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Burying the URL (allenpike.com)
553 points by alxndr on May 1, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 368 comments

This is a new UI experiment that's deployed to a small fraction of users. We're looking at a few key metrics to see if this change is a net positive for Chrome users. (I imagine it may help defend against phishing).

My personal opinion is that it's a very bad change and runs anti-thetical to Chrome's goals. I hope the data backs that up as well.

But regardless, this change is far from shipping as the new default behavior and the reaction here will certainly have an impact on the feature's future. As mentioned, please feel free to disable it at chrome://flags/#origin-chip-in-omnibox

I agree that it's absolutely awful.

I hate how mobile safari has removed URLs, I find it very disorienting. I'm constantly looking at the URL bar to see if I've navigated to a new page or not, to see what the page I'm on is named and its purpose is, and to make sure I went where I clicked and wasn't just redirected somewhere else (sometimes this can be really confusing, for example mobile versions of webpages that dump you out to the main page instead of the mobile version of the page you were hoping for).

While I can see the anti-phishing advantages of emphasizing the domain, hopefully this wouldn't come at the expense of the rest of the URL. Right now chrome grays out the rest of the URL, which is nice, but if you want to be less subtle that's fine too - turn the domain into a button, or draw a box around it or whatever, but please leave the rest of the URL passively visible.

I think a lot of the negative reaction also comes from replacing it with a google search box. Not very classy. There used to be just the URL bar in browsers, then there was the URL bar and the search bar, then chrome simplified it into just the URL bar, which allowed you to search if you prefixed with ?, and now you can search with no prefix. The new change would just make the whole thing a search field. If you want to optimize chrome for people who don't know how to use the internet and won't learn that's google's choice, but don't expect me to use it or recommend it.

> While I can see the anti-phishing advantages of emphasizing the domain

I don't even think it would help there. In fact, I think this would help fraudsters. If I think about the various scam attempts on steam for example.

They direct you to a url like www.stempowered.com/q?phishlogin=true or something.

Knowing that a correct steam url would never have this sort of thing in its url would be the first thing to notice if you were already duped into clicking on a link that lead to the above url.

If the browser then only displays "stempowered.com", it would be way more difficult to notice you are on a phishing site. Just because you didn't notice the missing "a". And let's face it. The average consumer/user does not go and verify any certificates.

> The new change would just make the whole thing a search field.

This is incorrect. Entering a URL into the field produces the exact same behavior as it does with this option disabled. Typing a URL and pressing enter goes directly to that URL. Typing part of a URL that has been previously visited (like "face" => "http://www.facebook.com/") will default to visiting that URL.

I think we can probably agree that the text field on google.com is a search field.

However, if I enter "face" into the text field on google.com, then facebook.com is the top result. If I enter a complete URL like "https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7677898" or even "news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7677898", it turns it into a link to that page. The only difference between the search field on google.com and the URL field in chrome is whether it knows about my internet history, and maybe that's just because I have web history turned off. Sometimes I get the "Google Search" behavior and sometimes I get the "I'm feeling lucky" behavior.

In cases where the google search gives the wrong response, chrome gives the same wrong response, for example on intranet servers.

So, if it doesn't display the URL, and it behaves exactly like the search field on google.com, and it doesn't correctly navigate to some URLs entered into the field, I don't think you can really consider it a URL field any more.

In other words, it will make the whole thing a search field, with some smart url-friendly behaviors, so that most of the time when you enter a url it will take you to that url.

> In cases where the google search gives the wrong response, chrome gives the same wrong response, for example on intranet servers.

What? Intranet addresses work perfectly fine in the chrome url bar, unless it 1) has spaces (which aren't technically allowed in urls, and you can type %20 to avoid) or 2) is only letters (which you can avoid by just appending a slash or something).

Also, if the omnibox automatically redirected to sites instead, then yes it would pretty much be identical. But it doesn't and it's not.

I agree, intranet addresses mostly work. For those that don't work, there are workarounds, like specifying the protocol or adding /. Personally, I'm happy with the current omnibox behavior.

Getting back to the earlier question, is the omnibox a URL field or a search field? Well, it's a combination of the two. But it's sort of like a UX version of the ship of Theseus.. if you slowly remove all the behaviors of a URL field and replace them with those of a search field, at what point does it become something different? When does it become a search field with URL behaviors instead of a URL field with search behaviors?

If you look at the screenshot in the linked article, the field says "Search Google or type URL" instead of showing the URL. I think that's the watershed moment. Given all the behavioral changes already, subjectively I'd say that's not a URL bar any more. Even if the omnibox behavior is exactly the same as now, it's no longer showing the URL.

I hope it doesn't make its way into the release version of chrome.

My experience is that chrome works great with intranet addresses if you fully type them out. "gerrit.gps" searches for the string "gerrit.gps". I have to fully type out "http://gerrit.gps" to get to our gerrit server.

Usually for me it loads the search results, but also puts a "did you mean http://gerrit.gps" at the top. Clicking yes to that also remembers it for the future. I'm totally cool with this approach.

> In other words, it will make the whole thing a search field, with some smart url-friendly behaviors, so that most of the time when you enter a url it will take you to that url.

In other words: what Chrome has already done for a very long time.

except where chrome (or safari) mistakes a url for a for search terms. OT, I know, but since the advent of the "unified search" boxes, I have returned to the late nineties and type "http://" with all my urls because chrome and safari get it wrong so often.

It might test well in metrics, but this is the kind of thing that points out why purely data based decision making can be dangerous. A-B testing assumes users will all behave the same in the future as in the past. But people's future behavior is dependent on their present behavior and experiences.

With repeated exposure to URLs more people will learn how URLs work. Hiding URLs means that people will never be able to learn.

I already really dislike that win7 hides the filepath, and lies about it in many cases.

It makes me click on the bar to actually see where I'm at in the filepath, please don't take that design mistake and apply it to the web.

I hate that copying the domain in a modern browser copies the protocol along with it. Highlight just "google.com", copy. Paste it and what is pasted? "http://google.com/". Makes dig/whois really annoying.

Related: Microsoft's decision to hide file extensions by default was arguably one of the worst UI mistakes of all time, leading to naive users launching coolpic.jpg.exe because all they saw was coolpic.jpg, among many other problems.

I hope you've never used a mac in that case. Good luck finding a filepath with them. One of my biggest annoyances with mine right now.

I think it's quite ironic that you just received four different suggestions of how to solve this problem. None of that would even be necessary if they didn't try to hide the information in the first place.

Apple never showed the path prominently in the first place. Since System 7 you can Cmd-Click the title bar to show a menu with the path, and you can use Cmd-I to show the path in the Info panel.

Not including a path bar by default doesn't mean they "try to hide the information", it's just a different UI design.

One step left until the "recently viewed" filesystem, where paths are a backwards-compatibility bug. That's when you notice you didn't age well...

You can choose "Show Path" from the "View" menu in the Finder. At least it isn't as hard to understand as "Enable origin chip in Omnibox".

Highlight a file in Finder, press command + i. Info pane shows path.

Or, drag a file from Finder to the terminal --> terminal prints the full path to the file.

View > Show Path Bar (⌥⌘P)

Drag a file to the terminal.

right click on the title of a finder window.

My guess is the real perhaps unannounced goal (?) is that Chrome wants more people using the Search bar to search Google.

From a UI perspective for user it looks like the "Search Google or Type URL" text are would be searching the Amazon.com site - however it sounds like it searches Google?

My guess is that this will drive a lot more traffic to Google and then much more opportunity for a website to the lose that user because Google will be able to show other listings - including ads - prior to showing whatever is on your own site, even if is only your website in search results (which as I said before, looks like won't be the case).

As a developer and website owner this would motivate me strongly against Google and strongly turn me off from Google if they continue to try to funnel traffic back to their own website.

People do this already - they type "facebook[.com]" in to a searchbox (or addressbar with search enabled). They arrive at a SERP and click on the first link in that listing. Occasionally the first link isn't the right one, occasionally they'll notice and click the correct one!

Ordinary users.

It's right to address this behaviour in the interface design. Rather than somehow telling users they're wrong Google can work with that behaviour. Yes it has benefits for Google in tracking and profiling user behaviour too.

Genuinely curious, what kind of metrics do you use to measure the effectiveness of a change like this?

I'm going to be a cinic: if the Chrome team sees that users use Omnibox/Google more to got to the desired URL, that would be a positive thing (for them). Why type the URL when you can go via uncle Google?

I can actually imagine a lot of users liking that - many people I've seen using a browser will just type stuff in to Google's homepage search box and then follow links. The classic example, yes I've seen it, is people typing Hotmail/Live/Outlook in to Google and then following the link rather than typing in the address [my 8yo did this recently for another site].

For many-many users the web entry point is the search engine they use as their homepage, that is "the internet" for them. This was the paradigm that AOL developed and there are vast swathes of users that cut their teeth on AOL.

I think that's an ok thing. I used to scoff at this sort of behavior but no longer - users who do this are just doing the same thing I do in the address bar, except they're taking up a whole page and an extra click. The address bar is probably too ephemeral and hard to understand.

It's probably a good hint that browsers could find success at imitating a similar search interface in the new page/new tab UI. Offer a clean page with a text search field, with very fast results that have good context.

Chrome and FF have a "View History" page with search, but it seems to be fixed by date and with no way to sort for relevance. IE doesn't appear to have a history search (I think this is baked into Windows search instead?).

The cynical view is they want people to share using Google+ instead of just sending a URL. The "Share" button is already central to most browsers, but is still uncommon on the desktop.

Of course, that way google can build up more of a profile on them.

"Don't be evil" gave way to "Invading privacy for fun and profit" long ago.

It kinda depends on the Chrome team's goals and whether those are absolute / which ones take precedence; I'd say in this case it's a compromise between usability / user-friendliness / not chasing away their users, and subtly increasing usage of google's search services.

Google has avoided being obvious about Chrome giving them more revenue up until now, as far as I'm concerned. Whether this will also swing in their favor or not, I can't be sure at the moment.

And with Safari on iOS 7 only showing the domain name, there is some precedence with the approach described in the article.

Except given the recent trend, too many decisions like that would likely result in LibreAlloy or something similar. They have a lot more breathing room to behave that way with gmail and Youtube and similar, where the value they are providing is in serving the content, as opposed to Chrome where the code is more or less available and their value is in developing the open source environment.

