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Google, Mozilla spark debate over browser address bar

Gregg Keizer | May 23, 2011
Experts split over significance of new options that eliminate venerable URL space in Chrome, Firefox.

From his perspective, Google's move to make the Chrome address bar optional shows the company's focus on search, and could be seen as another attempt to lock users into searching as the way to find sites, and eliminate the manual typing of URLs.

There are also downsides to stripping out the address bar, Gertner and Hilwa both noted, including leaving users without an easy way to discern phishing attempts. Without an address bar, identity theft attacks that rely on directing victims to fake sites are harder to detect.

Hilwa had a different worry, which played off his take on Google's motivation.

"The concern I have is, of course, putting even more sensitive information about navigating URLs with search engines who can store that for long periods of time," Hilwa said.

Both experts, however, predicted changes to browsers that go beyond disappearing address bars.

"When browser vendors start to offer different browser user interfaces for different tasks, then we will be able to make intelligent decisions about which of the traditional UI widgets are needed and which can be left on the cutting room floor," Gertner said.

"This is an evolving area," said Hilwa. "The issue is how important is the URL?"

 

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