Chrome's stripping of trivial domain parts is broken
Google Chrome 69 landed recently and with it came a change that hides information in the browser's address bar on the desktop.
Chrome 68 and earlier displayed the full web address all the time in the address bar but that is no longer the case in Chrome 69 as Google implemented two changes of which one has far reaching consequences.
The first change removed the scheme from the URL. Chrome does not display https:// or http:// anymore in the address bar.
Update: Google seems to have reverted the change, at least for Chrome 69 Stable. I still have it in Chrome Canary at the time of writing.
More problematic than the removal of the scheme is the removal of what Google calls trivial parts of the domain.
If you load www.example.com and example.com (without the www), Chrome displays example.com as the URL even if the two sites are not identical. While www.example.com and example.com often point to the same domain, one redirects to the other, it is not always the case.
Things get even more problematic for sites that use a structure like test.www.example.com as they will show up as test.example.com in the Chrome address bar when opened.
Google has not released a list of subdomains that it considers trivial. We know that www is included and that Chrome did process mobile subdomains using m. as well previously. It appears that this has changed already. When I open https://m.facebook.com in Chrome I still get m.facebook.com displayed in the address bar of the web browser and not facebook.com like it was previously.
Hiding does not mean that the request got redirected to the displayed domain, however but some users could believe that it has.
A double-click in the address bar displays the full URL at the point in time and users can set the flag chrome://flags/#omnibox-ui-hide-steady-state-url-scheme-and-subdomains to disabled to display the full scheme and subdomain in the browser.
Check out our guide on this if you need more assistance.
Experimental flags like the one mentioned above may be removed from Chrome at any time though without further notice.
What is the issue?
One could argue that most users don't care that much about URLs and that they just want the right site to display in the browser. Wired's Google Wants to Kill the URL contains a quote from Google engineering managerÂ Adrienne Porter Felt in which she stated the following:
People have a really hard time understanding URLs. Theyâ€™re hard to read, itâ€™s hard to know which part of them is supposed to be trusted, and in general I donâ€™t think URLs are working as a good way to convey site identity.
So we want to move toward a place where web identity is understandable by everyone they know who theyâ€™re talking to when theyâ€™re using a website and they can reason about whether they can trust them.
But this will mean big changes in how and when Chrome displays URLs. We want to challenge how URLs should be displayed and question it as weâ€™re figuring out the right way to convey identity.
The current implementation is problematic as it hides critical, and not trivial, parts of the URL in some cases; this is the case when www.example.com and example.com point to different servers or services.
Google's new attempt to reduce the impact that URLs have on today's Internet is seen by some as an attempt to downplay the role that URLs have on today's Internet to push "Google for everything" even more.
You can follow the discussion here.
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