Apps and Software By May. 1, 2014 9:00 am
Chrome 36 may signal the end for URLs | Apps and Software | Geek.com

Up above, you’ll notice two Chrome Omniboxes. One is from the current stable version. It shows the URL of our site, http://www.geek.com, in the bar where you’ve always seen it. The one under it is from Chrome 36 in the Canary channel. It’s got a button that says geek.com, but it won’t show you a full URL in the bar.

Even if you click through to an article that button is all that you’ll see, and it’ll still just display geek.com. If you want to see the actual URL that points to the page you’re looking at, you’ve got to click the button (which Google calls the “origin chip”) to reveal it. Over at Hacker News, quite the heated discussion has broken out. As you can imagine, a lot of techy types aren’t in favor of the change.

Don’t get too riled up, though. Changes made in Chrome Canary are often extremely experimental. Google hasn’t even enabled the origin chip by default. You’ve got to dig through chrome://flags and turn it on yourself. The goal is to see how a very small subset of Chrome’s users react to the switch — not merely to verify that the code is stable and push it to Chrome’s millions of users in the next month or two.

The default text in the new Omnibox makes it pretty clear why they’re thinking about doing this. It puts Google search in a prominent position in the Omnibox. Sure, you’ve always been able to search there just by typing, but there’s a huge number of Chrome’s users that still don’t get it. That’s why Google put a search box back on the new tab page.

Chrome 36 may signal the end for URLs | Apps and Software | Geek.comInstead of simply typing search terms into the bar and hitting enter, a lot of Chrome users I’ve seen in action still type Google.com in the Omnibar. Even if they’re trying to get to Facebook, step one is to manually go to the Google homepage. After that, they’ll sift through results and click the familiar, dogeared link they’ve clicked dozens of times.

These people have no idea what a URL is or why it shows up in the top of their browser window. Some don’t even realize that it’s up there even if you tell them. There was a time where web users with this kind of diminished skill set only used Internet Explorer. That’s no longer true. Thanks to Google’s name recognition and their Chrome marketing efforts, Chrome has attracted its fair share of clueless users.

These are users that want the same thing from their web browser that they want from their car. They want a GPS to tell them where to turn on the web — they don’t want to read street signs and figure things out on their own. For this group of users, the change makes sense.

Does that mean Google is going to bury URLs in Chrome? Not necessarily. Google has a legion of passionate, vocal fans. If there’s a case to be made against the change — and there is — they’ll listen. Ultimately, the result might be a more customizable Chrome where you can choose whether you want full URL display or whether you want to declutter the window a bit and hide all those characters behind the chip.

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