Who Invented Incognito Mode? It Is Not Who You Think It Is.

Read here who truly invented incognito mode and other famous misconceptions people about private browsing in general. Do you have them too?

It is hard to imagine any browser without the popular Incognito mode, but Incognito wasn’t a mainstream feature in all browsers before the late 00s. But who invented incognito mode? Was it Google? Here comes the surprise.

Incognito mode was invented by Apple, not by Google, and added to the Safari browser in 2005 named Private Browsing. Only three years later, in December 2008, it appeared on Google Chrome with the name Incognito.

BrowserWhen it added incognito mode (private browsing)
Apple Safari2005
Google Chrome2008
Mozilla Firefox2009
Internet Explorer2009

The misconception about Google being the inventor of Incognito is widespread for two simple reasons:

  • The private browsing feature was named Incognito only in Google Chrome.
  • While Apple created private browsing, it was Chrome’s success that popularized it, thus making incognito synonymous with private browsing.

It is similar to how most people credit Apple as the inventor of tablet computers (due to tablets gaining popularity only with the release of the iPad) when tablet computers were invented many years before the iPad.

(Did you know your incognito history mode is saved in two places? If you don’t check my article on where is the incognito mode history saved.)

But this is not the only misconception about Incognito or private browsing; there are other traditional misconceptions. For example, can you tell what Incognito really does without looking elsewhere?

What Incognito Mode Really Does?

Many users believe that browsing the internet in incognito mode makes them invisible. This misconception arises from a lack of understanding of what incognito mode does.

Incognito mode deletes your browsing history, cookies, or logging credentials from your device when you end a private session, so it protects your privacy on the local level. But it doesn’t hide your IP nor delete the data stored externally in company servers.

So, if someone uses the same device as you, they won’t be able to tell which sites you visited, which accounts you logged in to, and what you did online.

But your ISP and mass surveillance agencies will still have access to your browsing data because it is externally stored data, and Incognito mode can’t do anything about data outside your device.

This applies to any external data, so even when surfing incognito, your browsing data will remain on the websites you visit or your employer’s Wi-Fi.

Incognito mode works in the following situations:

  • You share a computer with your family members and don’t want them to know what you see online.
  • You log in to your friend’s laptop to check your e-mail, but you don’t want any traces of your login credentials available on his computer.
  • You want to browse the internet without signing in to any of your accounts.

Incognito mode does NOT work in the following situations:

  • You watch YouTube videos during worktime in incognito mode, so your employer doesn’t know what you are doing (since you are using your employer’s Wi-Fi, he will probably still have access to what you were doing online.)
  • You browse illegal content in your country (your ISP and the government agencies will still know.)
  • You browse the internet signed up to your Google account (if you sign up to your Google account in incognito mode, it will record your browsing history.)

This is expressed clearly in the incognito mode of Chrome:

So is Incognito mode, or private browsing, an incomplete feature that still needs to evolve?

The answer is no. Private browsing already does what its creators intended. Keep reading if you still don’t understand why incognito mode was created.

Why was Incognito Mode Invented?

As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, Incognito mode was created in 2005. By then, we were already in the internet era, but sharing computers was more common than now.

Many families had only one or two computers, so it wasn’t like now when everyone had their own devices.

Back then, if you didn’t want others, who shared the same computer as you to know what you were doing online, you had to clean your browser history, cookies, and site data after finishing your browsing session.

And if you erased all your browsing data, this would create problems, such as losing your browsing history or login data.

So, Incognito was invented to make it easier for people who shared the same computer and to allow the user freedom to not store the browsing data of a specific session without needing to wipe the cookies of previous browsing sessions.

But incognito mode was not only developed with you in mind, companies like Apple or Google have a lot to gain from private browsing.

Because even though they give you the option in settings, they don’t want you to delete your cookies. And this has to do with the nature of cookies.

TrendMicro defines cookies as: ‘piece of data that is stored within a web browser that the web that the website can retrieve at a later time.’

So browsers don’t use cookies only to make your web browsing more convenient, cookies are what make targeted ads possible too.

So, as you can see, cookies are essential for these companies to make money.

If you want online privacy, private browsing or any browser is enough. Only a trusted VPN like Express VPN will do the job.

A VPN, a virtual private network, lets your internet traffic pass through encrypted servers, preventing your IP address, location, or browsing behavior from being tracked by your ISP, governmental agencies, websites, and more.


Incognito mode, or private browsing, appeared first in Apple Safari in 2005, although it is often recognized as a Google invention, as Chrome popularized it.

Apple created it to help people who shared computers to keep their privacy. And also to prevent you from deleting your cookies whenever you want to browse privately.

So, using incognito mode helps you clean your browsing data locally. But it will not wipe any externally located browsing data, as in your ISP or company servers.

If you are unwilling to share your data with Microsoft, read my article on how to turn off Microsoft Compatibility Telemetry permanently.

Laerthe Côrtes

Laerthe Côrtes

My first desktop computer, back in the 1990s, opened a whole new world for me; since then I am a heavy PC user (who will never get used to smartphones.) I worked for five years in the PC software industry, and my favorite version of Windows is still Windows 95.

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