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Safari, Chrome push to mask URLs

Gregg Keizer | June 9, 2014
Apple's browser will truncate Web addresses to domain-only length in OS X Yosemite; Google's experimenting with a similar design.

Not everyone liked what Google was up to.

"My personal opinion is that it's a very bad change and runs antithetical to Chrome's goals," said Paul Irish, a developer advocate for Chrome, in an April discussion thread on Hacker News. "I hope the data backs that up as well."

Others weighed in on the same discussion, as well as on Google's support forum, mostly with negative comments, some with more than a dollop of hyperbole. "Should this become the default and not disable-able, then Chrome will die a fiery death," predicted Ross Presser.

Some theorized that Google's motivation wasn't to improve security or clear up confusion, but rather to push the search aspect of the Omnibox by scrubbing the space of the URL.

Others predicted the death of the Web as the world knows it.

"There's a dangerous slippery slope here," contended Tristan Louis on the Hacker News thread. "If we're OK with this happening, are we then OK with getting rid of that domain further down the line? The whole thing strikes me as creating a more locked-down Web.

"The problem with that approach is that it communicates that the Web is 'hard' instead of educating users in how to understand it and how to build on it," added Louis, who was a co-founder of Internet.com, among other companies, and has been involved with the Web for more than two decades.

A security firm joined the anti-origin chip discussion in May too. Chantilly, Va.-based PhishMe argued that extremely long URLs vanished, leaving the Omnibox blank, to illustrate how cyber criminals could circumvent the origin chip's design.

Chrome users who encounter the option chip can eliminate it by typing chrome://flags in the address bar, searching for the setting labeled "Enable origin chip in Omnibox," then selecting "Disabled." Those who want to experiment with the feature can enable it using with the same setting in most Chrome builds.

 

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