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About two months ago, we launched the Cocoon service in what could be called its alpha phase. We invited only 20 users to test what it would be like to browse the web privately and securely. Would browsing be slowed down? Would people understand the interface? How would people like the features we were introducing?

The feedback was terrific. We learned much about the controls and features – and most importantly how to communicate these features to users. People loved the idea of not giving up their identity and IP address, but they wondered how to be sure it was really working? This was answered by a quick visit to www.whatsmyip.org showing the IP address of Cocoon servers as the browsing source. Demonstrating the safety of Cocoon browsing is more difficult. Sure you could go to a malware laden site and browse away unscathed, but to be really sure you’d then have to go back without Cocoon and end up infected, and who wants to do that? (You don’t want to crash the car to prove the airbags work.) We’re still working on a way to demonstrate Cocoon anti-malware protection so people really get it.

Even as testing was going on, we knew that Cocoon browsing would soon be taking another form. Yes, the Cocoon browser has some great features, but what about people that don’t want to switch from their current browser of choice? Our engineering team was already at work on a plug-in offering all the features, security and privacy of the Cocoon service but accessed using leading browsers: Firefox, IE, and Safari.

This meant the development on the Cocoon browser would stop, while the focus was full speed ahead on a plug-in. While it is hard to take a step sideways in development, we know the end result will be a better solution for our users.

So where are we now? We have a functioning Firefox plug-in that allows us to browse safely and privately through Cocoon servers. We are now adding features that we tested with our alpha browser — anonymous email addresses and enhanced favorites and history — along with new features for password and profile management.

It’s difficult to wait. We want to introduce our new way of using the web now and hear what users have to say. But, each day we get a bit closer to a full beta launch. Go to www.GetCoccon.com if you’d like to be notified when the plug-in becomes available. Until then, surf with care.