Clarification: I'm not sold on the "Upstream goes sour? Time to Libre$thing" trend as a good thing in the long term, but I doubt the potential for it to occur has escaped Google's notice.

It would actually be much easier than with most products, since this is just a change in the UI. You could fork Chromium while still keeping Blink upstream, and build whatever UI you want (somewhat similar to what Opera is doing).

what happens if you directly paste an URL? does it still perform a search or the browser will go to the URL (and then hide it)?

If it is a valid url, it goes to it.

This seems to hint that Chrome reports its settings back to Google, so they could discover how many people disabled the feature.

Is this true? Does Chrome phone-home with details of user settings?

Yes, it asks you when you first run it.

Hmm, so I guess their stats are likely to be skewed. Being based on the choices of those that don't know or care how the web works.

This is only in Canary, so these are choices being made by people who are opting in to using that version. It will be skewed toward early adopters.

If you are using Canary and NOT reporting back, you don't know how Canary works and shouldn't be using it.

Should we use the "report an issue" option in Canary, or file it under:



Or those who are happy to contribute their behaviour despite being aware of both of those things.

I'm curious as well, specifically how would you go about tailoring those metrics to different features as they're released. Seems like that could be a pretty awesome/multi-faceted question to see the raw data behind.

That said, I sincerely hope that this particular anti-pattern's efficacy in converting people from typing in URL's to searching for websites isn't the most important metric.

>Implying Chrome use metrics rather than just ruining what they want and telling users to deal with it

It's funny that people say not relying on URLs would be anti-web. IMHO this causation is made only on a selection of empirical observations. In fact I think, you could also draw other conclusions from empirical observations.

Let's look at REST. Everybody is using it for HTTP APIs, or to be precise: everybody pretends to use it. Because, as many know, a REST API is only a true REST API, if it follows the HATEOAS paradigm. A paradigm which is in fact really cool. But why do we think it's cool? Because Roy Fielding found in his thesis that the (human) web is basically HATEOAS. He says the web is so successfully because of that.

But in reality... Hardly any HTTP API uses HATEOAS. In fact many popular APIs hide the HTTP stuff completely from the API consumers. (If everybody was using HATEOAS, we would never have to update the client libs, right?) Something similar goes for normal websites. Most URLs are not human readable, even HN is an example. The URLs are just numbers, there was even a post discussing that recently... Most News websites have even more complicated URLs, they are not made for humans and thus to me something like memory addresses. The GMail URLs (the webs most successful mail client) are also very funny looking, I wonder if there are users who manipulate the URLs by hand, or who bookmark their outbox.

I somehow like looking at URLs but am I supposed to edit them as an end user or draw conclusions from their look? (And is Google? ;))

BTW: URLs were interesting in the 90s for identification because only Geo Cities and friends had domains. Now everybody owns a domain.

but am I supposed to edit them as an end user or draw conclusions from their look?

Here is a data point that may be of interest: On YouTube, since links are filtered from comments, many users link to other videos by posting the "tails" of URLs - some with "watch?v=xxxxxxxx", some "?v=xxxxxxxx", and some just post the random-looking video ID part with nothing other than "see video xxxxxxxx". In other words, there's evidence to suggest that a reasonably large portion of the otherwise "computer-illiterate" have at least a basic understanding of how URLs work and will edit them manually to get what they want.

Edit: or to put it another way, there are people who, upon having made extensive use of YouTube (or possibly other sites), have been able to notice the patterns in all of its URLs, and use that knowledge to succinctly name a video, without explicitly giving the entire link. They are also implicitly teaching others about this knowledge in the process. This is a perfect example of the kind of learning experience that would be deprived from those whose browser hid the path in URLs.

Yeah and the "otherwise computer-illiterate" may also think: oh wow, this is a cool feature I should rely on. Eventhough you can just paste the Youtube URL into the comment field and get a nicely formatted link.

For me this is another evidence that the main argument is broken. Youtube is super successful but in fact it is really restrictive when it comes to hyperlinking and mashing things together.

Update: just for clarification because of the downvotes, Youtube does not filter Youtube urls.

They might've changed it with the new comments system, but I know that links of any sort were completely disallowed not long ago. Nevertheless, I still see the posting of bare video IDs in many recent comments.

(I've basically never participated in YT comment discussions. There's definitely a lot of idiocy, but it's also interesting to just observe and see the sometimes surprising positive things like this that can occur.)

I do think there should be more of a focus on URNS rather than URLs, and his could help.

URLS are pretty rigid. If tommorow http was swapped out for a different protocol what would happen?

You'd be better off referring to the article posted as Allenpike's article on removing urls (or some such).

Fuzzyness feels more natural. I can bookmark a rigid URL, but what if later it moves? I might be better off bookmarking a signature of the article (a very basic form might be Author and Title).

The search engine's have a signature of articles, and if you are lucky that signature will be matched somehow against your loose search query. The success of search engines depends upon how well they order and match against your input.

To me, the question wasn't so much "does it make Youtube more succesful", but rather "does it allow people to notice patterns in the URL and deduct things useful to them from that".

>Most URLs are not human readable, even HN is an example

Personally I find the HN way fairly readable. I mean item no 7677898 is something I can read and understand and I note similar systems are used for quite a few things in the real world like phone numbers, zip codes and passport numbers.

It's stuff like "https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=address+white+house&oq=add... that I find going on unreadable.

A confession: I sometimes edit the gmail URLs by hand. In particular, I'm often using multiple google accounts and find that after restarting the browser (or something) a tab's account changes to something else than what I wanted. So I like having the option to just change the user id - the zero based integer in gmail URLs ("https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox"). Also, in other contexts, such as google sign in, this id appears as the authuser GET param.

> I somehow like looking at URLs but am I supposed to edit them as an end user or draw conclusions from their look?

People shouldn't be drawing conclusions from the URL (apart from the query string and the domain part, but that latter is a whole other story). The URLs are supposed to be unchanging and not break, and that's strongly incompatible with having them contain human-meaningful information. And in particular (though not exclusively) with using path-segments to communicate a tree structure for your website. Such tree structures are inevitably torn down and replaced over time on most long-active websites (especially those which are the public-facing homepage of a long-lived organisation), and the result of placing them in the URL is inevitably link breakage. Hiding the URL by default is therefore good, as it should help to prevent the user from seeking meaning in the URL or the site owner from placing it there.

And links (with the exceptions noted above) shouldn't contain meaningful information for automated use either: it's Hypertext As The Engine Of Application State, not Link Structure As The Engine...

(Tree-structured site guides are fine and useful means of navigating, by the way; they just don't belong in the URL.)

Even if the URLs on HN or various newspapers are not very human friendly, at least one can copy and save them. How do you propose doing that without URLs?

I'm not saying that URLs are superfluous. But I think their function is exaggerated. Especially when it comes to Web Apps, but even in the case of articles in which hyperlinks are really useful and used a lot. They often seem like C pointers on which you better don't do any arithmetics. But unlike C pointers, often I cannot dereference them. ;)

Around '99 I did not rely on bookmarks, instead I saved interesting articles to my hard drive because links would break so often. Even today the problem remains and I don't even dare to say whether it got better or worse.

Maybe there are smarter concepts than HTTP-style URLs that we are not aware of yet. Might be also interesting regarding privacy, because many people actually do not want static hyperlinks to their personal information that last a million years.

Opera did something similar back in 2010 in v11 with the opera:config#UserPrefs|HideURLParameter configuration variable. I found I was wanting the URL information often enough that I turned the feature off. I wonder the old Opera team had any metrics they gathered.

In Opera 20 I haven't found a way to re-enable fully expressed URLs. They adopted Webkit, and stripped out most of their configurability that was previously available from opera:config.

I can't imagine using a graphical browser without an address bar. Regarding the possible benefits, I think phishing would become a lot easier, if users don't see the URL any more, anyone can still link to phishing pages.

phishing should actually be harder - the only thing now shown is the domain - the important part, without the whole path to add noise

I think that a better way to do it would be to make the domain bold and the rest of the URL lighter.

Chrome already sort of does that. I guess it could be emphasized further.

I respect that Google is disciplined about shipping features like this only after extensive testing, but it troubles me that despite obvious problems with this approach - like the external appearance of funneling users to Google search for all their web navigation (regardless of whether this was an intentional purpose behind the design) - it made it all the way through design, implementation, testing, and code review without anyone realizing what the reaction would be. It seems likely that if a noisy user hadn't noticed and blogged about it, this could have made it through multiple channels and gotten close to the release channel.

It's great that you vet these changes on Canary and do user testing, but it's troubling that a change like this isn't first extensively vetted from a perspective of 'does this hurt our users? does it compromise their privacy? does it increase the odds that they will get sent to the wrong websites? does it hide important information in some cases?'

I suspect that this UI change is actually going to make people more vulnerable to phishing in cases where the domain is not a guarantee of identity; for example, an XSS on a google-controlled domain (where the full URL would make the attack obvious, but only showing domain hides it), or an attack hosted on a 'user content' domain that uses subdirectories to distinguish between different users/sites.

A more straightforward example is that all my gmail accounts have 'mail.google.com' as the domain in my browser, regardless of whether one of them is an Apps domain (thus security sensitive) and another one happens to belong to a sibling or significant other or something.

This feature just seems intrinsically misguided and poorly considered. I appreciate that your UX team is trying to aggressively improve things, but they seem to be acquiring a long track record of poor decisions.

Note that in the case of "XSS on a google-controlled domain," the malicious actor could just use JavaScript's pushState or replaceState APIs to modify the path in the address bar to "renew_subscription" or whatever.

I'm currently discussing the issue of vetting and "user-first" committments with a Google employee on G+, though concerning issues other than this. To put it mildly, I'm not at all convinced by developments I've seen at the company over the past 2+ years, if not longer. Actually, I'd pin this on when Gmail was first released. Prior to that, Google was simply something you used, but not as a registered user.

I've since elected out of Google search as my browser's defaults.

it made it all the way through design, implementation, testing, and code review without anyone realizing what the reaction would be.

Oh I don't think that's true at all. They just know that they're big enough that it doesn't matter what a bunch of internet weenies think when most of their audience doesn't know or care enough to understand the UI change, let alone grasp the business interests that drive it.

So XSS attacks and phishing scams don't matter? People who don't want their family's credit card details and passwords stolen by thieves are weenies?

I'm including myself in that group. And yes? Or at least will-be-dismissed-by-google-as-weeines-once-they-decide-what-is-right-for-everyone. But that doesn't roll off the tongue very well.

