Google could be planning a controversial update to Chrome

Google is certainly no stranger to messing around with the address bar – or omnibox as it is actually called – in Chrome. Over the years that have been numerous changes introduced, including hiding the leading ‘https://’ or ‘https://www.’.

But changes spotted in the Dev and Canary builds of Chrome 85 show that the company is experimenting with something rather more drastic. If the change rolls out to everyone, and if it is enabled by default, it will make it much harder to see the full address of the web page you are visiting.

In these under-development builds of the browser, several new flags – settings that are used to change the appearance or functionality of Chrome – have been spotted. In all, there are three flags that are of particular note, with the main one being called Omnibox UI Hide Steady-State URL Path, Query, and Ref.

When this flag is enabled, the URL of the website you are visiting is reduced down to just the main domain. So if you were visiting the TechRadar profile page at https://www.techradar.com/author/mark-wycislik-wilson, all you would see in the address bar is techradar.com. The complete URL would only be displayed when you clicked the omnibox.

Google faced backlash from web developers when it began hiding the ‘https://’ or ‘https://www’ in Chrome, and there could be similar consternation over the browser tucking away everything but the domain.

Where am I?

The flags can be found in the Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS and Android versions of Chrome, but it’s not entirely clear what Google’s thinking is with this setting. There are two other flags which can be used to change the behaviour of the omnibox slightly. With Omnibox UI Hide Steady-State URL Path, Query, and Ref on Hover enabled, the full URL is displayed when you hover the mouse over the shortened version; with Omnibox UI Hide Steady-State URL Path, Query, and Ref on Interaction enabled, the full address is revealed upon interacting with the page.

If you want to try out the preview releases of Google’s web browser, you can download Chrome Dev, and Chrome Canary. As this is pre-release software, you may well encounter problems, but the good news is that it is possible to have the release version installed at the same time.

More information is available on the Chromium Bug Tracker.

Via Android Police

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