Google Is Killing 'WWW' In Chrome (And People Aren't Happy)

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Google has stripped 'www' from the latest version of Chrome. The search giant confirmed that the "trivial" subdomain will no longer be displayed in the browser search bar. However, there are concerns that this latest URL change may have untended consequences, with one developer calling it a "hacker/takeover dream".

Google has a tendency to alter and regulate the URLs of other websites - whether we like it or not. One of the biggest changes has been Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP for short) which masks the original URL of a page along with some slow-loading elements. While this has resulted in a generally faster browsing experience, it also makes it difficult to share the URL or visit the original website.

Now, Google has taken it one step further in Chrome version 69 by stripping out the 'www' in domains typed into the address bar. A Google staffer explained the reason for the change on the official Chrome bugs forum:

"www" is now considered a "trivial" subdomain, and hiding trivial subdomains can be disabled in flags (will also disable hiding the URL scheme)

chrome://flags/#omnibox-ui-hide-steady-state-url-scheme-and-subdomains

Other forum users were quick to slam this explanation. As one wrote:

This is a dumb change. No part of a domain should be considered "trivial". As an ISP, we often have to go to great lengths to teach users that "www.domain.com" and "domain.com" are two different domains, and that they may not necessarily go to the same destination. The marketing world has done a lot of damage convincing people that "www" is both ubiquitous and non-essential, when in fact, for some domains, the use or lack of it can be quite important to getting to the correct location.

Another user despaired that it was a "Very Very bad decision". Others voiced anger at Google for making subdomain usage decisions "for other entities outside of Google".

Stripping out 'www' from web addresses provides phishing sites with a new way to hijack unsuspecting users. For example, a fake banking site could be set up that looks very similar to the real thing, but without the 'www' subdomain. As one user noted, "https://citibank.com.sg and https://www.citibank.com.sg are not the same site, and the first doesn't redirect to the second."

It also presents basic functionality issues for existing websites. For example, 'http://www.pool.ntp.org' takes you to a site about the project, while 'http://pool.ntp.org' takes you to a random ntp server.

To compound the issue, Google has stripped "m" from mobile-optimised web addresses. Users were quick to cite multiple examples where this could be problematic. For example: the domain 'm.tumblr.com' is shown as 'tumblr.com', despite being two totally different sites. Plus, sometimes you just want to visit the desktop version on mobile - stripping 'm' from the search bar makes this more difficult. (Google has since announced that this issue will be fixed for Chrome 70.)

Thankfully, it's possible to remove this 'feature' from Chrome 69 in the settings. Click here and change "Omnibox UI Hide Steady-State URL Scheme and Trivial Subdomains" to Disabled. The full URL will now be displayed. You can also check the full URL by clicking inside the address bar.

With any luck, this decision will be reversed by the time Chrome 70 rolls around. We'll be keeping an eye on this for further developments.

[Via Slashdot]


Comments

    Just use Firefox. Seriously. It'll save you a lot of headaches.

      Firefox is great. This guy has the best suggestions. Also code in Rustlang!

    Everyone that's complaining just needs to put on their big boy pants. It's definitely time for the www to die, setup proper redirections in the first place and it isn't an issue. Anyone running a different site on the www subdomain is just asking for problems to begin with.

      Ad hominem attacks on how people use their domains are completely besides the point. This is a situation which comes exactly from the type of marketing and hearsay that people are exposed to in the first place: that www doesn't matter.

      As a basic user who is trying to get their own domain, they might not bother to get "www.mywebsite.com" and only go with "mywebsite.com". After all, people don't care about the "www." part anymore, right?

      Yes, this is faulty thinking and they're asking for trouble. Someone else could then theoretically get their own website on "www.mywebsite.com", and set up some good scamming, phishing etc. until they're noticed and shut down.

      No one is saying this can't happen already. But this approach from Google makes the whole problem worse, and for very, very little gain.

        That’s not how DNS works. If you own the TLD then you own the whole domain and all sub domains and as long as you don’t point www anywhere it will just fail.

        Your are wrong, as is the article. The owner of mywebsite.com also owns www.mywebsite.com (and all other subdomains).

      I agree. It IS definitely time for www to die. Hiding www from the address bar is not the solution though, and only confuses matters further.

        Agreed. Anyone who hosts anything under www is a Nazi. Actual Nazi— that’s how you can identify them.

        That said it makes no sense to do this in omnibar. There are legitimate legacy concerns around this as well as massive ad repercussions. A less invasive alternative would be to start shaming www sites instead. Put a banner across any page with www records saying that it’s a security risk (coz... whatever come up with an excuse) and they should contact the webmaster to fix. :).

        Ive been telling people www is an anti pattern for over 12 years... I only have about half the pull of google on internet decisions though, so it’s nice to have them on board none the less.

    So just to be clear, Google are saying that the third level of a domain name doesn’t matter?

    Or we could abandon DNS and just use IP addresses...

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