Hiding the Cookies

Written By Dave on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 | 12:14:00 PM

Newer browsers have a really neat function that few people take advantage of - the notion of private browsing. Essentially, this allows another instance of the browser to be opened, and it has no notion of your current browser window, the cache, or anything else. 

Google Chrome - Incognito Browsing Icon
Incognito does not protect you from creepers looking over your shoulder at what you type.

Normally, if you are logged in to Gmail and you open up another tab in the same browser, when you navigate over to Gmail, you will be logged in. But in private browsing, your new window is like starting from a clean slate; it doesn't matter what state your original browser is in - your new one is unaffected. 

And it does not leave a trail (any browsing you do will not be left in the history). 

And you don't have access to the cookies from any site that you frequent.

And anything that is cached during this session is deleted when the session is over.

So, yeah, that's pretty cool. 

There are significant and practical uses to this in the realm of education. For faculty developing or curating content, the ability to use a private browser is very convenient. For instance:

  1. LMS
    Having two sessions of your LMS open (as the instructor in the regular browser, and a student in the private browser) allows you to make changes and see how the student sees them (particularly handy for seeing if content is accessible). Bear in mind that the private window has a temporary cache, so you may have to refresh the browser or log out and then back in to truly experience the "fresh" experience.

    If you are logged into your WordPress or Blogger site, and you open up a private browser, you can edit the blog in one browser and view it as a stranger in the private one. Just keep hitting [Control] + [R] to refresh the private browser whenever you make a change in the live browser.

    Sometimes, sharing from collaborative websites (like Google Drive) can be a little confusing. You can make content private, make it available by link only, or make it public. It's easy to test the access of a link by copying it from the main browser and pasting it in the navigation bar of a private browser.

    Have a Twitter widget that might not be updating posts, but you know that there are more posts out there? Go into an private browser and view the page with the widget - it will be current.

Some people (the unenlightened who don't know about private browsing!) might have multiple sessions running in different browsers, but this method is problematic when you don't have the rights to install software and there is only one browser on the computer. 

Happily, the new era of browsing fixes this. Here is a list of what the private browsing feature is called, and the shortcuts used to access it. Note that you do not need the shortcut; you can access private browsing through the menus in each of the browsers.


Google Chrome Incognito [Control]+[Shift] + [N]
Mozilla Firefox Private Browsing [Control]+[Shift] + [P]
Microsoft Internet Explorer In-Private Browsing [Control]+[Shift] + [P]
Apple Safari Private Browsing None (configure)

Be aware that private browsing does not hide your surfing from your internet provider; your boss and Time Warner (or whoever) can still track where you've been. It also does not shield you from spyware and other malicious code. 

But it makes testing visibility simple and effective. 

About Dave


  1. Private browsing also allows you to search the web with limited impact from the filter bubble: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filter_bubble

  2. Good call! I don't think people realize the magnitude of the filter bubble issue.