Google Chrome users will be able to upgrade to the latest version of the all-conquering, market-leading browser later this month. Chrome version 90 is due out on April 13 and will add improvements like improved copy-and-paste, and reduced bandwidth for video conferencing, which is great if you regularly use services such as Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams. But there’s one other tweak that Chrome 90 is bringing to the table which significantly changes your browsing experience.
As reported by ZDNet, Chrome 90 will bring a major change to the browser’s omnibox – the all-in-one address and search bar at the top of the Chrome window. As it stands, when you enter an incomplete URL in that box in Chrome, it will default to loading the site using HTTP.
However, with Chrome 90, Google is switching the default protocol for incomplete URLs to the more secure HTTPS. As long as websites support HTTPS, unfinished URLs will load via HTTPS instead of HTTP.
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This subtle, yet significant change, will lead not only to improve privacy for users – but also, improved loading speeds. For those who don’t know, the “S” at the end of HTTPS stands for “secure” and means your connection is being kept safe from prying eyes. Once reserved only for internet banking and the like, HTTPS is now the standard for almost all websites – to keep everyone safer at all times.
In a blog post, Google said: “Starting in version 90, Chrome’s address bar will use https:// by default, improving privacy and even loading speed for users visiting websites that support HTTPS. Chrome users who navigate to websites by manually typing a URL often don’t include ‘http://’ or ‘https://’. For example, users often type ‘example.com’ instead of ‘https://example.com’ in the address bar. In this case, if it was a user’s first visit to a website, Chrome would previously choose http:// as the default protocol. This was a practical default in the past, when much of the web did not support HTTPS.
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“Chrome will now default to HTTPS for most typed navigations that don’t specify a protocol2. HTTPS is the more secure and most widely used scheme in Chrome on all major platforms. In addition to being a clear security and privacy improvement, this change improves the initial loading speed of sites that support HTTPS, since Chrome will connect directly to the HTTPS endpoint without needing to be redirected from http:// to https://.”
The Mountain View firm went on to add that sites that don’t currently support HTTPS will still work. Chrome will just switch these URLs back to the less-secure HTTP option.
This major change to the way Chrome works will begin rolling out on the desktop and Android versions of Chrome, with iOS following afterwards.
And this big Chrome shake-up could help to drive up the adoption of HTTPS even further. According to a Google Transparency Report released last year, the percentage of encrypted web traffic has increased from around 50 percent in 2014 to between 80 and 90 today.
Google’s decision in 2018 to show a ‘Not Secure’ label for HTTP websites could have helped play a part in this increased adoption of HTTPS. And the latest Chrome change could help strong-arm any remaining sites still using HTTP even further into making the switch to HTTPS.