Google to test simplified domain display in Chrome - gHacks Tech News

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Google to test simplified domain display in Chrome

Google Chrome users may soon see only the domain name in the web browser's address bar instead of the full page address.

Google published several development bugs on the Chromium website that highlight the changes. The main bugs, Issue 895940 Experiment with trimming everything but the Origin for Steady State Elisions, and Issue 1090393: Implement simplified domain display in the omnibox, highlight what the experiment entails.

When enabled in the browser, Chrome will only show the domain name and not the full page URL. If you are on the page https://www.ghacks.net/2020/06/09/microsoft-windows-security-updates-june-2020-overview/, Google Chrome will only show ghacks.net by default.

The company plans to run the experiment on desktop and mobile versions of its web browser, and has created several new experimental flags for that.

google chrome hide full address

The reason for running the experiment, according to a developer, is that the display of the full URL makes it difficult for the average user to distinguish between legitimate and malicious sites.

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.

Note that the implementation of the experiments is ongoing and that some functionality is not yet implemented fully. I go the "on interaction" flag to work properly but could not get the main hiding flag to work in the latest Chrome Canary release.

chrome omnibox hide

Google plans to run two main experiments:

Omnibox UI Hide Steady-State URL Path, Query, and Ref -- When enabled, this experiment will display only the domain name on the page unless the user clicks in the address bar (e.g. to edit the URL).

Omnibox UI Hide Steady-State URL Path, Query, and Ref On Interaction -- This experiment, when enabled, hides all but the domain name in the address bar when the user interacts with the page, e.g. scrolls.

Another experiment brings back the full address when the user hovers over the address bar (only on desktop)_

Omnibox UI Reveal Steady-State URL Path, Query, and Ref On Hover -- shows the full URL when the mouse cursor hovers over the address bar.

Google plans to collect and analyze data to find out if the display of just the domain name improves the fight against malicious sites. If that is the case, it may roll out the change to all Chrome users. The company notes that users will have an option to opt-out when that happens.

Closing Words

Google has been on a crusade against displaying the full URL in the company's Chrome browser for a while. Back in 2014, it ran an experiment in Chrome that would only display the domain name of the page in a box on the left of the address bar. The company displayed a help text next to it that suggested that users could type a Google search term or an URL.

Limiting the display to the domain name might help, but so would better highlighting the root domain name to the user or educating users.

It is clear that Google is very interested in removing information from the Chrome address bar and that at least part of the interest has something to do with it being beneficial to the company as well.

Now You: What is your take on the experiment?

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Google to test simplified domain display in Chrome
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Google to test simplified domain display in Chrome
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Google Chrome users may soon see only the domain name in the web browser's address bar instead of the full page address. 
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Anon said on June 15, 2020 at 7:55 am
    Reply

    Browsers today already draws the user’s attention to the root domain — it highlights the root domain in a different color, so “easier to tell if a site is legitimate” is not enough of a justification for this change.

    Instead, the likely reason for this is for AMP — which allows Google to centralize the internet and gain a monopoly.

    And good luck to other chromium based browsers – should they want to avoid this “feature” in their own browser, this is just the beginning of patches they must make to the chromium code base, which will be unfeasible in the long run.

    1. Iron Heart said on June 15, 2020 at 8:22 am
      Reply

      @Anon

      Other Chromium-based browsers do not have to follow everything Google does. And most Chromium-based browsers have companies behind them, companies which are not exactly small operations. Backing out small changes like this isn’t a problem.

      And other non-Chromium browser are hiding parts of the URL, too. Safari does, and so does Firefox. This phenomenon is not Google-exclusive.

      1. Doom said on June 15, 2020 at 12:35 pm
        Reply

        Safari does hide parts by default but you can toggle that in preferences (Advanced>Show full web address). At least the option isn’t hidden unlike in ff. It’s a shame they killed off the Windows version and more recently ruined the extension ecosystem or it might be my main browser. But, as is usually the case with their software, unless you are all Apple then it’s a pain at best, impossible at worst.

    2. anona said on June 15, 2020 at 1:24 pm
      Reply

      I wish the non-Chrome Chromium browsers (MSEdge/Opera/Vivaldi/Brave/…) would cooperate and fork the Chromium codebase together. Then we’d have some competition in browser engines again: Blink/Chrome (60-70%), Webkit/Safari (10-20%), Gecko/Firefox (5%) and the new Blink fork (10%).

      1. Doom said on June 15, 2020 at 2:18 pm
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        Why would MS possibly want to do that? They replace google spying with their own whilst google does nearly all of the grunt work for them.

