It was Safari who first started hiding the complete URL. Here’s what CSS-Tricks looks like even when you’re on an article page by default in Safari:
You can only fix it (YES, FIX IT) by checking “Show full website address” in settings.
We’ve already damaged the sanctity of URLs in a way with URL shorteners. Thankfully, those are used less and less with social networks, like Twitter, not counting the URL toward the total tweet character count anymore.
Now, Lily Hay Newman reports Chrome sees problems as well:
“People have a really hard time understanding URLs,” says Adrienne Porter Felt, Chrome’s engineering manager. “They’re hard to read, it’s hard to know which part of them is supposed to be trusted, and in general I don’t think URLs are working as a good way to convey site identity. So we want to move toward a place where web identity is understandable by everyone—they know who they’re talking to when they’re using a website and they can reason about whether they can trust them. But this will mean big changes in how and when Chrome displays URLs. We want to challenge how URLs should be displayed and question it as we’re figuring out the right way to convey identity.”
I’m not seeing the same research they are. Anecdotally, I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who doesn’t understand a URL. I wonder if there is something else weird afoot here. URLs are the single greatest feature of the web. I know nobody is arguing about removing them (just visually hiding them by default), but it doesn’t feel like a step in the right direction. It also seems slightly at odds with the celebration of the web in Chrome’s 10-year anniversary post by Paul Kinlan:
We can thank all the browser vendors for their continued work to create and iterate on specs, using streamlined processes like those defined by the WICG and based on the principles in the Extensible Web Manifesto. We’ll continue our commitment to work with browser vendors and the developer ecosystem to prioritize features that users need, and to ensure that those capabilities arrive in a “webby” way.
I’d say seeing URL’s is pretty “webby.”