Forgetful Browsing

John Wong gokoproject at
Mon Jul 20 01:09:46 UTC 2015

On Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 9:54 AM, Stuart Philp <sphilp at> wrote:

> There could be a "Move to New Private Window" as well that doesn't do
> anything other than start a new session at the current URL.

Maybe a useful thing to remind user that private browsing exists, but do
remember you can only have one private browsing session. So I think
allowing multiple private sessions is essentially the same, if not, more
general than Stas' proposal.


> On Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 9:12 AM, Staś Małolepszy <stas at> wrote:
>> (This is also available at,
>> with webm illustrations.)
>> I'd like to suggest a new feature in Firefox which combines Private
>> Browsing with the Forget Button and emphasizes Mozilla's commitment
>> to user's privacy by extending the scope of forgetting to partners.
>> tl;dr
>>   The user should be able to retroactively create private browsing
>>   contexts from already open tabs.  The browsing history for those tabs
>>   will be forgotten by the user agent when the context is closed.
>>   Additionally, the search query will be forgotten by the search engine
>>   if one of the ship-by-default engines was used.
>> ## Problem Definition
>> We know that our users abuse private browsing to have two email
>> accounts open side-by-side or to do a quick search (often times on
>> behalf of someone else) that will not be remembered by the browser nor
>> by the search engine.
>> Switching modes is a hard task, however.  Users have to remember to
>> start by opening a new private browsing window in the first place.
>> The idea to use a private window often comes as an afterthought.  The
>> only solution then is to use the Forget Button which is a drastic
>> measure:  all tabs and windows are closed and all history from
>> X last minutes is deleted.
>> If private browsing is an a priori method then the Forget Button is
>> a posteriori.  There's a need for a solution which sits in the
>> middle and puts users in control of what should be forgotten during the
>> entire lifecycle of the task.
>> ## Retroactive & Selective
>> Forgetful Browsing combines the best of two worlds.  It's forgiving to
>> the user because it's retroactive and less drastic because it's
>> selective.
>> For the purpose of this document I chose Tab Groups as the
>> vehicle for demoing the main concepts behind Forgetful Browsing.
>> ## How it works
>> At any point in time the user can make any set of tabs private.  In
>> order to do so, the user creates a new tab group in the Tab Groups view
>> or right-clicks on the tab title and selects Move To… > New Private
>> Group.
>> Upon closing of a forgetful tab, the entire browsing history from the
>> tab is deleted as if the tab was created private.  All cookies created
>> or modified during the lifetime of the tab are also deleted.
>>   Note: The cookie behavior is different from regular private tabs.
>>   In Forgetful Browsing modified cookies are also cleared which may
>>   cause the user to become logged out from her usual websites.
>> Additionally, the user agent makes an API request to search engines and
>> ad networks participating in the Forgetful Browsing movement which
>> makes them forget this part of the user's browsing history.
>> ## Why It Works
>> Forgetful Browsing allows users to rectify the decision about browsing
>> privately at any point in time.  There's no need to decide upfront.  It
>> reduces the user's cognitive load and enforces the feeling of being in
>> control of her online experience.
>> It also helps establish a cooperative relationship between the user and
>> content providers:  it's opt-in, selective and occasional.  It works
>> similar to the Do Not Track header, but the it's easier to respect for
>> content providers and has an immediate effect visible to the user.
>> Last but not least, Forgetful Browsing provides a validation to the
>> user as to why certain search engines are shipped by default with the
>> user agent.  These search engines are the ones that care about the
>> user's privacy and allow users to delete parts of their browsing
>> history.
>> (Search engines are a start;  the network of privacy-aware websites and
>> services can grow with time.  All that is required is an API entry
>> point which the user agent can use to make the request on behalf of the
>> user.)
>> -stas
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