I loved it in the start, but in development it's kind of frustration for me. Specially while doing API design you'll get frustrated easily.

I've enabled it to try it out.

First impression:

It doesn't make any sense to hide the protocol when you reveal the URL, and I found myself looking for a "Copy URL" button. Since copying the URL is what I most often try to do when selecting a URL, it would make sense.

It makes browsing feel much calmer, and I'm pretty sure I'll keep it enabled for a while.

That's actually fairly old behavior. If you copy the full contents (which is selected by default) it includes the protocol.

TL;DR: URLs matter; we as developers need to make them relevant again; hiding them is a terrible idea


I guess this goes to the app-ification of the web.

There's a dangerous slippery slope here. If we're OK with this happening, are we then OK with getting rid of that domain further down the line? What about routing all traffic through Google first so it can check if a URL is "safe" or not. The whole thing strikes me as creating a more locked-down web.

URLs and View-Source are fundamental elements of the vision Tim Berners-Lee. WorldWideWeb, the first web browser had it front and center. Mosaic moved it to the top, where we most know the URL scheme to exist. Safari moved the URL box to the same line as other navigation (what is now more common). Every step of the way, the scheme has been getting reduced for usability purpose.

But 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.

And we, as technical people have not helped much here. Look at the URL up here. Yes, we know that it's hacker news but what does the ID mean? It has no semantic meaning to a user (unless you know that this is the 7678580th story on HN and care about that). A nice URL would be something like http://hackernews.com/story/google-experiments-with-URLs

Wordpress actually does this by default, even adding a date scheme to it, which makes the web a better place:

http://site.com/year/month/day/story-title-can-go-here is an easy to read URL and yes it's a pain to code properly when you're dealing with a dynamic site but hey it's our jobs to make sure we do things that are beautiful for users.

So maybe this is a wake up call.

I've been using it for a few hours now. while my initial reaction was "how could they!", after a while, it's not that annoying anymore.

I can now see the reasoning behind it - many people I know do not actively use the url bar except for searching. even when they want to check their facebook or favorite website, they just enter "facebook" in the url and use the (google) search results to get where they want to. for such users, the search box is much more important than the url itself, so why waste the UI space...

I'm sure many people don't use the bar for anything other than searching, but I often use it as its own interface, when hacking around with REST work. I'd hate to have them remove it.

This feature is horrible.

It's going to be annoying for developers. We often put special query string hooks to test functionality or debug queries...it'd be kind of a pain to have to enable flag in chrome just to be able to type in the URL.

This may be the reason I stop using Chrome even though I was a member of the team for 5 years.

I NEED TO EDIT URLs. I need to copy and paste URLs. It was already annoying enough with it's removing of the protocol because sometimes I make a typo, try to edit it and it messes up and removes the protocol forcing me to edit it a 3rd time only after it goes as searches for something.

Even as just a user I copy and paste URLs all day long. Into FB, into Twitter, into stackoverflow answers, into HN responses.

I don't even see how this is better for Google. Links make up pagerank no? Links are what Google uses to be the best search engine. How is making it harder for people to copy and paste URLs good for Google?

I'm sure I'm in the minority as a semi-webdev but dammit, don't fix what isn't broken. Or at least give those of us with different use cases a way to get shit done without getting in our way. Sure, this may or may not be better for my grandma but it's not for me. I causes me frustration daily already. This is only going to make it anger inducing.


I'm using Canary with this option enabled, and all you have to do is click the domain box, then you can freely view, edit, and copy the URL.

All this update does is hide the path portion of the URL. That's it, so IMO, this story is way overblown. Google isn't removing the URL bar, they're just acknowledging the fact that 99% of users don't need to see 99% of the URLs they visit on a daily basis.

Why do Hacker News readers need to see a URL that looks like this? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7677031

Why do users looking at Amazon Fire's landing page need to see this? http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CX5P8FC/ref=amb_link_412...

Why do EBay shoppers need to see this? http://www.ebay.com/itm/Garmin-nuvi-2555LMT-5-GPS-Navigation...

They don't. Just trim it down to the domain and call it good.

Oh, and it's worth mentioning that to copy/paste URLs, it's still only one click away, because when you click the box, it auto-selects the entire URL.

Edit: As I review my post, in the context of this story I find it humorous that even Hacker News trims the URLs I pasted because of how obnoxious and unnecessary they are.

> they're just acknowledging the fact that 99% of users don't need to see 99% of the URLs they visit on a daily basis.

While we're talking about things we don't need, let's include this change.

The fact is, for most of the last two decades we've already had a UI where users who don't care to attend to the URL don't have to, and users who care to notice can. What does this add? Nothing. But it does take away some legibility for people who care, and discoverability for people who might learn to.

99% of people using web browsers really get no cues from the path? Cite please. URLs aren't high tech any more than the address to your house is, and my observation is that even non-developers who are simply experienced browsers pick up cues -- even from barely legible URLs mostly meant to be parsed by machines. You don't have to be a programmer to observe that typing a string in takes you to a page, or that the string changes when the browser loads a change, and put together the address correlation until you start to understand what a URL is without even really thinking about it.

Or at least, you wouldn't have to be a programmer to learn to make that connection based off of simple observation skills if we kept the current model. If we move to this new hide-the-URL UI, probably you would (self-fulfilling prophesy!).

And sure, the web has lots of URLs that don't provide a lot of easily parsed cues. In the interest of being a little less selective, though, let's look at a few others:






Do people need to see these things? Nope. Can they derive utility from being able to see them? Yes. And they do.

> URLs aren't high tech any more than the address to your house is

When you stop by the local coffee shop, do you take note of what its address is?

The users have an idea what URLs are, they just don't care.

When you stop by the local coffee shop, do you take note of what its address is?

That's like clicking on a bookmark. But when you need to tell someone else (who is unfamiliar with the district) where that coffee shop is, or vice-versa, that information becomes really important. Hiding the path and showing only the domain is like telling someone "it's in California".

On the other hand, if the URL is displayed, then there will be many who take note of the fact that it changes whenever they click on a new link or go back/foward, and it makes them mentally associate "that piece of text" with "this page I'm looking at" - they don't even need to know the term URL to do that. It's a bit unfortunate that browsers don't have "Address:" next to it anymore, because that would've made this association so much easier (someone seems to have made the same observation almost ten years ago, although it was FF vs IE: http://cheeaun.com/blog/2004/09/address-label-for-address-ba... ). Having made that association, they can then tell you exactly where a page they're looking at is, and vice-versa.

> When you stop by the local coffee shop, do you take note of what its address is?

Postal address? No, but I do know (for example) I'm on Main street, in that tiny alley one block west of 4th Ave, in the building just left of that weird giant sculpture of a bird.

I'm constantly aware of and can describe my relative location, even if I'm not always capable of expressing it using an absolute designation like postal address.

On the web, though, there is no such relativity. One website is not near or far from or above or below another. I cannot conceive of my location, much less express it, in any way but absolute address.

So: since I do not travel to reach places on the web, how do I know where I am? The address bar.

Good analogy - Now that lots of places don't display their address, whenever I'm trying to figure out where a small shop in a strip mall is (particularly in a busy retail corridor where there are layered strip malls) even gps only helps so much. I end up spending a lot of effort to find it.

Similarly, ever tried to find your bud's house the first time in a subdivision, esp. at night? Those places all look the same and you drive past 4 times before you figure out one of the house's numbers and deduce it. The pizza guy the other night thanked me for having my number clearly displayed and lit, for the same reason.

Of course once you get into a building, it still remains annoying - I mean it's still not really obvious how the internal room/suite numbering works. That portion of addressing is totally up to the architect, and a lot of times is only intuitive after you know the space you're in (if ever).

No, because I know that I drove down the same street, parked in the same parking lot, and walked through the same door. The URL should always be visible so that I can glance up and see if I am in a familiar place before putting in a username/password.

The point of this is that you see and compare the domain before putting in a username/password. That's probably more reliable than comparing a full URL - the difference between y0urbank.com and yourbank.com is much more obvious than the difference between y0urbank.com/?bunch/of/state=whatever and yourbank.com/?bunch/of/state=whatever

The component of the URL you check when avoiding phishing attack (the domain) is still displayed.

Well yes (even if HN cuts those off), but you should also consider that all of the example pages you listed have the title and intent of the page clearly listed right on the page themselves.

Legible URLs are important when you need to decide to follow the link; once you're on the page, it's less important because there's bigger and more legible cues about the content right on the pages themselves then.

Yeah, there are ugly URL. But those are the problem of the sites that use them. I don't see why all sites have to pay for their sins.




? No, thanks.

The only problem I see with this is the confusion between the search box and urls for most users.

I noticed my 10 year old brother trying to find a song the other day in a peculiar fashion. He simply typed in youtube and "genre name." He click on the 2nd link of the search results. Then clicking on the 3rd item of a side bar linking to a playlist. He was navigating the web through links provided by google like we use the directory system.

In this case, knowing the specific url would be mind numbing and utterly useless. However, the distinction between google and the web is just too blurred for so many people.

However, I think drgath's point is ultimately correct. For some people, there really is no internet besides Facebook. For some no internet without Google. Even crazier: I've met someone who does not know the internet without Siri.

If we hold onto things like the directory structure, then we couldn't have "advancements" in user interface design like iOS. Could we eventually get a web without urls like iOS is an operating system without a visible directory structure to end users? I think it would be a big win. The directory structure was replaced by single purposed apps. What will url's be replaced by?

you described the nefarious walled garden metaphor.

The holy grail of companies. Full control over 95% of the users by sacrificing 5...

you are just dead wrong thinking this is good design. obscenely profitable? Yes.

Good design is made by serving the extreme 5% while accommodating the 95... Take it from someone who actually majored in product design and usability. The rationale for user interfaces is that the 95% will at some tasks be the 5percentile, and if you don't serve them, over time you lose them. People think ios is a hallmark of usability only because the market has too much canon fodder so the 95percentile seems infinite. But eventually enough people will be fed up by being unable to send a file from one app to another the way they want. And will move to whatever crap interface that at least have a file system that allows them to compete the task.

Good design is made by serving the extreme 5% while accommodating the 95...

Oh I can't upvote you enough, this isn't just for design, this is how advancements in tech happen in general. I remember when CVS was the dominant version control systems and old fogies didn't need this subversion nonsense. I read an essay in defense of svn that argued "just keep using cvs and don't worry about it, there's always going to be a minority that needs key features most people don't, let them have svn."

