Mozilla adds privacy mode to Firefox 3.1 plans

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

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.

Connor was bullish on getting the new mode into Firefox 3.1 in time to make the cut for Beta 1, which is scheduled for a code freeze the last day of this month. "We can and will get this into 3.1 one way or another," he said in a Bugzilla message Monday.

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.

"I don't think that we should count on this feature making it into Firefox 3," said Mike Beltzner, Mozilla's director for Firefox, in a Bugzilla posting on January 23. Beltzner then listed several reasons, among them the fact that other, more pressing issues needed to be addressed to keep the browser on schedule.

"This is great stuff, and I think a fantastic and huge step towards a much desired ability to do true private browsing," Beltzner continued in January. "[I] am truly appreciative of all the work put into this, and by no means am suggesting we abandon things. Just that we make sure to not get disappointed if it misses."

Last month, after Microsoft announced that IE8 Beta 2 would include InPrivate, Beltzner noted that a Firefox extension called "Stealthier" added a similar set of features. "[It] basically emulates InPrivate for Firefox users," he said in an e-mail to Computerworld. It's almost identical to the Microsoft feature, except it doesn't require users to open a new window.

"Still not the full experience we want to enable, but interesting," he added.

The Stealthier extension can be downloaded from Mozilla's add-on site.

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Gregg Keizer

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