Google has started testing a feature that will display the search query in the Chrome address bar rather than the actual page’s URL when performing searches on Google.
This experimental feature is called “Query in Omnibox” and has been available as a flag in Google Chrome since Chrome 71, but is disabled by default.
In a test being conducted by Google, this feature is being enabled for some users and will cause the search keyword to be displayed in the browser’s address bar, or Omnibox, instead of the URL that you normally see.
Query in Omnibox enabled
In BleepingComputer’s tests, this feature only affects searches on Google and does not affect any other search engine.
When this feature is not enabled, Google will display the URL of the search in the Omnibox as you would expect. This allows you to not only properly identify the site you are on, but also to easily share the search with another user.
Query in Omnibox Disabled
For example, to see the above search, you can just copy the https://www.google.com/search?q=test link from the address bar and share it with someone else.
With the Query in Omnibox feature enabled, though, if you copy the search keyword it will just copy that keyword into the clipboard rather than the site’s URL. If you want to access the URL, you need to right-click on the keyword and select ‘Show URL’.
Google is eroding the URL
Google has made it clear that they do not think that the URL is very useful to users.
In a Wired interview, Adrienne Porter Felt, Chrome’s engineering manager. explained that Google wants to change how they are displayed in Chrome as people have a hard time understanding them.
“People have a really hard time understanding URLs. They’re hard to read, it’s hard to know which part of them is supposed to be trusted, and in general, I don’t think URLs are working as a good way to convey site identity. So we want to move toward a place where web identity is understandable by everyone—they know who they’re talking to when they’re using a website and they can reason about whether they can trust them. But this will mean big changes in how and when Chrome displays URLs. We want to challenge how URLs should be displayed and question it as we’re figuring out the right way to convey identity.”
Instead of removing them in one fell swoop, Google is gradually eroding the various elements of a URL until there is nothing left.
We saw the beginning of this transition when Google Chrome 79 was released and it stopped displaying the www subdomain in URLs.
WWW subdomain removed from URL
In this next phase, they are testing the removal of URLs altogether from Google searches, which as everyone knows, is by far the most used web search engine.
What is next? The removal of URLs on other search engines or only showing a page title when browsing a web site?
All these questions remain to be answered, but could it be that Google is not wrong about URLs?
I was opposed to the removal of the WWW trivial subdomain from URLs for a variety of reasons and now I don’t even realize it’s missing.
BleepingComputer has reached out to Google with questions about this test but had not heard back as of yet…