The people behind the Chrome browser are investigating ways to replace the URL for site identity.
Are URLs a good way to understand site identity? Google’s Chrome browser team doesn’t think so, according to an article published today by WIRED.
Adrienne Porter Felt, Chrome’s engineering Manager, told the publication:
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.
At the same time, Parisa Tabriz, director of engineering at Chrome, said they don’t know what this will look like. But Tabriz said that whatever is proposed will be controversial. “But it’s important we do something, because everyone is unsatisfied by URLs. They kind of suck.”
Some browsers have tried to replace the URL in the past, and those efforts have been unsatisfying. The key thing is to be able to trust the site and content you are viewing. Seeing the URL helps. That’s not to say the site identity in the browser can’t be different than a URL, but you can learn a lot by viewing the full URL of a page. Some previous efforts are akin to just showing a site name, which can be spoofed or copied.