Google Raises the Ax to the URL

Date Entry
February 1, 2019

As we've reported recently, Google is researching ways to make navigating the internet less URL-heavy.  Their reasoning for this is simple - URLs can be messy, confusing, and are easily abused by phishers who can hide their scheme within those characters.  Google does claim, however, that URLs are necessary and will stay - their goal is mainly to reduce the user's reliance on them.  Now, Google is putting their plans into motion.

The first task for the Google Chrome team is to figure out a way to automatically detect URLs that seem to be posing as something else.  When this function triggers users can be warned, much like how Chrome will warn users now when it feels that a site is insecure.  However, the difficulty here is in triggering the warning on nefarious sites and sparing the good ones.  One way Google plans to go about this is by checking URLs to see if they're using alphanumeric characters to pose as other characters, say G00gle versus Google.

Secondly, the Chrome team is working up new ways to display a site's URL to the user, and if there's any way to build safety features into that.  It may focus on displaying important parts of the URL (such as the domain) and removing the rest, or by expanding truncated URLs.

Third, Google is throwing its weight around a bit, like it has to get as many domains onto https web encryption by penalizing those who aren't.  Its methods to revise the use of URLs are likely to become mainstream.  However, the worry is that they'll develop tactics that work well for Chrome, but not for the web as a whole.

There is still much to research and discover about how to move away from URLs, but the hope is that Google will discover the solution that makes the internet a safer place.

This article was based on a January 29, 2019 Wired article by Lily Hay Newman.

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