Mozilla adds privacy mode to Firefox 3.1 plans

Pressured by rivals, Mozilla hopes once-yanked privacy tools ship with 3.1 beta

Mozilla will respond to rivals Google and Microsoft with a private-browsing mode in Firefox, according to notes posted on its Web site, and is on track to deliver one in 3.1, the version that will likely go beta next month.

Sometimes pegged with the catchy moniker of "porn mode" in a nod to the most obvious use, browser privacy modes limit or entirely eliminate what the application records of its travels across the Internet. Typically, URLs are not recorded in the browser history, cookies are not saved, and other evidence is purged from the computer at the end of the session.

In a note from a Firefox 3.1 status update meeting held Tuesday, Mozilla said: "Private Browsing Mode: Ehsan [Akhgari] went and implemented Connor's functional spec bug 248970 -- way to go! Now back on track for beta date."

The reference to 248970 was to an entry in Bugzilla, Mozilla's bug and feature tracking system, where Mike Connor, Firefox's lead developer, spelled out what the browser's privacy mode would encompass.

"[It should] ensure that users can't be tracked when doing 'private' things," said Conner in an e-mail to another Mozilla developer. Specifically, the mode would:

  • Discard all cookies acquired during the private session.

  • Not record sites visited to the browser's history.

  • Not auto-fill passwords, and not prompt the user to save passwords.

  • Remove all downloads done during the session from the browser's download manager.
Google's Chrome was clearly on the minds of some Mozilla developers when discussing the private browsing mode addition to Firefox. "Recent development with Chrome will likely make finally getting private browsing mode shipped a priority for 3.1," said Alex Faaborg, a Mozilla user experience designer, two days after Chrome debuted.

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