Chrome 69 Shows the WWW & M Subdomains Again, but It’s Only Temporary

Last week, when Google released Chrome 69 they decided to hide the WWW and M subdomains in the browser’s address bar.  This upset a lot of people because there were bugs in its implementation and it caused confusion as to what URL a user was really visiting.

Hidden WWW subdomain
Hidden WWW subdomain

Due to the large outcry, Google has decided to roll back this change and you can now see the WWW and M subdomains in the Chrome 69 address bar again. The problem, though, is that this is only temporary and in Chrome 70 the WWW subdomain will one again be stripped from the address bar.

In a issue listed on the Chromium bug tracker, a Chrome developer has stated that “after receiving community feedback”, they have decided to make the WWW and M subdomains visible again. They then go on to say that in Chrome 70, only the M domain would be visible and the WWW would be stripped, or elided, again.

You can see the full comment below.

In Chrome M69, we rolled out a change to hide special-case subdomains “www” and “m” in the Chrome omnibox. After receiving community feedback about these changes, we have decided to roll back these changes in M69 on Chrome for Desktop and Android. 

In M70, we plan to re-ship an adjusted version: we will elide “www” but not “m.” We are not going to elide “m” in M70 because we found large sites that have a user-controlled “m” subdomain. There is more community consensus that sites should not allow the “www” subdomain to be user controlled.

We plan to initiate a public standardization discussion with the appropriate standards bodies to explicitly reserve “www” or m” as special case subdomains under-the-hood. We do not plan to standardize how browsers should treat these special cases in their UI. We plan to revisit the 'm' subdomain at a later date, after having an opportunity to discuss further with the community. Please leave feedback, or let us know about sites that have user-controlled subdomains at “www” or “m” in this bug.

If you look at the Chrome 70 source code, you can see that the file was changed 3 days ago and contains the comment “Omnibox: Only strip first www and nothing else.”

Source code comment
Source code comment

The actually stripping of the WWW subdomain is shown in the source code below.

Chrome 70 source code only stripping the WWW subdomain
Chrome 70 source code only stripping the WWW subdomain

Users are not happy about WWW being hidden in Chrome 70

After hearing about this, there have been numerous comments posted to the Chrome issue where people express their concerns that the WWW subdomain will be elided, or stripped, again in Chrome 70.

One comment states that Google should wait until there is a standardization discussion before making changes like this.

What is the reasoning behind the decision not to wait for the standardization discussions? As the majority market share holder, it’s incumbent on Chrome and Chromium to be cautious when making arbitrary decisions about how connection information should be displayed- or in this case, deliberately transformed and obscured. The urgency with which this change is being pushed is baffling.

I strongly disagree with the idea that we should be connecting to one host name while displaying another in the address bar. Absent legitimate discussions with the appropriate standards bodies, this decision feels myopic at best, and wrong-headed at worst.

Another comment stated that Internet companies go through great lengths to teach their users the difference between host names and this will only confuse things. Furthermore, the commenter feels that Google is making this changes for other motives not clearly explained.

Standardization discussions aside, no changes to the look and function of sub-domains should happen, unless this is an opt-in setting. SaaS, ESP and ISP providers take great care to manage their domains and use 301 redirects to bring users to the right location.  A browser should not determine this function unless it is completely a user choice.

Perhaps Google/Chromium would like to respond as to the exact end game and reason for such a change.  Dictating a change which is controlled through DNS, but shows up differently on a browser is just plain confusing and wrong.  I don’t agree with what Safari and Windows have done either.

Finally, we have a comment that states that they don’t care what the default settings are, but to just make it so that the eliding can be toggled.

At least make it a toggleable option, I dont mind if URLs are elided by default. But please have an option to disable this.

At this point, Google appears to be moving forward with remove WWW in Chrome 70. If enough people comment about this, maybe Google will change their mind permanently.

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