Google's Chrome will give you an 'always show full URL' setting

Google will give Chrome users the choice to have the browser display the www of a website's address.

Engineers on Google's Chromium project are working on a new setting to satisfy Chrome users who still want to see the full URL of a website in the browser's address bar. 

However, Google thinks showing it could be bad for users making decisions about a website's security. 

Right now the feature is only available in the experimental Chrome 83 Canary build, which has a new address bar context menu that lets users select 'Always Show Full URLs'. Chrome's address bar will then always display a website's address with 'https' and 'www'. 

The new setting doesn't amount to a reversal of Google's decision to remove the www from Chrome 70 in 2018, but it does give power users the option to choose for Chrome not to hide these details. Google decided to hide the details because it considered www to be a "trivial subdomain". 

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The decision was unpopular with many Chrome users at the time and some of them are still slinging insults at Google for its choice on a Chromium bug tracker post from 2018 announcing the 'URL elisions' in Chrome 70. 

Chromium developers detail the plan for users to opt out of URL elisions in a new post on the bug tracker titled 'Implement omnibox context menu option to always show full URLs'. 

"The omnibox context menu should provide an option that will prevent URL elisions for the entire Chrome profile," explained Chromium software engineer Livvie Lin.  

Assuming the feature does make it to Chrome 83 Stable, users will have a quick option to permanently stop Chrome from hiding these details. 

In the Chrome 83 Canary implementation, users can right click or Ctrl + click on the address bar to reveal the context menu and scroll down to the 'Always Show Full URLs'.

The feature is still experimental in Chrome 83 and can be enabled by typing in chrome://flags/ and setting 'Context menu show full URLs'. 

According to a design document that Lin has published, the feature is only for Chrome on the desktop. However, once set, it applies across all desktop sessions, including in incognito mode, and also applies to the Chrome profile. 

If a user is signed out or not syncing across devices, the setting will remain in place on all desktop sessions on the current device. The setting will also be applied immediately and won't require restarting Chrome to take effect. 

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Lin notes there may be a negative impact on users' security decision-making by showing the full URL. 

"Showing the full URL may detract from the parts of the URL that are more important to making a security decision on a webpage," Lin wrote. 

"However, this risk is mitigated in that we expect that the users who opt in to this setting are power users who understand URLs (and in such cases, potentially improve security)."

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In the experimental Chrome 83 Canary build, a new address bar context menu lets users select 'Always Show Full URLs'.  

Image: Liam Tung/ZDNet