“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.”
If you’re having a tough time thinking of what could possibly be used in place of URLs, you’re not alone. Academics have considered options over the years, but the problem doesn’t have an easy answer. Porter Felt and her colleague Justin Schuh, Chrome’s principal engineer, say that even the Chrome team itself is still divided on the best solution to propose. And the group won’t offer any examples at this point of the types of schemes they are considering. The focus right now, they say, is on identifying all the ways people use URLs to try to find an alternative that will enhance security and identity integrity on the web while also adding convenience for everyday tasks like sharing links on mobile devices.