      2. Iron Heart said on June 15, 2020 at 7:52 pm
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        @anona

        I think something like this might happen the moment Google does something to the codebase that directly collides with Microsoft’s interests, something that is hard to revert. I assume, if something like a hard fork of Chromium would come to pass, Microsoft would likely spearhead the effort. However, any form of collaboration requires Microsoft to open source Edge (which they didn’t do so far, presumably they want to avoid reports about the spyware parts therein). MS could follow the Google model: Release the barebones browser as an open source project (equivalent of Chromium), and distribute the same barebones browser + additional unavoidable MS spyware to the end user (equivalent of Chrome or current Edge).

        If MS would open source Edge as a reaction to Google (presumably) having done something very bad to the Chromium code base, I am sure Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave would join the effort, while withdrawing their support from “original Chromium”.

        But then again, this requires the interests of Google and Microsoft colliding, until something like that happens, no hard fork will come to pass. Opera, Vivaldi, or Brave are presumably too weak (financially + manpower) to undertake something like this alone, or even in collaboration with each other.

        @Doom

        Accurate description. However, MS could potentially fork Chromium if Google does something that runs contrary to their interests, see the rest of my comment above.

  2. Iron Heart said on June 15, 2020 at 8:17 am
    Reply

    Ungoogled Chromium always displays the full URL.

    1. Doom said on June 15, 2020 at 12:10 pm
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      I’ve been using Brave since the initial beta, the “old” Brave. But have deleted it after their referrals “mistake” (the mistake was not hiding it from users not actually doing it) and then seemingly going back on their half baked apology where they said it would never be done again. Very disappointing, I thought they were a bit different but goes to show you are better off not trusting anyone and you won’t often be wrong.

      So I’m now on ungoogled too with chromium notifier extension for browser updates and chromium web store to make it easy to install and update extensions.

      github.com/kkkrist/chromium-notifier
      github.com/NeverDecaf/chromium-web-store

      1. Iron Heart said on June 15, 2020 at 7:18 pm
        Reply

        @Doom

        Well, as for the “referal incident”: I think this was just a mechanism for Brave to identify itself appropriately whenever you visited the website of a company (e.g. Binance) partnered with Brave Software. Binance for example ran a campaign inside of the browser’s New Tab Pages, and probably wanted to know how successful this campaign was. Since Brave usually identifies itself as Google Chrome, another way had to be found. The referal was used to identify Brave users as such, but couldn’t have been used to identify any specific Brave user, as all Brave users were using the same referal – so this was not a privacy threat. The effect was comparable to a browser using a different user agent for a specific website.

        I don’t see this as inherently problematic. Plus, you can turn it off in the settings (Brave autocomplete suggestions). Yes, they could have disclosed it, but since user data was never at stake, I take little issue with them not being explicit about it. Many users acted as if Brave facilitated tracking them, this was evidently not true, but guaranteed that the “issue” was overblown in the media.

        Since no user data was at stake here, let alone leaked, I will continue to use Brave, but I understand when someone prefers Ungoogled Chromium (it’s my secondary browser as well) over it.

      2. Doom said on June 16, 2020 at 1:04 pm
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        I know that it wasn’t anything to do with privacy, it’s just the usual of adding referral id. Adding it clearly wasn’t a mistake though, basically a lie. It doesn’t magically add itself to certain domains or add them because of a code bug, you intentionally code that and they made it pretty clear on twitter they do and want to continue to do that. They said other browser do the same but hide it and that was their real mistake, not hiding it.

        Anyway it was underhand and should have been opt in, funny everything is opt-out but this this makes them money is opt-out, and the promise of not doing it again didn’t happen, they just moved the suggestion down the list a bit. As usual what they were really sorry for was being caught.

        Anyway that was enough for me to be done with it and so far ungoogled is doing fine and there’s no obvious way that they can screw things up. It doesn’t change too much so anything dodgy they tried to add would be very obvious to builders.

      3. Iron Heart said on June 16, 2020 at 1:32 pm
        Reply

        @Doom

        Projects of a certain size (or more accurately: the companies behind them) need to be funded somehow. Brave’s goal is to establish a more privacy-friendly model of advertising, Vivaldi’s goal is to provide a browser that is as customizable as possible – these are quite ambitious projects.

        The code changes and maintenance for something like that require money. Ungoogled Chromium is a small private project with financial gain being irrelevant, but at the same time the scope of the code changes is also smaller. For example, maintaining the UI of Vivaldi is a full time job of several programmers, and once something like this becomes a full time job, you simply need money. Same goes for Brave.

        Brave funds itself by taking a small commission whenever someone donates BAT, and presumably by using referal links. Vivaldi funds itself by receiving money whenever someone performs a search with Vivaldi, and it’s using a referal ID (hidden) too, in this case. Yes, Vivaldi has a small text on their website disclosing that, but at the same time, it is simply common industry practice, doesn’t cost the user a dime, and is not putting user data at risk.