We're now two generations of version control down the road, both svn and git ate their predecessor's lunch by catering to the needs of the handful that were unsatisfied. Once the new thing works, most people eventually comes along because the key features turned out to be pretty nice, even if not necessary. That's how software progresses in general. Walled gardens exist to prevent others from making the next product that could eat the current one's lunch. Why else would it be verboden to "duplicate" iOS functionality?

> I'm using Canary with this option enabled, and all you have to do is click the domain box, then you can freely view, edit, and copy the URL.

Does Command+L still work? Because one click is too many.

yes, ^K and ^L still work the same as before

Does ^L still jump to the URL bar, activate the URL button, and select it? Since that's how I copy URLs anyway, I'm fine with that. ^K should just jump to the URL bar since it's now a search bar and ^L should jump to the URL/search bar and select the URL, as before.

With that one small change, I'd still be happy.

Yeah, that still works. Interesting, looks like Ctrl-K prepends a ? before you start typing, which is how you tell Chrome (and Firefox) that what you're typing should go to the default search provider instead of being used as a URL.

How's the weather over Googleplex today?

while you're at it you might uninstall chrome and install ... don't even remember how the AOL browser was called... But it obviously was superior to any modern browsers with their lowly urls instead of AOL keywords.

stop using Chrome

That may solve this particular problem, but then which browser do you use instead? Firefox has had its history of similar changes (although you can still use extensions), Opera post-12 lost a ton of customisability, and IE, although appearing to have the fewest irritating interface changes, also has the most rendering quirks. (Personally I'm less concerned with the rendering quirks than the UI changes, so I tend to use IE most of the time, but I use various versions of all four on different sites - at the moment I have Firefox and Opera open as well.)

In my mind, they're all headed down the same path, just at slightly different rates. The idea that you can choose a different browser is starting to become more and more of an illusion.

I'm smelling a possible reboot of the browser paradigm.

There are a few fundamental uses I see, and they're somewhat distinct:

• Reading. For which stripping 99.99966% of Web formatting would be preferred. If I got content-heavy sites in a form similar to what Readability, Pocket, Instapaper, etc., delivers, I'd be much happier. Well, slightly less grumpy. I found it interesting that the Kobo tablet was, for a while, advertising its browser as doing just that (from what I can tell of the revised copy, they're offering built-in Pocket). See: http://www.kobobooks.com/tablets Online forums are another special case.

• Commerce. Here authentication and payment are concerns. Neither are built in to existing HTML standards.

• Applications. Something that's more than just putting words (and images) on a page, or buying stuff. For this I'm actually inclined to think that the Mobile app model might be more appropriate. Say I want ... an email tool, or an interactive mapping tool, or a host monitoring solution, etc. Running this in a separate process space, in a separate windowing context, individually controllable, etc., would be a huge win.

The other element is user state: there are very few cases where I need a specific browser page running at all times (selected apps are the exception). What I do want is to be able to return to the page state I'd last left it at. With very aggressive paging out of state to local storage, and/or simply leaving a marker of "this is where you were at", and being able to recall it as needed, overall performance would vastly improve.

Neither Firefox nor Chrome presently offers this. On Firefox, there's a single process space, such that all tabs become unresponsive when system resources are exhausted. On Chrome, there are multiple subprocesses, which are individually much heavier-weight than Firefox's own tabs, but which can be individually killed. You have to reference them indirectly, however, through a task manager, rather than being able to simply kill the tab you're on at the moment (you can close it, you cannot kill it). In both cases I'm finding myself constantly manually managing resources. I've also found myself abandoning Firefox for Chrome as with the former I've got to kill/restart the whole thing, while Chrome gives more granular control, and Chrome tends to crowd out FF for resources. Both are very far from optimal.

I agree there needs to be some reboot. Browsers could really help the user more. Regarding the apps breaking out, if we did away with tabs this could help, improve or rethink window management.

I was trying to think what's the difference between a 'frozen' web page / state and a bookmark. There is a difference, but for some pages, a bookmark is enough. I've always thought that tabs are really just perhaps a more convenient bookmark, but they are prone to abuse. Restarting Firefox with howevever many tabs, doesn't now reload all tabs like in the past. You loose state, but they are lighter in weight.

I like tabs. They needn't be to specific pages, however. And I hugely dislike horizontal tabs -- tree-style tabs (available as an extension on Firefox) give you additional cues of position and nesting, and can show far more context even in a busy browser session (and all my browser sessions are busy).

A bookmark doesn't retain where you are on a page. Only the page's location.

Bookmarks also don't relate to your current browser session. I usually organize mine by topic. For current task work what I want is a stack or other less-organized list that I can skip back and forth on.

Firefox's session restore was configurable. I'm a few revs back on Debian (24.4.0), so I'm not sure what all's changed recently.

Yes state as in where you are in a page isn't stored in the bookmark. I get that. I've tried loads of tab extensions. That one was broken for me when I tried it. I still think this is window manager / desktop manager territory, grouping: tasks, pages, apps, sessions.

Perhaps listening to a passage of text and typing some notes and reading a web page belong to a given task, and I might want to stash that away and pick it up later. Although I'm probably kidding myself thinking I can multi-task, and manage multiple tasks, sessions. Freezing one or two though might be useful.

I'm on Debian Nightly 31. And I can't even find the managing session stuff in the menus. I'm sure I used to be able to save a group of tabs.

If bookmark management was better in the browsers I'm sure people would use them far more.

Bookmarks as is are a complete nightmare, agreed.

You'd almost think the browser developers want you to save all state to their proprietary Web-based silos or something.

You seem to be asking for a generic "Tablet" interface, with multiple compartmentalized apps/processes for each of your use cases.

Want to read? I either fire up the Adobe PDF reader and load something from my history or I open my email/dropbox/trello card and tap an attachment, which opens up the PDF reader.

Almost all the interesting ideas in academia come in .pdf format, not .html. It just fits our use case better.

Want to shop? Fire up amazon i guess or fire up a web browser and go to amazon. Who cares if the "Amazon" uses standard HTML forms? The user doesn't.

Want to $x? Fire up $app_that_handles[$x].

Academia is mostly standardized on arxiv - I can read papers from 12 different journals and they're all in the same format there. The rest of the web hasn't got there yet - if I want to read 12 different blog articles I have to navigate 12 different kinds of styled pages.

What's the arxiv format if I could ask?

Not a format, a website; arxiv.org.

You wrote: "I can read papers from 12 different journals and they're all in the same format there."

Suggesting some file format, or perhaps presentation format.

ArXiV files are downloaded in either .PDF or maybe .HTML. In my subfield (computer vision), most of the action happens in actual journals/conferences for now, so when authors submit to ArXiV, they submit .PDFs because the work usually was also intended to appear somewhere else.

ArXiV does not specify a style guide so you get this weird mix of IEEE/PAMI/single-column/double-column, but that's not really a detrement to its readability since journals wouldn't usually pick an unreadable style anyway.

Thanks, though I'll note you weren't who I was asking the question of ;-)

I figured the format was likely "academic articles, mostly prepared with LaTeX, published as PDFs", but the commenter was being less than clear, even on reiteration.

There is a problem here, in that the user might not know which app should handle $x.

On most modern OSes, the OS will generally know. Though I find "app for document type" models largely broken.

I interpreted the comment differently. I read that the human was to do the association more on a task base, rather than a file association.

Fair point, though IME task-oriented apps tend to be more comprehensible than format-oriented ones.

Mostly no.

Having file-format-specific reading utilities is stupid, awful, and is precisely the type of Windows-centric (and to a lesser extent Mac-centric) behavior I absolutely loath.

Applications centered around tasks however are a bit of a different story, and that's more of what I'm describing.

For reading, Adobe's an absolutely horrible example. Particularly on tablets. Don't make me remember the time I was buried to my waist in a colo cabinet trying to sort out load balancer issues while reading the 300+ page manual on my Android smartphone using the Adobe reader app ... which would reset to the front page each time it got kicked out ... which is precisely what was happening as a recruiter was calling me despite my repeatedly hanging up on her (and having net nil reception regardless). There are some modestly better PDF readers (say, evince), though must fail on the basis of not positioning the text optimally for reading.

Contrast with a stunning exception to the usual rule that online readers are crap: the Internet Archive's book reader. I discuss it briefly here: http://redd.it/1w0n83

The beauty of it? It autocrops the page to the visible content on it. Screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/Reg8KLB.png

You can further maximize the browser (F11) and remove the navigation elements so that _all_ you are seeing is the text you're reading. Page navigation is quick and intuitive. The entire thing is, incredibly, better than any desktop PDF viewer I've encountered.

What I'd really like is something somewhere between Calibre and Zotero: that will manage a selection of documents, organize and manage them, spawn viewers (preferably good and useful viewers -- Calibre on Linux fails massively in this regard). And, if I specify it, renders everything with minimal markup.

As for shopping: it's not that I'd fire up the Amazon app, I'd fire up the shopping app. You want a standard, uniformly designed client with solid security, not a mash of individually created apps, each with its own security flaws and excessive permissions.

Splitting shopping from web-browsing would also prevent surveilling users across the Internet from the shopping interface itself.

For specific application-based tools. Some sort of general app framework that could be fired up. The main distinction between it and the reader would be that a reader app would assume that it's valid at any time to dump state to disk and bail, whereas you could configure an app for how you wanted it to behave (I might want a monitor to be up 24/7/365, while a social networking app could shut down if I haven't interacted with it for 15 minutes).

If 99% of what you do is in a browser then the browser has really taken the place of the operating system. And browsers are destined to follow a similar path to the OS. Remember when windows removed the full file path from explorer?

I don't know what Windows version you're running, but on the Windows 8 partition on my laptop, it shows the full path with prettified separators, showing the plaintext when you select the path.

And that same way of doing things would work quite well for a web browser, IMHO.

There are many annoyances I have with Windows, and Windows 8 specifically. That is not one of them.

I remember when they split the full file path into clickable pieces for each directory, making the fully-visible path even more prominent and interactable than before.

When did they remove the path?

In Windows 7, if I go to a folder in my home directory, it doesn't show c:\users\sp332\Downloads\foo instead it shows sp332 -> Downloads -> foo. The c:\users part is removed.

Your user directory is a browsing root, along with "Computer" and "Favorites" and "Network". From whatever root you pick, it will always show the entire path if there is enough space. If you browse to the same folder from C it will show "> Computer > C > Users > sp322 > Downloads > foo"

So that's just some multiple mount point weirdness, not removing the path.

