, cookies should be used in moderation and should not be relied on as an essential element of an environment design without first warning the user.
A PHP script that sets a cookie might send headers that look something like this:
HTTP/1.1 200 OK Date: Tue, 02 Oct 2001 13:39:58 GMT Server: Apache/1.3.26 (Unix) PHP/4.2.3 X-Powered-By: PHP/4.2.3 Set-Cookie: vegetable=artichoke; path=/; domain=yourdomain.com Connection: close Content-Type: text/html
As you can see, this Set-Cookie header contains a name/value pair, path, and domain. The name and value will be URL encoded. Should it be present, an expires field is an instruction to the browser to "forget" the cookie after the given time and date. The path field defines the position on a Web site below which the cookie should be sent back to the server. The domain field determines the Internet domains to which the cookie should be sent. The domain cannot be different from the domain from which the cookie was sent, but can nonetheless specify a degree of flexibility. In the preceding example, the browser will send the cookie to the server yourdomain.com and the server www.yourdomain.com.
If the browser is configured to store cookies, it will then keep this information until the expiry date. If the user points the browser at any page that matches the path and domain of the cookie, it will resend the cookie to the server. The browser's headers might look something like this:
GET / HTTP/1.0 Connection: Keep-Alive User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows 98) Host: www.yourdomain.com Accept: image/gif, image/x-xbitmap, image/jpeg, image/pjpeg, image/png, */* Accept-Encoding: gzip Accept-Language: en,pdf Accept-Charset: iso-8859-1,*,utf-8 Cookie: vegetable=artichoke
A PHP script will then have access to the cookie in the environment variable HTTP_COOKIE or as part of the $_COOKIE superglobal:
print "$_SERVER[HTTP_COOKIE]<BR>"; // prints "vegetable=artichoke" print getenv("HTTP_COOKIE")."<BR>"; // prints "vegetable=artichoke" print $_COOKIE['vegetable']."<BR>"; // prints "artichoke"