Google Chrome will once again show a website's full URL

The simplified omnibox didn't help users identify malicious sites after all.

Steve Dent/Engadget

Google has been cutting down the URL in Chrome's omnibox search bar for the past few years, saying it makes it easier for users to identify trustworthy domains. However, it has now scrapped that experiment and will show the entire URL, as detailed in a developer document spotted by Android Police.

At one point, Google planned to remove the URL entirely and just show search terms. More recently, it simplified the omnibox by hiding the "https://www" and only showing the domain name. At the time, Google said it was trying to make things simpler for the average user. "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," Chrome manager Adrienne Porter Felt told Wired in 2018.

However, once Google dropped the www. and m. from sites, critics on Hacker News and elsewhere pointed out that two different sites could appear identical, potentially exposing users to phishing attacks — among other issues.

Google has now punted and admitted the idea didn't work as it expected. "Deleted simplified domain experiment," wrote tech lead Emily Stark. "This experiment didn't move relevant security metrics, so we're not going to launch it."

The change is now live in Chrome 91, with only the "https://" hidden by default. However, it's easy to show that as well simply by right- or ctrl-clicking on the omnibox and selecting "always show full URLs," as Android Police pointed out.