SLATE tosses its cookies.

Slate Tosses Its Cookies

One can lead a happy and fulfilling life, and even use the Internet contentedly, without understanding “cookies.” So if you don’t know what “cookies” are–in the computer sense–go in peace and consider yourself fortunate. But if you have ventured into the wonderful world of cookies, you may be one of those folks who is alarmed about them. This is completely unnecessary. Cookies are merely special messages a Web site’s computer sends to your computer when you drop by to visit–for example, “Have a nice day,” or, “End child abuse now,” or, “Wipe out this person’s hard drive on his next birthday,” or, “Psst … hey, buddy. Yeah, you with the pathetic 486 chip and the broken CD-ROM. Mr. G says there’s an extra 8 megs of memory for you if you crash when she tries to install Netscape.” All perfectly innocent.

Nevertheless, a few cookie paranoiacs have set their browsers to alert them when a cookie is heading their way. And some of them have complained that this notice pops up a lot when they’re reading Slate. Slate actually uses very few cookies. For example, we tell your browser to remember the date of your visit. When you come back the next time, your computer sends that date back to ours. If it’s still the same day, we don’t feed you the cover again but take you straight to the Table of Contents. Similarly, we use cookies to remember whether you prefer your contents listed by page number or by date of posting, and to remember which entry in a “Dispatch” or “Dialogue” you last read. All perfectly innocent.

But we did investigate these complaints, and it turned out that our server computers were sending jars and jars of cookies we didn’t need. To emphasize: This was information from us going into your computer, not information from you going into ours. And it really was harmless stuff. Nevertheless, we have turned off these superfluous cookies. If you don’t believe us, or if that doesn’t satisfy you, your browser can screen or block all cookies. On Microsoft Internet Explorer, just click on “View,” then “Options,” and choose the “Advanced” tab. Of course, is Microsoft really alerting you to all incoming cookies–or only to other people’s cookies? We merely ask.


That sense of excitement in the air … the soaring stock market … the summer weather that has lasted beyond its normal term … the sudden improvement in scansion and rhyme in American poetry: These welcome developments can have only two possible explanations. One is El Niño, the fashionable weather trend that, as David Plotz explains in this week’s “Assessment,” explains everything. The other explanation is the imminent arrival of IE4, the fourth generation of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web-browser software. Slate, of course, is determined to bring the same degree of objectivity and hype resistance to this event that we legendarily brought to our coverage of the birth of Jesus some 2,000 years ago–an occasion the release of IE4, as it happens, closely resembles.

Click here to download IE4. (And, what the heck, click here to download Netscape’s fourth-generation browser.) Slate is already adding features to take advantage of IE4’s enormous power, beauty, and sophistication. For example, if you have IE4 installed, when you click on an author’s name a short bio pops up (instead of the click taking you to the bio at the bottom of the page). Not just that, but … well, yes, just that for the moment. But there’s lots more coming. Just so you’re prepared.

–Michael Kinsley