What is a one-time browser, and why might you need one?

How can you surf and search without your browser making assumptions based on your history?
2 February 2024

One-time browsers – the false moustache of browsers – help you search online without the baggage of your cached searches.

• What is a one-time browser and how does it work?
• When might you especially want to use a one-time browser?
• How does the technology help free you from bias?

When browsing the internet privately or doing a spot of one-time shopping (making a single purchase), a one-time browser can be ideal. Why? Because one-time browsers do not have a digital footprint, such as cookies or browsing history, so user privacy is enhanced compared to longstanding browsers.

One-time browsers usually operate in an isolated environment, such as a cloud-based container, or as a virtual machine. This isolation typically includes network traffic as well. That ensures the segregation of all data transmissions from the primary network.

It should be noted, though, that one-time private browsing may enhance privacy and security during an online session, but it does not make you completely anonymous when online. The websites you visit, and your interment provider, can still see your IP address, and other online activities can still be traced.

If you want to find out what using a one-time browser is like, head to browserling.com/browse, where you can find one instantly.

The one-time browser as a virtual machine

A one-time browser helps stop cookies from tracking you.

Cookies: chocolate chip, always. Tracking, notsomuch.

When you browse the internet using a one-time browser, the session data is stored in a secure, temporary virtual machine (cloud-based server). This includes your browsing history, local storage, cookies, and all areas of your session’s activity. Once you end the session, this data is eliminated. This includes the entire session history, any downloaded files, the browser, and even the virtual machine itself.

Regular browsers, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari usually store data, including cookies, browsing history, downloads, cache, and local storage. When using these types of browsers, you are more exposed to being tracked and profiled online (a detailed profile or digital representation of an internet user based on their online activities). Ever noticed those ads on social media featuring a product you looked up yesterday? If so, you’ve been profiled!

You are also vulnerable to security threats or attacks when using a regular browser, as JavaScript and web page codes are running on your device. When operating a one-time browser, though, you’re running a remote cloud-based server. This virtual machine erases any trace of online activity when you log off a session. The main benefit to that is that security and privacy are enhanced. Users can avoid permanent data storage, browse the internet without being tracked, and the overall risk of malware attacks is lowered.

“So, how do one-time browsers work?” we hear you ask with eager anticipation. They create a new, clean cloud-based server instance (a single Java EE-compatible Java virtual machine hosting an application server on a singular node) alongside the specified browser used in a browsing session. That means an isolated, secure environment is created – one where no leftover data is kept once a session has ended.

Boosting cybersecurity as you browse

Fundamentally speaking, a one-time browser adheres to the principles of cybersecurity where tracking is prevented, and malware risks are eliminated. Users can start a session without any previous data or influences: a clean slate.

Not only is security and privacy enhanced, but one-time browsers also encrypt traffic found between the browser and the computer and hide a user’s IP address. This further protects a user against unauthorized data access and cyberattacks.

There are certain times when a one-time browser comes is particularly useful. For instance, when users need to conduct anonymous, unbiased research. Each search result will not be influenced by the user’s browsing history or any cached data. This becomes particularly useful for academics and researchers looking for information that supports their studies and is not in any way biased, or based on previous online searches.

One-time browsing also allows users to bypass certain geo-restrictions. For instance, someone can log in and simulate their location, even though they are in another region or country. From here, it is possible to access services and news from a specific region that may otherwise be inaccessible. And a user can do all this without being traced. Ninja browsing!

Whether you’re a researcher, web developer, or just your average Joe browsing the web, a one-time browser serves as a great tool to keep you protected online, preventing malware infections and reducing the very real risk of tracking.