        It takes more to criticize Brave than that, IMHO. For a reference, I would probably criticize them harshly if I somehow found out that they make tracking users easier by making their fingerprint more unique than necessary, or if their telemetry would suddenly cover search entries or browsing history, or if the browser came with trackers built-in (like Firefox Preview does on Android). Something of that magnitude would have to happen for me to drop it, them trying to fund themselves using common industry practice is not enough for me.

        But then, Ungoogled Chromium does work, you make no mistake by using it. The only reason why it is not my primary browser is that I don’t expect it to survive the Manifest V3 changes with adblockers still intact.

      4. Doom said on June 17, 2020 at 2:34 pm
        Reply

        You can decide it wasn’t a big deal and that’s fine but to me the main thing was that they didn’t even tell the truth about it when found out. I don’t even visit those sites so couldn’t care less about the referral id’s as such, it’s about the lying.

        Basically saying others are as bad so it doesn’t matter isn’t something to be proud of, you should be doing better, at least being transparent about it (a few tweets isn’t transparency).

        BAT is different as it’s all upfront and clear, you know the take their cut and it’s opt-in, it’s not underhand.

        Once manifest 3 is fully rolled out then if ungoogled/gorhill etc haven’t worked out a plan to get around it then I’m probably going to use the system wide adguard app. But I’m sort of expecting someone to work around it, perhaps with an open source adguard style app.

  3. pioruns said on June 15, 2020 at 11:02 am
    Reply

    Firefox not affected.

    1. Iron Heart said on June 15, 2020 at 11:35 am
      Reply

      @pioruns

      browser.urlbar.trimURLs

    2. Barton said on June 15, 2020 at 12:41 pm
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      Don’t jinx it. I’ve been using Firefox my whole life so I know all too well that Mozilla is also an expert in making questionable decisions. I keep using it only because I always feel comfortable with it and it’s the only major browser which properly supports portable configuration.

    3. Max said on June 15, 2020 at 4:17 pm
      Reply

      Yet.

  4. ard said on June 15, 2020 at 12:57 pm
    Reply

    For archiving interesting internet articles/pages, I mostly copy paste the full URL into my archieve document. If this shortening of URL is only for showing but still allows me to copy the full URL, it’s fine, when the full URL is lost, it is a no-go for me; not that I am using Chromium that much but still.

    1. ShintoPlasm said on June 15, 2020 at 6:41 pm
      Reply

      Possibly at some point Google will only allow you to copy the full URL through a menu >> submenu >> obscure option. Because “most users don’t need to copy the full URL”…

  5. John Sellers said on June 15, 2020 at 7:03 pm
    Reply

    I’m all for making users aware of the really important part of the URL.

    >>>>>BUT<<<<<
    DON'T YOU DARE Limit my access to being able to easily get that information in the rest of the URL. I want to be able to see it for several reasons:

    1) To know what the URL generator is up to in regard to me and mine.

    2) To be able to trim the URL itself before passing it on to protect my privacy

    3) To be able to trim those idiot extensions that just love to love to start videos part way through when someone passes them on.

    4) To stop unwarranted assumptions when I save a URL for later use in a different environment

    5) To be able to make choices about the use of "site:" when I am searching a site for information I lost track of after visiting a site.

    6) To be able to trim a URL in order to look up at a different level in order to get the context of a web page in order to understand what it is a part of.

    7) etc, etc, etc.

  6. ULBoom said on June 15, 2020 at 7:50 pm
    Reply

    So, they’re ostensibly changing something that most users never look at into something shorter that most users never look at in order to highlight a hacked site that most users wouldn’t recognize?

    If Chrome flashed red, rang bells and froze when this naughty stuff happened, some users would just close it and start up again, probably with the bad site still in cache.

    Google does nothing that isn’t directly related to ad revenue, so what are they really up to with their browser based user ad data collection software (their words) ?

  7. Alicson said on June 15, 2020 at 8:53 pm
    Reply

    Do *Not* like. The full URL in view at all times provides me several pieces of important info *including* legitimacy and non-maliciousness (benignness). Better to let this be a setting in our browser that we can select.

  8. Kincaid said on June 16, 2020 at 9:49 am
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    Google does what profits Google. They don’t give a hoot about you or me. End of story.

  9. philnc said on June 17, 2020 at 6:35 am
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    Monumentally bad idea, but if it forces me to go back to Firefox might be worth it. Because _then_ I’d also resume using Firefox on my Android phone (to keep bookmarks in sync), along with the uBlock Origin extension: so no more ads. Go ahead, Google. Make my day.

  10. Unknown person said on June 19, 2020 at 4:16 am
    Reply

    And some people here are still praising Google because…?

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