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If you’ve ever been wary of the security of a website you’ve stumbled upon, there’s good news on the horizon for Chrome users: Google is about to release updates to make the leading web browser more secure while also better communicating security details to users.
Google says it's developing an HTTPS-first option for the browser; when enabled, you'll be able to make Chrome automatically attempt to connect to websites using the more secure version of the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) that the web relies on.
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This upgrade is slated to come in the Chrome 94 update, which is currently scheduled to roll out on September 21. Initially, the HTTPS-first feature will be optional, but Google said that it will “explore making HTTPS-first mode the default for all users in the future,” based on feedback. An earlier Chrome update this year made HTTPS connections the default.
HTTPS encrypts data via a private and public key system, and the vast majority of websites already use HTTPS when submitting private information, such as when logging into accounts. When enabled, the new feature will see Chrome initially attempt to make a secure connection for all websites.
Not every website supports HTTPS connections, however, and Google will continue to alert users with a full-page warning when only a standard HTTP connection is possible. Mozilla’s competing Firefox browser launched a similar HTTPS-first feature last November, as Google noted in its post today.
Google’s post digs a little bit deeper into interface design as well, including changes ahead. In a recent study, Google found that just 11% of users actually knew what the lock icon at the far left of the address bar means. Currently, the lock icon indicates that your connection is secure, but it does not suggest that the website itself is trustworthy.
To try and address that misconception, Google will roll out an experimental feature in Chrome 93 — currently due on August 31 — that will replace the lock icon with a downward arrow. The tech giant suggests that it will be a more “neutral” icon that invites users to click to learn about the security of the connection, view the website’s certificate and permissions, and more.
Whether that change will roll out permanently remains to be seen. Still, given that Chrome is by far the world’s most popular desktop browser, it’s admirable that Google continues to make security upgrades and tweaks to ensure a safer, smarter web experience. Chrome 91 just launched in May with 32 security upgrades, and Chrome 92 is due soon on July 20.