Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 6th Sep 2018 23:34 UTC
Google

"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."

Judging by the reactions across the web to this news, I'm going to have the minority opinion by saying that I'm actually a proponent of looking at what's wrong with the status quo so we can try to improve it. Computing is actually an incredibly conservative industry, and far too often the reaction to "can we do this better?" is "no, because it's always been that way".

That being said, I'm not a fan of such an undertaking in this specific case being done by a for-profit, closed entity such as Google. I know the Chromium project is open source, but it's effectively a Google project and what they decide goes - an important effort such as modernizing the URL scheme should be an industry-wide effort.

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RE: speedy -> http/2
by ahferroin7 on Fri 7th Sep 2018 13:03 UTC in reply to "speedy -> http/2"
ahferroin7
Member since:
2015-10-30

So you see exactly zero problem with monstrosities like this:

https://www.amazon.com/Rosewill-1000Mbps-Ethernet-supported-RC-411v3...

That's an Amazon product page URL for a link in the search results. It's functionally identical for most purposes to this direct link to the product page for the same thing:

https://www.amazon.com/Rosewill-1000Mbps-Ethernet-supported-RC-411v3...

Which while not perfect, is at least readable and something that could be typed by hand without significant fear of mistyping it.

The only practical difference between the two is that the first one pre-loads the search box with the search query you used to find the item in question in the first place, yet the first one is indisputably less readable than the second one, just to provide a feature most people don't actually need.

The big problem here is not a lack of education. Even though I can tell you what most of those parameters in the query string mean, that doesn't make the first URL any more readable for me than it is to someone who has near zero background in computers. The issue here is that sites are overloading the URL to do a lot more than it really needs to. It should not be referencing information from the previous page (that's what the 'Referer' header and/or cookies are for), It should not be embedding huge amounts of information that are not going to be used by actual users, etc.

For an example of things done sanely, take a look at how MediaWiki uses the URL. All the pages on a MediaWiki wiki can be accessed directly with a URL of the form:

http://example.com/wiki/Title

Where 'Title' is the title of the page (possibly with a few modifications to make sure it's valid for a URL). From there, you can get direct links to sections by just adding a fragment with the name of the section. No need for query strings, no special magic numbers, just the exact titles of the page and section you want to go to. It's simple enough that even people who have essentially zero background with computers can understand it. If the rest of the internet handled things like that, there would be no need for what Google is trying to do here.

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