Google explains why they’re experimenting with hiding the full URL in Chrome

Google explains why they’re experimenting with hiding the full URL in Chrome

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We’ve known that Google has been experimenting with hiding the full address in the URL bar in Chrome for several months now. After all, Google has been developing these changes in the open in the open-source Chromium project, as spotted earlier this year by AndroidPolice. In a blog post published today, Google provided more details on its plans to experiment with how Chrome on desktop displays URLs. The goal, according to Google, is to understand how showing (or hiding) URLs helps users avoid phishing and social engineering attacks.

You can quickly identify and determine the authenticity of a website by examining the URL. However, many users aren’t familiar with all the parameters in a full URL, and attackers can take advantage of that to trick users. Google points to a study that found that more than 60% of users were fooled by a URL if a misleading brand name appears in the path.

As part of an experiment in Google Chrome 86 for non-enterprise-enrolled devices, Google will hide part of the URL for some users—leaving only the domain name by default. Once you hover over it, the URL will expand fully. Users can also right-click on the address bar and enable the option to “Always show full URLs” if they prefer to always see a URL’s full path for every website they visit.

Google doesn’t say how long this experiment will go on for, but if you’re not randomly assigned to the experimental group and for some reason want to be a part of it, you can install Chrome Canary or Dev, open chrome://flags, and enable the following flags:

#omnibox-ui-reveal-steady-state-url-path-query-and-ref-on-hover
#omnibox-ui-sometimes-elide-to-registrable-domain
#omnibox-ui-hide-steady-state-url-path-query-and-ref-on-interaction

The third flag will optionally show the full URL on a page load until you interact with the page.

Hopefully, Google will finish this experiment soon and decide how best to proceed with showing the URL in the address bar. If they do choose to hide the full URL by default, we hope they keep the option to always show full URLs.