Google Chrome Will Return to Showing Full URLs
Over the years, Google has experimented with different methods of hiding a website’s full URL in the Chrome address bar.
Primarily, it did this in an attempt to simplify the online experience, but also to help users better identify malicious sites.
However, Google has now relented. After analyzing user data, the company concedes that the experiments had little impact on security, and thus are going back to showing a website’s full URL in the address bar.
How Has Chrome’s Address Bar Changed Over the Years?
Chrome’s address bar known as the omnibox, since it functions as a standard address bar and search engine in one has been through various changes over the years.
In one iteration, Google planned to hide the entire URL and instead show search terms. That’s an experiment that didn’t last long.
Another attempt saw Chrome only showing the domain name, with the full URL revealed when moused over.
In a 2018 interview with Wired, Adrienne Porter Felt, Chrome’s engineering manager, acknowledged that the changes to Chrome would be controversial, but that URLs “kind of suck” and that “people have a really hard time understanding URLs”.
For the average internet user, that’s probably true. URLs can become unwieldy, especially when search and referral parameters are involved, which makes it harder to identify that the site you’re on is what it claims to be.
Chrome Reverts to Showing the Full URL
After these experiments, Google has now relented and decided that its address bar changes haven’t been productive.
As detailed on Chromium’s bug tracker, the simplified domain experiment has been removed. Google developer Emily Stark writes that the “experiment didn’t move relevant security metrics, so we’re not going to launch it”.
It’s also likely that Google has been paying attention to power user feedback, which was overwhelming negative for every experiment. Simplification of a browser can be beneficial, but not when it needlessly takes away useful features.
The changes have already been reverted in Chrome 91, which is currently live. Now, only “https://” is hidden by default. If you do want to display this, simply right-click the address bar and click Always show full URLs.
Of course, Google could decide to change this again in the future, but for now URLs are back to near-enough full display in the address bar by default.