Apparently Windows 8 still has this option:


(There are many things I dislike about the UI in Windows 8, but MS has not removed configuration and features quite as aggressively as others.)

Also gramma is gonna be sad when I give her a URL and she won't know where it goes.

It is not clear if they are dumbing the web down for users or just to get people onto Google search.

She'll put it in the bit that says "Search Google or type URL". It is in fact clearer now, because instead of having an old url in there, it can have a consistent prompt of "URL goes here". If she doesn't know what a URL is, it's now easier to describe the input box to her.

There's already a usability problem with the address bar: Many people use it to search google instead of entering urls.

Yeah but at least if you can get them to that bar or at least "Open Location" you can semi-predictably get them to a website where you can get the problem solved or narrowed down.

Once you obscure URLs, web browsers become _impossible to support_. Of course Google doesn't care, because support isn't part of their lexicon.

You can still type URLs into the bar.

It's easier to direct them to it because it always has the same prompt text. "Do you see a box that says 'Search Google or type URL?'? Great, type this into it..."

The thing that's harder is getting them to read the url back to you.

That's my point. You can't get them to verify where they're at, because you tell them to go to X and they can't confirm they're at X.


I've never understood the claim that the omnibar was a usability problem. It's really only a problem if you have an ideological issue with preferring to search Google... which isn't a usability issue.

It is confusing because there are these other things (urls) you could put in to the address bar that cause something different to happen from searching google.

Not so much a usability problem but a climate change nightmare.

All of those people entering partial URLs in the omnibox, causing a Google search, releasing CO2 is terrible when they could be using local bookmarks.

Good point. I wondered why this didn't happen under my Chrome, but I have a different search engine and have unchecked the box under Settings->Advanced->Privacy.

I'm not sure what gets sent with regards to spelling helpers? That could almost be like a keylogger? I wonder how it works. I've turned that off also.

Many people don't know where to put the URL anyway. They type it on Google. You would be surprised how many search queries start with "http".

You can disable it by going to chrome://flags/#origin-chip-in-omnibox, change it to Disabled and restart chrome.

Edit: Apparently a useful comment offering a solution to the parent's comment is not HN worthy?

Most of the time when something is changed with the previous behavior retained as a flag, sooner or later the flag will be removed.

The default behavior is generally indicative of how the devs want things to be used.

So no, not an actual solution. A temporary one, yes, but not longterm.

You shouldn't be downvoted, but please don't talk about being downvoted - it's against the site guidelines, mostly because it makes for boring conversations.


Not half as boring as not writing anything. Also, not half as boring as pointless answers. Division by 0 err#!07wwfxy6

Chrome tries to get rid of flags so likely they'll remove that option in a year or two if they decide no URL is FTW.

Suggesting a 'solution' for something that only shows up on the canary build with a flag is missing the point. This is about defaults and the path forward.

Your comment didn't deserve a downvote but please don't assume it to be objectively useful.

As a developer I need to SEE the url as well. A lot of time I need to check get params. Also when hovering a link I need to see the full url in the status bar.

I agree, but for the time being you can still click on the actual button, which will let you view/edit the entire URL.

Actually that 'might' be ok. I'd have to try it.

On the other hand seeing the URL helps me decide if I'm on the correct webpage. mybank.com vs pretendingtobemybank.com Of course I try not to click those links in the first place but I do look at the URL to check that some link I clicked took me to the right place.

There's also plenty of apps I use where the URL is useful info. For example JSFiddle. If there's a /N in the URL I know I need to click "Set As Base" before I'm done. Of course if that's the only site I need that on maybe not a good argument. I'll have to think about if that comes up on other sites for me or not. That's also a dev only issue probably.

I wouldn't mind having 2 modes, user mode and dev mode. I can certainly accept that non-devs have different needs than devs. My only point is I'm trying to avoid frustration. I have enough that in my life. I don't want chrome to pile on more and I can see that their current URL bar already causes me frustration often while doing dev and even while just socializing on the net. At some point that frustration will lead me to find something less frustrating.

In the case of spoof/phishing sites, having the base domain be shown as it is in Canary might actually be helpful - instead of a long complicated URL that allows the scammer to camouflage their fake domain, the domain will be explicitly called out.

I don't hate this change so far (especially as clicking on the domain gives the full URL - although that's perhaps not very discoverable if you don't know about it already)

How much of this would feel addressed if a button was added to copy the URL to clipboard? Obviously, it would not fix things like being able to manipulate the URL in the field (/page2 to /page3) or get rid of utm_source cruft, so it would still be a net loss.

But would you consider that a tolerable loss, or still too much? (I think I'd say it's still too much, but I am also a web dev and thus a power user.)

I copy and paste URLs all day long too. I use CMD+L to select the whole URL and CMD+C to copy it. No big deal.

Great for you with your 'keyboard', perhaps not so good for other input devices.

I do actually have an irritation, when I'm in Chrome and I do a CTRL+L and CTRL+C, and then I go to paste what I think I've copied, actually I have an unexpected http:// at the front of what I've copied. Sure that's what most people want, but it isn't what you see is what you get.

I somewhat expected this, given the trend of where things seem to be heading with software these days. In the name of "usability" configuration is removed, UIs are "simplified", and gradually the choice and freedom of the user is degraded. Opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them, or to explore and discover, a chance for users to grow. Dumbing-down software only encourages more of the same.

The "senior trying to use a computer" image is interesting in that it seems to imply that the seniors of the future will be just as clueless about how to use the Internet as the ones today, which may unfortunately not be far from the truth.

I predict that eventually browsers will become almost unconfigurable, highly locked-down, and be less controllable by the user than a television. As the article notes, "the URL will [...] that many users will never even realize is clickable." From there, it's not hard to imagine at some point the decision to remove even that "clickableness", on the basis that "no one will bother to", and by that point the frog has been thoroughly cooked. Open-source or not, almost no one will have the will or knowledge (except the few elite) to modify them to make them work as they desire. Users can be more easily "herded" and persuaded, if they have little knowledge of how things work; just keep them consuming and complacent, because knowledge is power, and we don't want them to have too much of that. Appease and mollify them with eye candy and doublespeak. Welcome to the future of corporate control, mindless consumption, and fashionable ignorance.

Sorry for the negativity, but this trend I find really unsettling.

For kicks, try replacing "software" with "automobiles" in your paragraph.

The innards of a modern car are incomprehensible to all but "the few elite", and its interface goes a long way to hide all that complexity. I only have the vaguest idea how it works, and am perfectly happy to outsource its maintenance to professional mechanics, because all I care about is that it works.

This should apply to computers. My family love their iPads and Macs, because they abstract away all the crap they don't care about in, in favor of letting them get stuff done. It's a form of reverse snobbery to insist that no, my grandmother actually should care deeply about whether she's searching via DNS or via Google, or that my preschooler needs to understand the difference between HTTP and HTTPS.

>This should apply to computers.

No, no, a thousand times no. What happened to cars - the replacement of mechanical, inspectable, (dare I say it) hackable components with electronic black boxes was not a good thing. You used to be able to fix and replace most things in an automobile engine with parts from the local auto shop and a shop manual. No longer. Now you have to spend hundreds or thousands to get the correct electronic doohickeys to talk to the closed source, locked down, DRM'd to hell and back engine control modules. And many of the parts aren't repairable in any meaningful sense - you have to go to the dealership to get a new widget, and if your car is too old or too rare, you're just SOL and you have to buy a new car. If this is the world you want for software, I want no part of it.

Old cars: you could fix it yourself. Modern cars: rarely need fixing; also much more efficient. I know which I prefer.

Every modern car becomes an old car.

It's fine if you want to turn over your vehicle every three years.

'Modern' cars are not fixable - even the specialists tear our their hair on some cases and give up completely.

Classics are rising steeply in value for people who want to own and understand a piece of machinery for its own sake. Much of modern automotive history will disappear into the maw of the crusher because irreplaceable, irrepairable parts render them useless.

> It's fine if you want to turn over your vehicle every three years.

more like eight years, which is not a bad deal.

> Modern cars: rarely need fixing; also much more efficient.

That really has nothing to do with what is being discussed though. The reliability and efficiency of modern cars are consequences of advances in technology and engineering, not user interface redesign.

Modern computers have also gotten... not more reliable exactly (they have, but it's not the point), but more robust against the need for manual configuration. When's the last time you had to defragment a disk, or figure out why some device in Windows Device Manager had a question mark next to it or what driver cocktail to install, or enter complicated settings to access the Internet? (Or XF86Config, for that matter...)

In other words, just like modern cars, it's not as necessary to pay attention to the innards for continued operation.

I don't think robustness has much to do with the need for manual configuration. Configuration is needed not (only) because users need to do troubleshooting, but also because they want to adjust and tweak their cars/computers/gadgets to their needs. The current trend is less configuration, less control in the hands of the consumer, more lock-down.

I believe hiding implementation details is part of this trend to reduce complexity (which is good) but also to wrestle control away from the user (which is bad).

figure out why some device in Windows Device Manager had a question mark next to it or what driver cocktail to install

I did this just last week with a fresh Windows 7 installation because the drivers for the Ethernet adapter had to be manually installed...

When was the last time you thought about IRQ settings?

Is it some kind of a test? Why is knowing IRQ relevant?

I am joining many people here, who prefer having configurable tools. I do not want to configure 'IRQ' on any tool I use, but if it will misfunction, I will search for it and find out what IRQ means and how I adjust it to my needs. Worse, is being unable to change 'IRQ' when you need to, because people in charge decided it draws 95% customers away, and you are being in a 5% boat.


Actually, yes, it is relevant.

A large chunk of the reason behind the efficiency in particular of newer cars is the addition of those opaque black boxes. Being able to have the car's engine directly tune things according to complicated algorithms, instead of power-hungry mechanical controls, etc, etc.

Those black boxes would function just as well if they had public and standard specifications. Their opaque secrecy is not a feature.


I was commenting on the black boxes, not the software contained within.

There is this weird phenomenon I see happen online sometimes.

There have been two steps forward. Simultaneously released alongside, but not dependent on, one step backward.

So why do people defend the step backward under the guise of the steps forward.

Are you implying that new cars rarely need fixing and are much more efficient because they are completely closed down and harder to work on than old cars?

The converse: advances in automotive engineering have made cars more reliable and efficient, with the unfortunate but tolerable side effect of making them internally more complex and inaccessible.

