Proposal for new HTTP Header: X-Public-Computer

Google Logo officially released on May 2010

Google turned up nothing for this idea, so as far as I know, it is original.

If you go to banking websites, you’ll frequently find a checkmark upon logging in to the effect of “Remember username”. If you go to Quora, you’ll see they have an interesting pattern, where you click on “Log in without a password”. See screenshot here:

Let me log in without a password

Image by joedevon via Flickr

What happens if you log out? You get a picture of yourself with the chance to log back in with one click. See screenshot:

User RegistrationI think this is great. But if you’re on a public computer, it would be better if this not be the default.

In addition to these use-cases, there’s a design pattern getting popular called “Lazy Registration“. You might recognize it from Amazon.com. Essentially, as soon as you visit a site with a browser, a cookie is generated and the server will track things like your shopping history. Once you’re ready to buy, this history can be saved into a permanent account if you register.

Wouldn’t it be nice if at Kinkos, hair salons, hotels and restaurants providing computers for public internet browsing, they could set up their browser to send a custom HTTP X-Public-Computer header? Then sites like Quora and Amazon could look for that header and change the default behavior.

Is this a good idea?

If the post gets positive feedback perhaps I’ll write a browser plugin to add the header so we can all play with it on our websites.

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2 responses to “Proposal for new HTTP Header: X-Public-Computer

  1. Shouldn’t these computers simply be configured to open with blank browser sessions, like incognito mode? And wiped when closed?

  2. Kinkos does that. But it’s much easier there because there’s a charge and the session gets shut down when done.

    But lots of places don’t have the know how to make this happen. I’ve seen many small hotels where they just have a desktop or two, no fees, and let people print, surf the net, etc…

    There are businesses that also offer their desktops for free surfing. I have a client with a bunch of computers that are shared and free for research.

    But also note, that the point of this is more server-side. Here’s an example…go to http://fastmail.fm. They can set the correct default right off. So can Quora. So can banks who will certainly not have a checkbox to remember the username.

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