Browser Caching, Incognito / Private Browsing

You are probably aware that your web browser caches (stores a copy) of data as you browse the Internet. This data includes everything from website code & images to personal account data. Caching makes your browsing experience faster and saves bandwidth.

Caching happens in a few different places:

  1. The servers that host a website
  2. The network layer or Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  3. Your browser / computer

Sometimes, when data is updated on a server, it may not immediately be shown to your browser because of the caching in the network and on your computer.  For example, if you’re editing your website (which lives on a server) and you don’t see the changes immediately when you refresh you browser repeatedly, the caching is considered to be aggressive.  This can be frustrating when reviewing changes on your website and some people can see the changes while others cannot.

When refreshing your browser multiple times isn’t doing the trick, try accessing the website using your browser’s Incognito or Private Browsing mode.  This mode has a nice side effect in that your browser must load the website from scratch, which usually triggers a download of the latest updated content.

Here’s a list of the names given by different browsers for this browsing mode:

  • Chrome | Incognito
  • Safari | Private Window
  • Internet Explorer | InPrivate
  • Firefox | Private Browsing

All four of these browsers use some sort of black tinted window, dark address bar, or private-eye icon to indicate you are browsing privately. Most browsers make it easy to access this mode with a keyboard shortcut. For example, the operating system specific shortcuts for Chrome are:

  • Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS: Press Ctrl + Shift + n.
  • Mac: Press ⌘ + Shift + n.