It's pretty obvious that is the implication... How about rather than condescension you make your counter point?

That's not a problem with abstraction, though, that's a problem with the manufacturers.

You can have complex, highly configurable software that's still locked down, and you can have simple, abstracted software that's open source. It's not a result of the simplification of UIs.

I take your point, but I would argue that it's not comparing apples to apples. Some time ago I read the Douglas Rushkoff book Program or Be Programmed, wherein he puts forth his view (if I may paraphrase) that this last communication revolution based upon the computer is a very important one, because now we’re actually getting to the point where the tools we are creating are starting to take on the characteristics of living things and the people who program these almost-living tools will continue to take on an increasingly important role. Conversely, in the years to come those who do not at least have a basic idea of how programming is done will be at an acute disadvantage (politically, socially, financially, culturally) much like the illiterate following society’s adoption of the written word.

Potential hyperbole and the fact that Rushkoff was talking about programming more so than general computer knowledge aside, I still think there's a relevant point there. I personally feel that giving up all pretense of needing to know how my computer works would put me at a far greater disadvantage in the coming years than were I to do the same with my car. My car is very useful yes, but I don't use it to view the world, my country and its politics, my culture, my future, my finances, and make decisions based on those views.

I think literacy generally is a very good example to study to clear up some widely held misconceptions about "usability". Usability should not be about making things effortless for idiots, but about improving the overall economics of using something - and literacy is far more economical than illiteracy even though an enormous up-front investment is necessary (learning to read and write is a lot of work).

Luckily, society (mostly) seems to have recognized that in the case of literacy and essentially forces everyone through it, instead of assuming that people are morons that can not be taught anything. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about a lot of recent technological development.

Let's take the automobile analogy further.

A browser that doesn't show the exact URL of a page is like a car with a built-in GPS that doesn't show the exact location where it's at. After all, who cares about street addresses? The address is occuplied by a Starbucks and we're in Mountain View, so let's just show a Starbucks logo surrounded by a shape that vaguely looks like an outline of Mountain View. You want to go someplace else? We'll show you your destination and the series of turns you need to make to get there, but we won't show you anything else on the way.

If you think a preschooler doesn't need to know how URLs work, you are vastly underestimating the curiosity of a typical preschooler. If you show him a bar with a bunch of letters in it, he'll start typing random letters into that box to see what happens. Likewise, if you show him a detailed map of the town, he will want to explore parts that he's never been to so far. Tinkering and exploration are the foundation of every science, including computer science. Therefore, I don't think it's a good idea to discourage tinkering and exploration, whether in a car or in a browser, unless the benefits greatly outweigh the long-term costs.

With cars, the benefits are probably quite large, since complexity is exactly what makes modern cars so safe and efficient. With browsers, I'm not even sure what the benefits are supposed to be, other than the obvious financial benefit to Google. People who don't want to tinker with the URL bar will just ignore it most of the time. Also, we're talking about the desktop browser here. There are plenty of pixels to waste.

You could argue it's instead like a built-in GPS that doesn't display your exact latitude and longitude - precise information about your location that is interesting, but usually not useful, since you have to take roads/links to actually get from point A to point B.

Most URLs are human-readable enough that I think street addresses make a better analogy.

Latitude/longitude would be more like IP addresses and HTTP headers. They require some technical knowledge to use and understand, but they're still quite human-readable unlike raw GPS signals or ethernet frames.

(As an aside, most GPS units also display the altitude. I live in a mountainous region, so I often make use of this figure.)

> Most URLs are human-readable enough that I think street addresses make a better analogy.

I'd like that to be true, but I think we lost that battle a long time ago. Google results aren't a readable URL; nor are products on Amazon or Ebay or anywhere else I can think of. Newspaper-type URLs are often "fake human-readable"; the URL is something like http://somepaper.com/12345-Local-Man-Found , but in fact http://somepaper.com/12345-Local-Man-Still-Missing will give you exactly the same story. Even HN stories aren't human-readable, just an opaque id number.

I agree about Google and Amazon's long and cryptic query strings.

But I don't think "fake human-readable" URLs break the analogy with physical addresses. There are many different ways of writing the same address:

    987 Some Avenue West, Unit 123, Brooklyn, New York, NY 12345-6789
    Unit 123, 987 W. Some Ave., New York 12345
    123-987 Some Av W, NYC, NY
Some are more correct than others, and there's probably a canonical version that USPS wants everyone to use. But at the end of the day, a letter addressed to any of the above will be delivered to the same apartment. And of course all the numbers above are "opaque id numbers".

If you meant to send a letter to "The Foundry, 28 Some Street" and instead put 26, the postman would probably deliver it to the right place. Not so with these fake human-readable URLs.

And the numbers aren't just opaque identifiers (except for the zip), at least if you're walking down the street: you know that 28 is next to 26, opposite-ish 27, and halfway to 56. There's nothing that corresponds to walking along the street on a website.

You could say that, but it is an awful analogy. Since most people do not care what website they are at, and anyway they still get that info.

But Ipads and Iphones are very consumer focused, in the same way the television is (with more interactivity of course..)

With our editing and creative capabilities getting away from us..(with the keyboards/mouse as last frontiers) we are ending in the same bi-class system of the TV/Radio.. a class that creates the content, working for the monopolies of the industry.. and us only, consuming..

Thats not how the Web was supposed to be.. the idea that we can be both, independent, create novels, music, programs and publish ourselves in pure freedom .. thats what we are loosing by every move of the tech monopolists of our time..

Usability is one thing, being teached to be just a user or a consumer of something is to get back to the XX century, just with a new powerful medium..

Perhaps even the radio/TV revolution of the XX should be free back than, in our own hands.. so people could create tv and radio stations (on free frequencies of course).. but the olders missed this train

It's happening all over again, and it has something to do with this capitalistic nature in formation of big monopolies and their neurosis for controling their results, and create loyal consumers to their products.. when we accept the label of consumers, we giveup our natural right of being human beings.

Technology must create the channels, not BE the channels themselves.. i think that's the original comenter's point

I remember talking to a friend who owns a Mercedes recently and he was telling me how he had to take his car into the shop and they gave him a fancy loaner (an ML 63, IIRC). He talked about all the cool gadgetry in there like blind-spot monitors, side rear view mirror wipers, and such.

He also mentioned that the cars are pretty much impossible to work on on your own since you need to have the right diagnostic equipment, as opposed to a car one might have bought 15-20 years ago, where a good manual was all that you needed to get into the thick of it.

While I agree that knowledge of the inner functioning should not be required for using a product, I think that it would be nice if there was some sort of effort made to allow one to poke inside. I am guessing that with Chrome there will be some sort of setting that you can use to undo this change (I use Firefox, and rarely, but occasionally, use the about:config tool).

This concept is something I've been playing out in my mind and that I'm starting to explore in my programming. A simple interface that "doesn't make me think" (me being the user), and a well-tucked-away "Advanced" button that, having given the proper warnings, allows the user to poke around on the inside.

> and a well-tucked-away "Advanced" button that, having given the proper warnings, allows the user to poke around on the inside.

I simply don't understand that this point, which is bloody obvious, is completely lost on the so many UI (re)designers. I don't mind you simplify (and most of the time thats all we need) but what is the point behind cutting-off all access for good for those who wish to tinker?

For example in the recent Firefox 29 release, the add-on bar has been taken out. They might argue most of the people don't care about it and even though I disagree (I spent 20 minutes trying to put FoxyClocks (to display world time) everywhere else and it simply didn't fit), its ok as long as you put an option in the Preferences to turn it back on (I ended up doing that via installing an extension/add-on). I don't even mind if you turn the option off by default. It is incredibly frustrating to see the designers think that their way is the only way and their use case is the sole case.

Sorry to hijack your point but I suppose you made it well enough to elicit a rant.

Shifting the add-on bar to an extension is the right way for Firefox to head. The core product is simplified, removing something that a very small fraction of its target audience want, and the feature is shifted into an extension. You can still have it, but it’s shifted out of the core. The maintenance burden is then shifted from its being something that might be accidentally broken in the core product to a separate extension that can focus on that one feature, and do it better.

A browser doesn't have much in terms of visible elements, (excluding the main display area) beyond the various toolbars and buttons on them.

If we start considering even those as optional, where does the simplification end? Then why don't we take out the bookmark bar, navigation bar, menu bar, status bar etc and attain supreme simplification by displaying a single text field which should lead to search. Surely the user can search for add-ons from that field and get whatever they want. It'll have the side benefit of helping users attain UI nirvana as well.

>why don't we take out the bookmark bar

Go for it, show bookmarks on the new tab page.

>navigation bar

It could certainly stand to be shrunk at the very least.

>menu bar

Yes please, I have my browser configured to no menu bar, saves a nice bit of space.

>status bar

There's a popup when I hover a URL and otherwise I get to save space.

More on point, the add-on bar was a dumb idea and behaved weirdly. Good riddance. While a built-in real status bar would be nice, an extension to provide one is pretty good too.

A car has a simple goal: get you from one place to another. A computer does not. It's a general purpose tool that is near infinite in scope and possibility. The analogy is a complete failure.

For most people, "A to B" means getting stuff done, not hacking around with the system.

So they won't care about the technology stack, as long as that spreadsheet, text document, 3D image, .... can be edited, saved and printed or a game played.

Glad you put spreadsheet in that list. "Spreadsheet" is also programming, just one form of programming that by accident of history made it to "things users do".

Advanced reactive programming for mission critical computational task!

I don't know man, an elevator, escalator, and moving walkway, all have the same purpose of getting you from one place to another - a car is infinitely more capable than all of these and does a whole lot of other manoeuvring and functions (storage, transportation, etc), to the point of requiring actual education and in fact literal adulthood just to drive. To say nothing of all the other functions in a car from radio to full electrical system, towing, etc.

You can call the function of a car "simple" and a computer infinite in scope, but a twelve year old is allowed to use the latter but not the former. This implies the scope (for mischief) is in some sense far narrower with the computer...

I do get what you're saying of course. But I feel like in the past decade or so we've moved past the car analogy :)

A car has that simple goal of A/B movement....for you. Plenty of other people want to hack with their general purpose mobility machine infinite in scope and possibility.

I think the stakes are really higher with a computer than a car. We use computers to communicate and transact with others. It's a tool for us to learn and acquire skills, connect, trade in business etc. It has almost become an accessory for the human brain. So it's important that users remain in control of their devices, can learn how they work and not be dependent on a few chosen ones.

