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Google continues to tinker with URLs in Chrome

New test obscures the full URL.

Screenshot from Google video about URLs showing second level domains

A screenshot from a Google video explaining ways to make URLs more human-friendly, published in January 2020.

Google is at it again, tinkering with how it displays URLs in the Chrome browser.

The company has tested different ways of showing a site’s identity in search as well as Chrome.

Android Police notes that a new test feature shows only the second and top level domain and hides the path after that. It might be that the full URL is displayed if you hover over the Omnibox/address.

Being able to see the full URL quickly is essential. I use it for clues about where I am on a website’s structure, when the content was published, and more.

But not everyone agrees, especially when it comes to how less sophisticated web users interact with URLs.

Seen in the best possible light, Google wants to ensure a good customer experience. This means avoiding phishing sites and having a clean browsing experience. Google engineers shared their view of URLs in this video. This is Google’s official reasoning for the new test; it wants to see if it makes it easier for users to identify phishing and social engineering sites.

And for domain names, focusing so much on the second level domain could be a good thing. It focuses on domains as a brand.

But as Android Police points out, you can look at this in a different light:

However, it’s also worth considering that making the web address less important, as this feature does, benefits Google as a company. Google’s goal with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and similar technologies is to keep users on Google-hosted content as much as possible, and Chrome for Android already modifies the address bar on AMP pages to hide that the pages are hosted by Google. Modifying addresses on the desktop is another step towards making them irrelevant, which hurts the decentralized nature of the internet as a whole.


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