Should your browser address bar show 'http://'?

Google's Chrome hides away the "http://" coding in its address bar. Is that actually useful information?

Chrome omnibox is ditching the 'http://' in front of the Web address.
Chrome's omnibox is ditching the 'http://' in front of the Web address. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

With a new version of Chrome, Google has taken a second crack at shielding users from a technical detail that browsers traditionally show: the "http://" in the browser's Web address bar.

Did Google just do us a favor and free up a few pixels in the ever-more-crowded area around a browser's viewing area? Or did it hide some genuinely useful information?

I'm inclined to think the former. Many people don't know that HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and that there could even be something else there, such as "ftp://" for File Transfer Protocol.

The "http://" is a useful label to help one's brain realize the text immediately afterward is a Web address, to be sure. But in the context of a browser's Web address bar, I suspect it's redundant. Sound off in the comment section if you disagree.

Here's where Google got into trouble, though. In its first try at removing the http:// text, it went too far. Specifically, when you copied the Web address from Chrome then pasted it in some destinations such as Google Docs and TweetDeck, the "http://" wouldn't be pasted along with the rest of the address. And outside the browser address box, that http:// label is useful and often necessary.

Because of the problem, Google reversed the change to its address bar, which is called the omnibox.

With the new Chrome developer release, version 5.0.396.0, issued Thursday for Windows, Mac, and Linux, the "http://" is hidden again, but this time it copies.

Update 4:32 a.m. PDT: If you visit an secure site using secure HTTP technology, Chrome doesn't hide the "https://" from the address bar, and it adds a green lock icon as well. Chrome also shows "ftp://" and "file:///" when using FTP or opening a local file stored on your computer.

Google releases its developer preview version of Chrome relatively frequently--roughly once a week. The better-tested Chrome beta versions emerge less often, and the stable versions intended for mainstream use less often still.

 

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