Usability is important, but so is the option to expose how something works under the hood to those that desire the knowledge. Computers are too important for humanity's progress to turn them into consumption-only appliances. Over-simplifying and locking everything down will deprive us of many future inventors.

Since this is getting misinterpreted: I'm not saying software (or computers) should be locked down, DRM'd to death and hidden. I'm saying that hiding complexity that does not serve the average user is desirable, and browsers are going down the same path now that cars did a hundred years ago.

So for this specific case, if Chrome wants to hide URLs, go for it; and I'm sure there's a configuration toggle somewhere to turn them back on if you're one of those people who care.

Yes, yes, logical thinking, I even agree with it.

But imagine this happening, average users will become fully IT illiterate. Growing children will no longer know anything about computers, as they grew up in an environment where everything is hidden from them for sake of simplicity.

What will happen, after our generation(s) all get old, and the growned up illiterate children take place of improving world's technology?

There will always be curious people, and relatively inexpensive ways to get access to the inside of things, and large communities of people supporting each other in this endeavor. Yesterday's Commodore 64 game pirate is today's Minecraft modder or iOS jail breaker with Cydia.

We might have an engineering shortage in future ( we do already ), but it will be for many factors , not just lack of opportunities to tinker. If it isn't addressed, we will go long periods of time without nice things (think of the relative stagnation of the web from 2000 to 2008).

No one who is indifferent to URLs has had to pay much attention to them for most of the last 20 years. The UI change discussed here doesn't bring any positive change on that front.

Being able to attend to URLs offers significant utility to a portion of users, though, and this UI change takes that away.

You and your family don't want to think about URLs? Fine. Nobody's asking you to.

But they might ask you to apply that ostensible concern for other people's use patterns a little more broadly.

The user interface with cars is more complex than it used to be. Not just gears, pedals, and a wheel. You now have an entertainment centre, adjustable seats, reversing camera, so on and so forth. Driving is more complicated with more road rules, longer commutes, and a larger culture to absorb. So if the public can deal with an increasing complexity in vehicles, why can't they deal with staying at the same complexity with software, given your analogy?

Not knowing the innards of such a car has nothing to do with the UI - just the same as the people complaining about the change in UI don't need to know the innards of the browser: the source code.

And no, your preschooler isn't in need of understanding the difference between http/s, but sticking with your analogy, your preschooler also isn't driving. Maybe playing with a toy car instead, but not the full monty.

> The innards of a modern car are incomprehensible to all but "the few elite", and its interface goes a long way to hide all that complexity. I only have the vaguest idea how it works, and am perfectly happy to outsource its maintenance to professional mechanics, because all I care about is that it works.

This makes the same false assumption about the world when applied to computers: The world does not exist of a binary-human type: people who are experts and people who are not.

I own a 28-year old Volkswagen van. It is completely hackable: the only electronics are three relais. But I don't hack it all by myself. I still, gladly drop it at the local garage to get something fixed. I can stop in nearly any town at the local garage and get stuff replaced, fixed or solved. I've had a waterpump fixed in Germany, my brakes replaced in Sweden, the battery replaced in France and so on.

And that is where the importance of hackability comes into play. Not the fact that /I/, myself can open up a browser or tweak it, but the fact that someone in my proximity can. Instead of having to ship my Macbook-pro to the US to get a fan replaced, my local fixit-guy can open my Thinkpad and replace the fan. Instead of having your computerized and closed-down car towed to the nearest official BMW-garage, I can drop my car at any place where they have a set of screwdrivers and some nuts and bolts and have it fixed.

Cars are physical objects that are difficult and expensive to reconfigure. This is not the case of software.

My smartphone has a "simple" mode that people can activate for their hypothetical "computer illiterate grandmothers". The option to enable it is even presented to the user during initial setup, so people who feel intimidated by their phone can enable it themselves right out of the box. However other users are not forced to use the interface optimized for the computer illiterate.

> For kicks, try replacing "software" with "automobiles" in your paragraph... This should apply to computers.

A very bad analogy.

Auto drivers don't have be concerned about phishing attempts. Nobody sneaks into your garage and replaces your 2009 Toyota Camry with a near perfect duplicate that's wired up with snooping and tracking devices in order to steal your identity, bank accounts, logins, etc.

After 20 years educating the public on what URLs are and how they work we're going up and change things around just to appease the "senior citizen / soccer mom" stereotype. Bad idea. How about we design software for the next generation of tech savvy kids instead of 75 year old senior citizens who still haven't figured out how to use a computer mouse no matter how many times they've been shown?

Also one last point. The software UI was the abstraction of the hardware. We don't need to further abstract the abstraction.

Making cars (and computers) more difficult to work on makes changes more expensive even if you rely on an expert. It cost $400 to replace the battery in my Mini Cooper because it's a huge pain. I would have done it myself and saved $300 except - it's a huge pain. See the problem? Having an easier car to work on also benefits people who depend on experts.

It's funny that decades on, we're just about to finally wrap back around to what most businesses tried to sell the masses as the initial web: a walled in, exclusively consumer ecosystem like AOL.

When forced on us we rejected it, but eventually we walk right into it of our own accord saying "it will be simpler this way."

Ubuntu practiced configuration removal and I dropped them.

One of the 3 reasons why I dropped Ubuntu for Mac OSX was that Ubuntu... didn't allow me to configure my mouse speed. They "merged" the speed and acceleration control of the mouse (which is quite unclever) and also prevented it fom going <1, while I'm usually comfortable at 0.25. It made my tracking devices unusable, thus it made Ubuntu unusable.

Not taking anything away from your comment (which is something I feel too), but here's a quickfix for you

>synclient MinSpeed=1.2 AccelFactor=0.25

Make it permanent in /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf

My 6 year old laptop has multi-touch pad emulation on Ubuntu Gnome 14.04... I couldnt be happier.

There's a huge amount of configuration in X that I've been grateful for over the years. I wonder how Mir fares in this respect.

Apple is not a company with a configuration-retention philosophy (see e.g. recent Save As... changes). If that's really what matters to you you'd probably be better off with BSD, a more power-user-oriented linux (arch, gentoo, slackware), or even windows.

You seem to assume that people are looking to learn and grow their computer abilities. Learning takes an open mind, which isn't the case for most people.

Ease of use enables the user to perform actions with more impact. Think of it as Python vs C. You need a lot more knowledge to get started with C, but you can customize almost every aspect of your program. With Python, you lose some customizability, but you can do a lot more in a lot less time and understanding. If you need the customization and you have the knowledge, you can also build C extensions for Python (which would correspond to the chrome flags).

I'm not saying I'm for this change or not. Testing it out on real users will decide its fate, I'm quite ambivalent about it. I'm just speaking for ease of use in general.

So much cynicism! My experience is that people do have an open mind, especially if encouraged to learn. With the trend towards turning computers into purely consumer appliances, the danger is that maybe most people won't even know there is something to learn.

Absolutely. And for those who don't, instead of making it easier for them to keep their minds closed, we should be encouraging them to open up.

Practically all developers started as users who got curious about something and wanted to learn. In some ways, the less information a UI exposes to them, the less inclined they will be to ask - because they don't have anything they can particularly ask about. I'm extremely opposed to hiding the default hiding of the URL scheme for this reason: users are far less likely to ask "what's HTTP?" Certainly many won't care, and to them it's "just another part of the website's name", but future developers are (or should be) the ones who do, so it potentially reduces the number of genuinely curious and inquisitive developers. At the same time it conditions them to think that such opaqueness is the norm, the way things should be when they write their own applications, and the vicious cycle repeats.

my fear is that the chrome flag will eventually go away entierely

You are describing a natural process, that can be found in many places: the need for progression. If there is nothing more to invent, first lesser, then well established things become the target for change, so we can keep progressing. Companies do that to keep the illusion of growth. Organizations and people do that to keep their work.

For instance in politics, good laws become narrowed, twisted or get replaced because politicians have to keep their place in society.

Google heard of this thing called a 'Uniform Resource Locator', and thought, "Hey, that's us!"

If you closely watch Google quarterly financial reports and their search/content ad asset placements, you'll see that they are under tremendous pressure to monetize the web to show the investors they do a fraction of what is possible. Chrome UI updates often have traces of this pressure where search is favored against any other behavior to find information such as bookmarks, history, address bar.

Removal of editable URLs will push a few percentage of address bar led traffic to to search.

This has to be one of the main motivating factors, to get more search traffic and thus ad clicks.

If there's no way to enter urls, then all that's left is to search google.

Undoubtedly Google has become this for most of the world, but still importance of URL can't be ignored, specially if you build your own apps :)

thats quite and insightful joke :)

Chrome developer advocate Paul Irish says:

  this is terrible. From what I can tell only 6 people have been involved
  in this so far. Going to do my best to stop it.

Unnecessary powerplay from Paul. And leaking information which is outright insulting to the 6(?) involved. This is a bad reaction for a developer relations guy.

This is Paul's job: keep developers using Chrome as their primary/default browser to ensure sites run the best they can on Chrome.

Paul's words are pretty mild and don't reflect anywhere near as badly on those involved as the actual decision they made.

At first I was concerned by this, but as long as the URL is accessible - by clicking the domain chip - I could see this being a good thing. Most non power users never directly manipulate URLs, so there's no real need to display them so prominently. The domain on the other hand is important, and showing only it without the rest of the URL serves to significantly emphasize it.

As long as there remains a power user toggle to show the full URL, seems like a positive change. Of course, I may be missing some edge case.

From an IT support perspective, it could become a minor annoyance. It's not uncommon for support to request the URL or have the user manipulate it in some way. Now they have to instruct the user to click on a button to reveal the URL, but only after identifying if the user is using a browser or the version of Chrome that hides the URL. (And if IT is ignorant of this new feature, they are going to be very confused when the user is arguing with them "There is no URL in the box!")

I should clarify that I would want a power user option to actually turn this behaviour off, beyond the ability to just click to show the URL. Most users don't, but I glance up at the URL fairly frequently to orient myself.

It seems that the latest Canary has toggled the flag back off for now. If you're curious to try the feature so you can provide feedback on its future, go to chrome://flags and turn on "Enable origin chip in Omnibox".

It may be gone for now, but someone who made this decision is still making decisions in that team. Honestly, I went OMG when I read the post.

