Losing the http:// is a good thing

Chromium – the developer builds of the code that eventually becomes Google Chrome – was recently changed to not show the “http://” that precedes normal web URLs. This has, of course, led to bug reports and much discussion about the validity of this change.

I’m going to conveniently skip the copy-and-paste issues that seem to have got most people in a tizzy, and assume that fixes will come in time to both Chromium’s clipboard routines, and target programs’ parsing routines. With that elephant in the room delicately draped with a tablecloth and rendered invisible, I’ll get to my real point: I think this is a great move, and I hope that other browsers follow suit.

Most of the web consists of “normal” http sites. Users don’t care – and generally don’t understand – what the “http://” bit of a URL means, and it rarely gets typed by hand since browsers started assuming it by default several years ago. Most advertisers don’t bother to specify it: we hear “visit bbc dot co dot uk forward-slash news” with no sign of the “http colon forward-slash forward-slash” preceding it. It’s the appendix of the web world; a vestigial organ which has no real benefit, but causes a load of grief when it goes wrong (gets mis-typed in this case).

Most importantly, however, suppressing the display of “http://” means that other protocols will stand out a whole lot more. It’s another flag to indicate that you’re on a secure site (https://) alongside the oft-overlooked padlock and colour-coding. It’s an indication that you’re not in Kansas (or on a normal website) anymore when downloading files (ftp://). And if any other interesting URL schemes get rolled into the browser in future, it will show them up for the not-http protocols they are.

Anything which removes complexity for normal users and manages to make secure sites stand out a little more is a good thing in my book.