Chrome plans to save you from sites that mess with your back button

If you’ve ever found the back button on your browser not working, Google will soon have a fix for you. Or more accurately, the developers behind the Chromium open source browser that underpins will soon have a fix for you.

Your back button sometimes fails because of sneaky behaviour by nuisance websites. These are the Roach Motels of the web: you can check in, but you can’t check out. Once you stumble into their dark corner of the internet and try to leave, they hijack your browser’s back button, blocking the exit.

They achieve their nefarious goals in two ways: using redirects or history manipulation.

Redirects are simple – on the way in you’re bounced through a redirect you don’t notice that sits in your browser history between the page you started on and the page you’re on now. When you hit the back button your browser goes back one URL in its history, which loads the redirect which bounces you forwards again.

History manipulation is sneakier. It sounds fun, like playing heavy metal for fifties high school kids in Back to the Future. Or going back to 1990 and putting all your money into Cisco shares (you’d be worth over $1.3m today on a $1000 initial investment). But no, nuisance websites ruin everything, including history.

Here’s how it works. Your browser keeps a stack of records showing which pages you’ve visited in the current window’s session. When you press the back button on your browser, it goes to the last page in that stack.

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