Could Google's Test of Hiding Complete URLs in Chrome Become a Standard?

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News Posted: Fri, May 2 2014 2:48 PM

The address bar in a Web browser has been a standard feature for as long as Web browsers have been around - and that's not going to be changing. What could be, though, is exactly what sort of information is displayed in them.

In December, Google began rolling-out a limited test of a feature in Chrome called "Origin Chip", a UI element situated to the left of the address bar. What this "chip" does is show the name of the website you're currently on, while also showing the base URL; eg: hothardware.com. To the right, the actual address bar shows nothing, except a prompt to "Search Google or type URL".

With this implementation, a URL such as 'http://hothardware.com/Reviews/Samsung-Galaxy-S5/' would not be seen in the URL bar. Instead, only 'hothardware.com' would be seen, but to the left of the actual address bar. This effectively means that no matter which page you're on in a given website, all you'll ever see when looking at the address bar is the base URL in the origin chip. A real-world example can be seen in the shot below (courtesy of CNET's Stephen Shankland):

At first, the idea of this "feature" freaked me out. I'm the sort of person that appreciates verboseness... I want to see the entire URL, because I understand the structure of it all and I can tweak it if need be. After a bit of thinking, though, I have to admit that the thought of it is growing on me. While I like seeing a full URL when I look up there, I appreciate a cleaner interface as well.

What helps here is that the URL is never going to be completely hidden. You'll still be able to hit Ctrl + L to select it, and hopefully be able to click on the origin chip in order to reveal the entire URL. Google could never get rid of the URL entirely, because it's required in order to link someone to a direct location. For that reason, those who copy and paste URLs often might quickly hate this feature. It's my hope that Google will make it so that when clicking on the origin chip, the URL is displayed automatically, and that people would have an option to automatically copy that URL to the clipboard.

If Google for some reason made it difficult to fine-tune a URL, I'd be quite upset here. The same could be said if it began hiding any information, making it impossible to locate. I do have other reservations as well, though. I mentioned above that I love cleaner interfaces, but something that would drive me a little batty is if the address bar scaled its size all of the time because the name in the origin chip varied in length with each site I visited. Hopefully the size of this chip will remain static.

For those who hate the idea of having to battle with this sort of mechanic, I wouldn't fret too much: There's undoubtedly going to be an extension to "fix" it - or better still, we can hope that Google would have enough respect for its users to offer an option right inside the main settings page to disable it.

What do you guys think? One Mozilla employee has been quoted as being in favor of this feature, so it might not only be one in Chrome's future. Whatever your thoughts, it has to be better than losing the address bar entirely, right?

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Phising made easier. Don't like it, but then again I don't use Chrome and never will. I want something that's stable, not doing this rapid cycle crap where in 6 weeks time something may or may not be broke.

Disappointing that even Opera with 1% of the market is doing this now. Very places to go except IE *shudders*.

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addons much?

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It should be like when you put the cursor over the bar, it show the complete address. Then when you put off, it hide.

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This actually makes phishing harder. Think of a site such as for example www-46467238.com/apple.com/phishingpage the likes of which you often see now. The domain chip will show www-46467238.com instead of what the user is more likely to see as the domain: apple.com (which is actually just a directory.)

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You'll still be able to hit Ctrl + L to select it, and hopefully be able to click on the origin chip in order to reveal the entire URL.

Yes, you can.

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Good point!

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knowing the complete address is kinda vital to staying out of trouble on the internet... this is idiotic.

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Dave_HH replied on Sat, May 3 2014 12:45 AM

I tend to agree. Though if there's a way to make this useful, Google probably has figured it out.

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basroil replied on Sat, May 3 2014 1:38 AM

Except a lot of sites use misspellings instead. And what about site redirection? Usually you'll be able to see exactly where the redirection happens, not so with this method. You also can't even easily check if you are using https, ftps, etc. This method is a nightmare for people who understand the web, and 100% useless tho those that don't.

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They shortened the URL so they could slam their Google search box in there.

 SPAM-posters beware! ®

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There's another angle, too: Sometimes, you visit multiple pages on a site, and want to go back to a particular one. How do you know which it is?

Also, finding something in the drop down history.

I think the "click to reveal all" idea is the best. Single click to show the entire thing, double click to copy to the clipboard? (Yes, I'm on Linux. The "highlight to copy" function is a very under-appreciated feature. And I've yet to find a good implementation in Windows.)

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chrish replied on Wed, Jul 9 2014 4:48 AM

We actually like this feature, we tested it on our site spec63 and it worked quite well although fell down on some of our posts with longer titles, it is most definitely a risk though where sites like ours rely on people copy and pasting links to email, social media etc.

Ultimately Google are just testing at the moment, if it doesn't work they will pull it pretty quickly.

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