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October 19, 2013

A New Google Experiment Hides Search Results URLs

There's a war against URLs. Browsers start to hide them from the address bar: some remove "http" from the URL (Chrome, Firefox), Opera removes parameters, Safari for iOS only shows the domain name, Chrome and Safari show queries instead of Google's search URLs. All in the name of simplifying the interface.

A new Google search experiment replaces search results URLs with site names or domain names, depending on their popularity. Google tested a similar feature in 2011.

Most people don't understand URLs and find them too complicated. That's why many of them use search engines instead of typing URLs in the address bar, even for sites they visit frequently.

Still, web addresses are helpful because they provide useful information and they can be easily shared. If you only display "New York Times" instead of any New York Times URL, it's not obvious if you're linking to the homepage, to a section of the site, to a NYTimes blog or a blog post. URLs sometimes include useful information like the date when an article was published, the topic of the article or categories for shopping sites.

Here's an examples which shows that hiding URLs makes it difficult to distinguish between search results:

And here's the regular interface:

Google already shows incomplete URLs for search results, only displays site names for news results and replaces some URL elements with linked breadcrumbs.

{ Thanks, Rubén. }

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