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Google Chrome is making this controversial change to keep you safe

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Google is experimenting with the way URLs are displayed in Chrome, and with the browser's next update you can expect to see cut down web addresses. 

With Chrome 86, Google is expected to tweak the address bar so that it only shows the website’s domain, not the full address of the web page you are on. Google is making the move in order to make it easier for users to spot when they've landed on a phishing site.

By cutting long URLs, Google reckons it’ll be easier to see the discrepancies in a URL that would give away a fraudulent site. 

For example, Chrome might just show ‘tomsguide.com’ rather than ‘https://www.tomsguide.com/uk/news/iphone-12’, which should make it easier to spot whether a site is legitimate or it's a dodgy domain. 

“There are myriad ways that attackers can manipulate URLs to confuse users about a website’s identity, which leads to rampant phishing, social engineering, and scams. In one study, more than 60% of users were fooled when a misleading brand name appeared in a URL’s path,” Google’s Chromium blog explained. 

“Our goal is to understand -- through real-world usage -- whether showing URLs this way helps users realize they’re visiting a malicious website, and protects them from phishing and social engineering attacks.” 

Will there be a backlash?

Such a move might annoy some hardcore Chrome users who like to see the whole URL of the site they are on. But Google's change may not be a permanent one, as it’ll be tested in Chrome Beta. And if this upgrade proves to be unpopular or user-unfriendly then Google could reverse course.

Google also noted the URL reduction can be turned off in Chrome’s settings, and that if you hover your cursor over the URL it will be displayed in full. 

While the URL feature will be tested in September, Chrome 86 is expected to land in October.