Privacy from a previous Me

Saturday 26th Mar 2011

New shiny SSD in computer, fresh install of the OS, gradually reinstalling apps as I remember I need them, and encountering the old yawn of setting things up as they were before; and I’m reminded that browsers want to push your browsing history in your face these days.

I would have restored from a backup, but my last setup had a few problems, so I’ve started from scratch. It’s all nice. The thing is, this browser history thing that browsers do is really quite intrusive. I’m following a path of enquiry, open a new tab and boom, there’s a load of thumbnails of stuff I’ve visited ‘most often’ or ‘recently’. Like I give a toss. Why would I want to see that in the middle of… what was I doing again? See, I’m easily distracted. I imagine I’m not alone in that either. It feels like a feature for feature’s sake, something Apple did to show their fancy schmancy graphics capabilities in the browser, and other browsers have to copy. I can imagine the rather edge-like use-case that led to it: someone wants to visit That Site They Visit Often, they open a tab, and woo there it is, click, and load. How convenient for them. But who would do that? Perhaps I’m assuming a hell of a lot but if you’ve the nous to open a new tab (and anecdotal evidence shows this might be something relatively ‘power user’ types would do) then you’ve probably the nous to bookmark your favourite sites as well. Maybe not.

Besides, since browser makers assume you share your user account and browser with your entire family (what else would the justification for ‘private browsing’ be?) as soon as anyone else has been on it then your ‘frequently visited sites’ will most likely change quite a bit. What would be the use in that? The list will become dominated by the browsing habits of the more obsessive and relentless internet users in the household, and if they forget to turn on private browsing, who knows what new and unexpected insights you’ll gain into their character?