Google abandons experiment to show simplified URLs in Chrome due to security concerns

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In a nutshell: Replacing long strings of letters, characters and symbols with “simplified domains” may have seemed like a good idea in theory, but in practice, it led to lots of confusion among users and made it easier for hackers to lay traps and carry out social engineering plots. As such, Google has abandoned the experiment altogether.

The project, originally implemented in June 2020, was championed by several folks at Google including Chrome security lead Emily Stark as a way to cut down on long and unintelligible URLs. In practice, however, it apparently proved counter-productive.

A post from Stark on the Chrome bug tracker website dated June 7, 2021, notes that the experiment “didn’t move relevant security measures,” and that they weren’t going to launch it.

deleting a whole bunch of code that I really don’t want to delete :'(

— Emily Stark (@estark37) May 27, 2021

As Thurrott correctly highlights, automatically shortening URLs made phishing and other forms of social engineering easier. It also contributed to confusion among some users. So while shorter URLs may have looked more aesthetically pleasing, they were actually doing more harm than good.

This isn’t the first time Google has tinkered with URLs. Experiments to shorten URLs date back to at least 2014 when the company toyed with a feature it called the Origin Chip. That project was eventually dropped, but in 2018, the tech titan worked to remove the ‘http://’ and ‘https://’ prefixes from URLs.

Image credit 13_Phunkod

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