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Local Storage vs Cookies: What Are the Differences?

Local Storage vs Cookies: What Are the Differences?

It’s hard to gain traction with a web app these days without personalizing things. People expect personalized experiences when visiting websites now that so many options exist. And when 80% of consumers prefer to buy something from a website that offers a personalized experience, you need to invest in making it happen.

Luckily, there are tools that can help. You can use local storage and cookies to offer a more personalized experience to users.

Do you want to learn more about the local storage vs cookies debate and learn which one makes the most sense for your needs? Keep reading to learn what local storage and cookies are and when it makes sense to use each one.

What Is Local Storage?

Modern web browsers can store information for the user on the local machine. You don’t need to communicate with a server to store session information. All you need is to read data from a disk.

That’s what local storage is for.

Local storage is the storage mechanism for modern web browsers that allows you to read and write information on a user’s local machine. A simple local storage guide can give you a quick overview of how to access this mechanism easily.

You can store any kind of information that relates to a website. In many cases, website owners use this mechanism to store website preferences for users to avoid needing to store information in a database.

What Are Cookies?

Cookies are the traditional method of storing data about users on websites. It’s information that’s communicated between a user and a website server.

The server can receive information about the user and store it as it pleases. You can also use cookies to send information for the user’s website session to offer a better website experience.

One common reason to use browser cookies is user authentication. You typically don’t want to store authentication information on someone’s local machine. A cookie is used because you can communicate with a server to authenticate a user and verify that they can access information.

Factors to Consider When Considering Local Storage vs Cookies

Now that you know more about cookies and local storage, you need to understand when it makes sense to use each one. Here are a few everyday situations you’ll encounter when you need to make that choice.

Information Size

The amount of information you need to save plays a vital role in the storage method you use. Using local storage makes more sense if you have a ton of data. That’s less information you need to send back and forth on a server.

On top of that, local storage can hold much more information. The amount of data local storage can save is 5MB. Cookies, on the other hand, can only store 4096 bytes.


Security is another consideration when determining what type of storage to use. One big problem local storage has is that it doesn’t play nice with secure connections. You need to use the HTTP protocol to process data.

That limits the information you can store in local storage. This information is fine if it’s basic information like user preferences. You need to send that information over a secure connection for more sensitive data like financial data.

Cookies can work over HTTPS. That makes it a more secure way to secure user information.

Data Expiration

Expiration is a critical concept to understand when figuring out how to store user information. There is a lot of information where it makes sense to keep it around indefinitely, and that’s where local storage helps.

That data remains for as long as the user keeps their browser storage data. The only other way for the data to get removed is if you build website features that remove that data or a user deletes it themself.

However, cookies have an expiration date. While you can set the expiration date far into the future, it will still exist. On top of that, there may be things like authentication information that you want to expire at a specific date.

Data Value

There are some cases where the data offered by website visitors have no importance. You can store it in local storage and not worry about what it contains.

But that isn’t true for all data. There are numerous data points you can collect about your visitors that help you learn about them and why they come to your website.

That makes cookies for marketing a vital consideration. What information can you collect that will help you learn about your visitors and improve your bottom line? If you can use visitor data in-house, adding it to a cookie makes sense.

Internet Connectivity

There may be cases where you build a web app that’s important for use in certain situations. However, some people who use your app won’t always have a persistent internet connection. Your website is useless in this situation.

Web developers get around this by creating progressive web apps. These are websites that still function if you have a spotty internet connection.

This can happen because of local storage. You don’t need an internet connection to access your local storage since it exists on a user’s machine, so it makes sense to use it when you have a bad internet connection.

Now You Understand How to Use Local Storage and Cookies

Local storage and cookies can handle many of the same things, but some key differences make a difference when you decide on which one to use. Now that you know more about the local storage vs cookies conversation, you have what you need to determine which method to use to store information about your website visitors.

Are you interested in more information that will help you make important technology decisions? Check out the tech section on the blog for more advice.

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