Take a moment to imagine the World Wide Web without URLs. It practically seems impossible, right? The basic Internet user as we know them today relies on URLs. It’s often how we tell a non-credible source from a credible source and how we specifically find brands and items we have an interest in. And businesses face yet another issue. Many of them have built their business on indexing and ranking web pages so that users can find them when completing a web search with certain keywords. What would really become of those businesses if URLs were no more?
It leaves us to question, why would Google, one of the most well-renowned search engines out there, consider offing URLs? And what would the World Wide Web universe look without it?
Why Google Wants To Kill URL
Although a world wide web without internet addresses seems a little chaotic, it’s being considered for one major reason: safety.
We’ve all come across a URL that looks a little questionable and hesitated on clicking the link. Most of us have even clicked on what appeared to be a legitimate link that led us to a phishing site. These spoof sites are specifically set-up to steal your passwords and other confidential information that you wouldn’t want anyone else to have. For instance, ‘G00gle’ and ‘Google’ look pretty similar at first glance; most victims wouldn’t notice that they’ve clicked the former until it’s too late.
If Google eliminates URLs and creates another way for sites to be identified, then the hope is that web identity will be more understandable for everyone. It should also cut down on the confusion between legitimate sites and phishing sites.
Web Identity and URLs: Already Less Relevant
Truth is, many of us are already used to not associating web identity with URLs, which makes us vulnerable.
One reason that web identity and URLs are less relevant is URL shorteners, which have become a big deal largely because of social media. For instance, the social media platform, Twitter, only allows users to use so many characters. A long URL would significantly take away how much one can enter into a post.
While short URLs are easy to remember and simple to share, they allow hackers to almost effortlessly mask illegitimate sites. Therefore, while it’s a convenient option, it also compromises our safety on the web.
Tools of Defense
Recently, the Chrome Team has been focusing on how to detect URLs that seem to deviate in some way from standard practice. One way they do this is by using, TrickURI, which helps developers check that their software is displaying URLs accurately. This software gives developers something to test against and helps them become familiar with how URLs look in different situations. This is important, as they don’t want to flag legitimate domains as phishing sites and vice versa.
In addition, it’s in the works for Chrome to start alerting its users when a URL looks illegitimate. Google users are already benefiting from the Safe Browsing platform, which alerts users if the system notices malicious behavior on a website. However, the system currently lacks the ability to flag sketchy URLs.
At one point, Google also operated its own URL shortening program as a way to decrease hackers. However, they later replaced it with Firebase Dynamic Links. This service uses dynamic links to send users anywhere within an Android, iOS, or web app, which makes it easier (and safer) to share specific content.
What Would No URLs Look Like?
Right now, it’s difficult for any of us to imagine what a World Wide Web without URLs really looks like. It’s even challenging for Google to fathom. However, what Google hopes to do in the near future is:
- Figure out how to get users to focus on important parts of URLs
- Parts relevant to their safety and security
- Refine how Chrome presents URLs
- Filter out what makes URLs challenging to read
- Get Browsers to expand shortened URLs
- To allow users to determine URL legitimacy
There’s still a lot of work to be done and an unclear vision of what no URLs looks like, but Google is adamant about keeping the Internet safe. In just one year, cyber attacks cost the world $600,000,000,000; which is astronomical. Safety is a growing concern as our society becomes more dependent upon the Internet.
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