Software

Google reinstates www to URLs in Chrome after user backlash, but only temporarily

Less than a week after Chrome was updated to hide the "www" from users, Google have put the subdomain back into the address bar.

Google has temporarily reversed changes to its Chrome browser that hid the "www" subdomain in the address bar.

Less than a week after Google Chrome was updated to hide the "www" in the URL from users, Google has put the subdomain back into the bar.

Emily Schechter, product manager for Chrome security, said the "www" was reintroduced in Chrome 69 following user feedback.

"After receiving community feedback about these changes, we have decided to roll back these changes in M69 on Chrome for Desktop and Android," she said in a bug post.

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

However, while the "www" has been reinstated in the most recent versions of Chrome 69, she said the browser will hide the subdomain once again when Chrome 70 is released.

The temporary u-turn follows Google receiving a large volume of criticism for obscuring the subdomain. Those attacking the move expressed concern that users could be confused about the identity of the site they were visiting and questions were raised over whether Google had a long-term plan to hide its AMP subdomain and make it indistinguishable from the actual domain.

Some critics have even said the change could be dangerous from a security standpoint.

"Lying about the hostname to novices and power users alike in the name of simplifying the UI seems imprudent from a security perspective," according to one community feedback post.

However, upon making the change, Google told Wired that URLs are failing to convey a site's identity, so it was looking for something else that offers more convenience and greater security.

Google's has also reversed its decision to hide the "m" subdomain in the address bar in Chrome, and has no immediate plans to obscure it again, according to Schechter.

She explained why Google planned to treat the "m" subdomain differently to "www" in the upcoming Chrome 70.

"We are not going to elide "m" in M70 because we found large sites that have a user-controlled "m" subdomain. There is more community consensus that sites should not allow the "www" subdomain to be user controlled," she said.

"We plan to initiate a public standardization discussion with the appropriate standards bodies to explicitly reserve "www" or m" as special case subdomains under-the-hood. We do not plan to standardize how browsers should treat these special cases in their UI. We plan to revisit the 'm' subdomain at a later date, after having an opportunity to discuss further with the community."

If Chrome 70 works in a similar way to Chrome 69, users will be able to reveal the full URL by double-clicking in the address bar, and users who copy the simplified address and paste it elsewhere should also see the full address.

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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