Mozilla will include a 'privacy mode' for the forthcoming beta of Firefox 3.1, matching features included in Google's Chrome and Microsoft's IE8 beta.

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 email 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.

Both Chrome and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) Beta 2 include private browsing tools. The former dubs its feature "Incognito," while Microsoft uses "InPrivate" as the umbrella term for IE8's tools.
Apple's Safari browser also boasts a private-browsing mode.

Like many of the features planned for Firefox 3.1, the private-browsing mode was originally slated for Firefox 3.0, the major upgrade that shipped in June. However, it was yanked several months ago during version 3.0's development.

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