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  • Post published:12/06/2021
  • Post last modified:12/06/2021

After a year-long test in which it received nothing but complaints from users, Google has given up on automatic URL shortening in Chrome.

“This experiment didn’t move relevant security metrics, so we’re not going to launch it,” a post from a Google engineer in the Chromium bug tracker website reads. The change was first spotted by Android Police, and Google has not posted a public-facing explanation for the reversal.

Google has been working to simplify or even remove URLs, the often-complex web addresses used by individual webpages, for years. n 2014, it launched a campaign to replace lengthy URLs with an “origin chip” that displayed only a site’s domain name in the address bar until a user clicked on it, but push-back from users scuttled the plans. In 2018, it began hiding the “www” and “m” prefixes from URLs before rolling back the change. And then it worked to remove the “http://” and “https://” prefixes as well. But the biggest proposed change arrived last year when it announced that it would experiment with automatically shortening URLs to be more readable.

This experiment did not go well, and now Chrome will simply omit only “https://” from URLs, as was the case before (and for many during the experiments, since not all Chrome users saw changes).

Many users were outraged by the changes, but the bigger issue, as Google finally admitted, was security-related. While the firm had added URL-shortening capabilities to Chrome “because phishing and other forms of social engineering are still rampant on the web,” the changes actually made those activities easier.

Anyway, problem solved. Google’s years-long effort to hide or shorten URLs is finally over.

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