So long, farewell, good riddance

Pink Slip

Today, a Canary build of Google Chrome removed something kind of important from the browser: the URL.

Of course it still supports them, but the time where users actually see URLs is ending. With Chrome’s “Enable origin chip in Omnibox” flag, Location becomes a write-only field. Clicking there no longer reveals the URL for the user to edit or share, but instead waits for you to search Google.

It was over a decade ago when I first realized how useless the URL was to people--even if it is vital to the computer. Having used the internet for nearly a decade at that point, I felt rather ridiculous having only realized it after all that time.

Then again, maybe I was ahead of the time.

When I go back to my parent's house, I don't type their address into my Maps app and follow how to get there. What I actually do is get in my car and drive there. An address is a great--well, at least good--way to make a memorable identifier for anyone to identify a unique location. That applies to the web equally as well as the physical world.

Yet, when we go somewhere regularly, we stop thinking about the actual address and instead think of the experience of traveling there. Needing to remember a URL and typing it in correctly isn't a great experience, especially as quality, short domain names have largely been registered already. Its also why so many people, myself included, don't even bother with the URL; we just go straight to Google and type in the name of where we want to go, then click the first link in the results.

Yes, this search method is less efficient as it takes not only more time to get to the site, it also requires us to go through an intermediary--usually Google--first. Not to mention that Google learns a lot about us from this behavior, but that's a topic for another conversation.

But when you think about how searching reduces the cognitive load on our memory, it makes a lot of sense to deemphasize the URL and replace it with search. URLs typed directly into the box will still work, but their prominence is gone, and good riddance.