Google Chrome's controversial new feature will change the way you surf

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Google has been experimenting with hiding the full address of websites in Chromes’s address bar, instead only showing the domain name, for example:

Even though this new feature is only being tested in the developer version of Chrome and the Canary 85 experimental Chrome version, such a move has garnered a backlash from some Chrome users. People are concerned by the lack of transparency in not providing a full web address. 

In the full release of Chrome, Google has already removed the ability to see the ‘www’ and ‘https’ prefixes to web addresses. But people have complained that by not having the full URL in the address it can be trickier to spot when someone might be taken to a dodgy webpage as part of a phishing cyber attack.

As reported by Search Engine Journal, users will be able to hover over the address bar to show the full URL path, "which is a slight update from having to click on the address bar to see the full URL" However, the site also says that Google Chrome may hide the entire address bar when a user begins interacting with a page.

Google has said the showing the full URL can actually distract people from the most important part of the web address that pertains to security decisions: the domain itself.  This seems to be the same concern with Google’s plans to remove even more URL address detail in Canary 85. But Google has responded by explaining how it’s experimenting with Chrome. 

"We think this is an important problem area to explore because phishing and other forms of social engineering are still rampant on the web, and much research shows that browsers' current URL display patterns aren't effective defenses,” a Google developer explained on the bug tracker for Chromium. “We're implementing this simplified domain display experiment so that we can conduct qualitative and quantitative research to understand if it helps users identify malicious websites more accurately.” 

As such, this change might not make it into the full release version of Chrome. But even if it does, there should still be an option to opt-out of the URL condensing, and instead use the ‘always show full URLs’ to see full addresses in Chrome’s ‘omnibox’ address bar. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.