Burying the URL in the address bar is a very bad idea

Google is experimenting with obfuscating the URL in the Chrome address bar. Hopefully it'll never surface in the stable version

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The URL is kind of important in the browser, but a recent update to the Google Chrome Canary build has removed it. So instead of seeing the complete address you're visiting, you'll only see the domain name and a prompt to search Google or type in another URL. This is a horrible idea, for a number of reasons.

Savvy tech users sometimes edit parts of the URL in the address bar to achieve different things or more quickly access other pages on a website. For example, add "deturl.com/" to the beginning of a URL to unlock image editing, YouTube and other video tools, and more. Or get real-time search results from Google by tweaking the URL. With the full URL hidden, those power tools are no longer easily available.

More importantly, though, burying the URL could weaken users' security. Security company PhishMe discovered a flaw that would make it easier for attackers to trick users. On their blog post, PhishMe researchers wrote: "We’ve discovered that if a URL is long enough, Canary will not display any domain or URL at all, instead showing an empty text box with the ghost text “Search Google or type URL.” While Canary is intended to help the user identify a link’s true destination, it will actually make it impossible for even the savviest users to evaluate the authenticity of a URL." (The full blog post is 404ing, but you can still read the intro on PhishMe's blog.)

Even without this security flaw, hiding the URL (ugly or not) just seems wrong. As Allen Pike points out in his post: "I realize that URLs are ugly to look at, hard to remember, and a nightmare for security. Still, they are the entire point of the web."

Thankfully, the change is only in the experimental version of Chrome--and still just an experiment.

[h/t Ars Technica]

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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