Skip to main content

Google wants to overhaul a Chrome feature used by billions of people

(Image credit: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Google is planning an update to Chrome that could change the web browsing experience for more than a billion users. When Chrome version 86 is released, the address bar will only show a website domain, not the entire URL (via 9to5Google). 

The primary reason for shortening the URL in the address bar is to make it easier for users to determine whether a website is legitimate. If it is, the URL will condense to only show the base domain. If you've visited a malicious website via a phishing scam then you'll, in theory, be able to recognize it as an impersonator by seeing the full fake URL. 

"There are myriad ways that attackers can manipulate URLs to confuse users about a website’s identity, which leads to rampant phishing, social engineering, and scams. In one study, more than 60% of users were fooled when a misleading brand name appeared in a URL’s path," Google wrote in a blog post.

The below GIF is an example of how the Chrome browser will condense a URL to prove its legitimacy. In this example, a specific Wikipedia URL for the "Internationalized URL" page is shortened to the registerable domain, or simply "en.wikipedia.org."

(Image credit: Google)

Full URLs will live on

Full website URLs are still needed to identify the specific page you're visiting and to tell you if a site is HTTPS encrypted. Google isn't getting rid of the full URL, it is only hiding it. 

If you want to view the full URL of a website, you can simply hover over it with your mouse and it will expand. Or you can right-click on the URL and choose "Always show full URLs" from the drop-down menu. Enabling this option will make the full URL appear on all websites as normal. 

How to test the domain-only address bar

Changes to the address bar are only in testing, so Google could end up scrapping the idea before it ever reaches the public. 

Chrome version 86 is entering beta in September and will launch sometime in October. To test the revamped URL feature, you'll need to download Chrome Canary or Dev channels, open chrome://flags by entering it into the address bar in Chrome 86, and enabling the following flags. 

  • #omnibox-ui-reveal-steady-state-url-path-query-and-ref-on-hover
  • #omnibox-ui-sometimes-elide-to-registrable-domain
  • Optionally, #omnibox-ui-hide-steady-state-url-path-query-and-ref-on-interaction to show the full URL on page load until you interact with the page.