As most people who browse the internet have noticed by now, most web browser software prominently offers an "incognito mode" option. What is incognito mode anyways, and what are the reasons to use incognito mode? As a recent Reddit thread reveals, there are more than a few.
To understand why you'd want to use private browsing (known as "incognito mode" on the popular browser Chrome), it's best to first understand how incognito mode works. When you open a browser window in private or incognito mode, the browser stops storing all the various stuff it usually stores about sites as you putter around the information superhighway. Typically, this stored stuff includes things like the site's URL, text you may have typed into the site's forms, and cookies from websites (that enable the browser remember your language preference or save your digital shopping cart, for instance). And, very obviously, when you are not in private browsing mode, the browser logs sites you've visited into your "history" log, along with the date and time of the visit.
Incognito mode doesn't offer complete privacy. Your internet service provider still knows where you've browsed, so while incognito mode might hide your searches from your mom, it can't really help you hide from the police and their subpoenas. If someone like your employer is monitoring all of its network's activity from a central location, they'll know where you (or your computer) has navigated, too.
But for personal day-to-day purposes, the incognito mode is really valuable. As explained by the good folks on Reddit, here are some of those times.
1. Looking at porn
This very common incognito mode use case is right there in the question! As everyone knows, internet porn is tremendously popular, but sometimes you want to keep your browsing to yourself. Incognito mode is the answer. You can even conveniently use browsers incognito on your phone.
2. Signing into multiple email accounts at once
You could set up different browser "profiles" to switch between email accounts within one browser, but incognito mode is the quick and easy way of doing this on the fly — no setup required.
3. Watching weird videos
Again, though there is another way to pause videos getting added to your YouTube history (within YouTube settings themselves), the incognito mode is quick and easy.
4. Using computers that aren't yours
If you need to log into your email or your banking account or whatever on a computer away from home, just pop open incognito mode to provide a layer of protection against your passwords or user info being saved to that computer (not totally infallible, that computer could have keystroke logging software on it or something, but it helps).
5. Lame Google searches
Because there's no such thing as a stupid question, except when that old nonsense is staring you down in your autocomplete fields or browser history. Let's send those lame Google searches down the memory hole with incognito mode instead.
6. When you don't want to look like you're up to no good
Some searches just look real bad out of context.
7. Shopping for gifts
Big Data has no reservations about spoiling a surprise. Or "spoiling" a surprise that it not actually about to happen, as it were.
8. Because it's prettier
Ok sure, if you say so!
9. For serious business
The internet definitely isn't all fun and games. People looking for information about divorce, medical conditions, psychological conditions, and the like may want all the privacy they can get.
10. To look like a fresh visitor
If you are tinkering with the code for a website, you may want to prevent your browser from saving ("caching") the site in order to force it to reload the potential changes each time. Also, since Google customizes search results, incognito mode can give you a clean slate of Google search results rather than ones affected by your past Googling.
11. Booking travel
If the airlines are going to play pricing games with us, then we're going to play games with them right back, dammit (though private browsing for a lower fare may or may not actually work).