Browsers Hiding Aspects of the URL: Benefit or Hindrance?

What's with browsers hiding parts of the URL in the address bar. It's one thing to fade aspects of the URL to bring focus to the domain name. But why do browsers like Firefox hide the protocol and Opera hide GET variables? The URLs look cleaner, but in the end it may lead to miscommunication.

Okay, browsers may have been hiding parts of the URL for a while now. With how little I've used Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, it would be easy for this to slip past my radar. But now I'm wondering about the reason and whether it's worth the potential drawbacks.

Hiding the Protocol

Chrome, Firefox, and Opera all hide the protocol part of the URL which may not be a problem in most cases. But what about the users we've been teaching to look for the "https" when checking for a secure connection? Of course, when visiting a page with the HTTPS protocol, Firefox and Chrome display that part of the URL (see Figure 1) and Opera displays a security badge (see Figure 2).

Screenshot show how Firefox handles the http and https protocol
Figure 1. How Firefox Handles the Protocol
Screenshot showing the security badge in Opera
Figure 2. The Security Badge in Opera

However, they don't always seem to get that right. For example, when visiting Facebook with Internet Explorer using the HTTP protocol, Facebook redirects us to the encrypted version (HTTPS). In Firefox, the redirect doesn't appear to happen. The protocol remains hidden (see Figure 3).

Screenshot showing that Firefox doesn't redirect Facebook to HTTPS
Figure 3. Firefox Not Showing Facebook Redirecting to HTTPS

Hiding GET Variables

Opera goes even more extreme and hides the GET variables. According to the Opera 11.00 for Windows Changelog, the browser has an "improved address field makes it easier to stay safe on the Web, and it now hides the complexity of long web addresses." Now I can see how this may be helpful for websites which pass dozens of variables like hotel websites, but overall, hiding the variables seems like it would be problematic.

On the rare chance that we're helping a customer who's viewing our website with Opera, they may not be able to tell us what page they're currently on. WordPress websites, for example, typically use GET variables to show most of the pages. There's a big difference between and the actual page (

Note that Opera does show the GET variables when the URL is clicked (see Figure 4).

Screenshot showing that Opera hides the GET variables in URLs
Figure 4. Opera Hiding the GET Variables


Other than reducing "complexity of long web addresses", I'm not sure why hiding aspects of the URL is necessary. When browsing the Web, do average users really pay much attention to the address bar? Plus, these techniques seem to undermine our efforts of teaching those less familiar with the Web when it comes to online security.


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