Mozilla is testing a new feature for its Firefox browser that could prove amazingly useful: separate online personas.
We all browse the Web looking for different things in different settings or at different times during the day. You may search for work-related things and peruse business articles while you're at the office, and hang out on social media, read leisure articles or watch funny videos while relaxing at home, and so on.
The trouble is, nearly all of our online behavior is monitored and everything you search for or access online contributes to one big online profile. That profile makes up your online personality, without taking any context into account. Your entire surfing experience is being tracked, monitored and analyzed to build one single identifiable profile, so advertisers can push their targeted ads based on your online behavior.
Mozilla may have a great solution to this matter, as it's currently testing Firefox "Containers." This feature just made it to version 50 of the Firefox Nightly build and holds great promise, allowing users to create different online identities based on different situations.
With the Firefox Nightly Container feature, users can log in to multiple different accounts on the same site, at the same time, while enjoying improved privacy and security by segregating site data.
As Firefox security engineer Tanvi Vyas explains, the goal of the new Containers feature is "empowering Firefox to help segregate my online identities in the same way I can segregate my real life identities."
With Containers, users can log in to two separate Facebook accounts at the same time, for instance, without having to open another browser or launch a desktop application. With Firefox Nightly version 50, you can simply open the File menu, select "New Container Tab" and choose between Work, Personal, Shopping and Banking options.
Moreover, each of these Containers collects its own separate set of cookies, and each time you switch to another online identity you also switch cookies so that the websites you accessed on one Container can't track you around the Web.
"Each context has a fully segregated cookie jar, meaning that the cookies, indexeddb, localStorage and cache that sites have access to in the Work Container are completely different than they are in the Personal Container," Vyas further explains.
Mozilla refers to one's different online personas as "Contextual Identities" and notes that it still has some things to figure out, but user research and feedback could help it refine the feature.
Truth be told, this option seems so incredibly useful that it's a shame it has not been available before. If Mozilla pulls it off and offers a polished Firefox Containers feature in a future browser version, it could be just what Firefox needs to win the browser war.