Dogfoodable Servo based browser arrives in Q4 this year according to https://github.com/mozilla/servo/wiki/Roadmap. Probably the most important project on the internet right now.

Awesome to see that target. I'm kind of tempted to start learning Rust so I can use and contribute to Servo when that day comes.

You can actually use and contribute to Servo already—it just isn’t at the day‐to‐day browsing stage yet. That’s what’s meant by the Q4 goal.

'interesting' flags are usually tested with various segments.. so some people will see a flag set to a given value, others a different one.

The post linked to by this post now says:

>Update: As of version 36.0.1966.0 this has been removed. Iterate quickly!

Thank god.

Hope this doesn't become a thing. URLs are the one thing that almost always works when you need orientation. "Where am I?". It's no good to tell me "you're in Amazon" if what I really mean is "what department". When reading blogs, the URL can sometimes also orient you in time, not just in (virtual) space - when the date in the path.

The worst, though, seems to be that it has been removed for a very strange reason. It's not that the URL bar takes up precious space in the browser, since it has been replaced by a search bar that takes up the same space. It's also not that it's something that's disorienting or a distraction to the user - as far as I know, most users have been browsing with URLs present in their browsers since they every laid eyes on a browser. What's the reasoning behind it? Phishing? Yeah, sure...

Don't be mislead into thinking this has anything to do with usability. Well, maybe it does, but that's not the driving force behind it.

It's about obscuring the workings of the web for one reason only: advertising. Anybody who understands how the web works knows that advertising on it is a joke and can not ever work if the users have the tools and insight to trivially circumvent it.

Google e.a. have been working very, very hard at obscuring the fabric of the web to stop people from doing that. Everything from killing RSS to gradually turning the browser into a dumb box is a part of that agenda.

Save the URL!

Phone numbers suck and are a usability nightmare.

But people are used to them and everyone understands it.

No URL - no decentralized web.

I understand why Google wants to place itself as the key search and directory for the web. I remember AOL Keywords 'go to www.webvan.com, AOL keyword : webvan', the ads would say on the radio.

But the web is just a bunch of content hooked together with URLs. Heck, websites are just a bunch of content hooked together with URLs.

I already hate sites that are not linkable or discoverable due to excessive postback-ing and unbookmarkable deep results.

I will always seek out a browser that displays the URL. There are ways to defeat phishing without obscuring the URL.

The interesting thing about phone numbers is that they're not much longer than IP (IPv4) addresses; I wonder what it would be like if DNS either hadn't been invented, or was introduced only after the Internet had grown significantly. Would everyone have used IP addresses just as easily as they do domain names today?

Then there's also physical addresses, which have been around even before phones, and from the point of view of computer science, they would be considered a horrible "ugly" mess, yet people also seem to have no problems dealing with them in their daily lives.

But the important thing is, how often do you manually type in URLs? The URL is still there if you need to modify it or copy it or manually typeit in, it just isn't displayed prominently at the top of the screen. What are you actually losing?

Yesterday, there was a large thread on HN about why Firefox so stubbornly keeps the search box separate from the URL bar by default [1].

I think we found the answer. Chrome now looks like a half-burnt Firefox, with an emaciated URL in a separate box from what has effectively become a search bar. The same two boxes are there, only their sizes are reversed -- accurately reflecting the respective vendors' priorities.

Expect Google to make more changes along the same line. What, did you really think they were funding Chrome out of a kindness of heart? Now that Chrome is a leading (if not the leading) browser, it's time to make some money. Google is the new Microsoft. They have the power to change the web as it sees fit, but instead of safeguarding the open web, they'll try to replace it with a walled garden. After all, what good is a browser if people use it to visit URLs that don't begin with google.com?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7666688

This is a terrible idea. I understand from a product standpoint that anything technical is a hindrance on the user experience, but the web is nothing if not URLs.

It'd be like taking the street addresses off houses and mailboxes simply because we had GPS now. Bad. Bad.

And I don't even want to start down the evil empire road, but I have to bring up the fact that getting rid of URLs just continues to solidify Google's desire to control user behavior. Click/speak a search phrase, see a list, and go to where we tell you. The internet is just a series of back rooms to Google's front door.

Don't do this, guys. I'm already half out the door with Chrome already. This would push me the rest of the way out and start making me actively tell people that Google is not looking out for their interests. I'm sure many other technical folks feel the same way.

This sounds a lot like AOL to me. No sense of the URL in there, just the keyword search. It was a big hit with the non-power users too if I remember correctly.

Remember when TV ads would have AOL keywords in them?

A lot of japanese ads just have a little search bar with the name of the company in it, instead of a URL.

I have noticed ads with a Twitter or Facebook logo followed by the username or page URL to search for, always reminds me of AOL keywords.

This has nothing to do with a UI improvement.

The change is just a way to force users to use the "share me" buttons so google can benefit by promoting G+ or controlling the flow any way it wants. Its a good way to keep track of user flow/spread of links whereas copy-pasting a link to an IM hides that information.

In general this change doesnt have to do with bad UI good UI just pressure to use a more controlled web experience. URLs are good UI, they have extra info and the more experienced user can even manipulate them to everyone's benefit

I worry it will be the same as last time they removed the http from the url:

Users: Okay, you removed the http from the url by default, but can I have an option to disable it?

Chrome: No, just accept it


It's funny that I have 6 open tabs right now and all them are https: so it its shown. After reading your comment I thought they had reverted that stupid decision, but they didn't :)

As a power user, the only time I care about URL's is when copy-pasting and when developing web apps.

I like to explicitly know what I'm copy pasting.

It offends my personal sensibilities to make websites with ugly links.

Other than that ... I don't know. I can't decide how I feel about this, but I can't help but think that I really don't care about the URL being accessible. Not like I ever do anything with it.

And that has got to be the most irritating thing about Google these days, they mangle the URLs in their search results to the point where I can't get a clean URL sometimes, at least not without some real work.


Instead of


Is really irritating.

This is one of the cases where a userscript or filter proxy is really useful.

There's some interesting cookie-looking values in those URL parameters too, not sure if there's anything privacy-critical in them but it's still a bit of a concern.

> the only time I care about URL's is when copy-pasting

This is like saying the only time I care about electricity is when I need to power something. The fact that there's a universal textual way to refer to and link everything – like via copy and paste – is precisely why the web is so powerful.

More like "the only time I care about electricity is when taking a battery from one device and putting it in another".

If there was a way to tell Chrome "Share this website on Skype to this person" or "Send this to this-or-that IRC channel" I would never care about the URL. The only reason I interact with it is because I want to share the page with someone specific (rather than using a spamming/sharing widget).

But I never manipulate the URL directly, or care about its specific parts.

Hell, if there was a keyboard shortcut for "put reference to current page on copypaste stack" I'd never click the URL at all.

I guess, but that seems far, far more ugly than the elegance of copy paste. Copy-paste doesn't require special implementation, or inter-app compatibility, or anything special or extra.

Why are moving away from powerful and flexible systems that allow us to consume and produce? Why is the trend so constantly towards sealed, black-box, consumption exclusive habits? It makes me so sad to see.

* Dev tools get better and better, giving you better insights into other peoples websites than ever before. One-click to make a minified JS file readable? Awesome!

* Web apps get more complex, giving you the ability to work & create on the web, Google docs let you literally stop mid-sentence, switch the device and keep writing your essay on the go

* Tumblr, wikipedia, twitter, - all relatively recent additions to the web and definitely not "consumption exclusive"

I'm not sure where your "consumption exclusive" comes from. I'd call it just "inclusive". The web tries to be for everyone, and that includes people who couldn't care less about a 20 character hex id when they want to write up their great concept for developing rural areas in Rumania. Sure, you will always have more consumers than producers on the grand scale of things. But I'm failing to see any reason to see recent trends as anything close to what you describe.

if there was a keyboard shortcut for "put reference to current page on copypaste stack" I'd never click the URL at all

C-l (lower case L) to select the URL and then C-c to copy is one way to do this on many systems without without clicking anything.

FWIW, commands like the ones you mentioned used to be possible with the ubiquity extension for firefox. Good times.

Well, just to add a counter-opinion, I find myself often manipulating URLs directly, if only to truncate them.

If there was a way to tell Chrome "Share this website on Skype to this person" or "Send this to this-or-that IRC channel" I would never care about the URL.

Yes, android's intent system is neat. But after years of experience with it, it's sadly not a pancea.

Here are some use cases I thought of:

go to the top level domain directly instead of hunting and hoping that they have a link there

going up several directories on an ftp site

go from reddit.com/r/starcraft to reddit.com/r/nba

go from a foo.github.io/bar docs page to github.com/foo/bar instead of hunting, and hoping, for a link

increment the page number on a blog by several instead of clicking next repeatedly

prepend http://www.google.com/url?q= to NYTimes urls to avoid paywall

add ?limit=100 to see more comments on reddit comment page

going to a new topic on wikipedia

Yup. As well as basic stuff such as, "wow, I just found myself on a cool page after clicking through a few links. What website is this?"

This change was akin to Microsoft removing the Start menu.

And it highlights the importance of open source software.

And demonstrates how greed (seriously, how much MORE money and success does google need at this point) betrays quality.

Keep using duckduckgo, everyone!

I always fix Amazon product page URLs before sending them to others. It's incredible how much useless stuff they put in those URLs. I don't want peoples' screens to fill up with a whole paragraph full of garbage.

Not like I ever do anything with it.

Well that's nice, but some of us still have (e.g.) parents to help over the phone. Not to mention the address/URL/etc. field is an important part of computer literacy.

This change (just like the hiding the scheme part) affects everyone who copies links, which is something that almost everyone using the Internet has done at some point. It's just an extra click, but an unnecessary one.

What about when you buy something online or log in to a web site?

Do you not check the url before you give out your credit card details and website passwords?

From the article it sounds like Chrome is replacing the URL (which is difficult for humans to parse) with an "origin chip" that contains just the domain name. This improves on the use case you point out.

It's actually worse in some ways. The example I'm thinking of is Google Docs, which seems to be a very effective vector for phishing.

With this change, all you'd see is "google.com" which totally seems legit for providing your username and password, without the additional form URL.

If we assume that most users do not know what a URL is then why can we assume that the information handed to them by an origin chip is any more useful to them?

Same reason as some browsers started to grey out parts of the hostname - if the only thing a user sees is "bankofamreica.com" or "bankofamerica.com.foroigs.io" they have a better chance of catching the thing that's wrong. Noise/information ratio etc..

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