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Google's Upcoming War on Bookmarks and URLs


Following the sneak peeks of an upcoming service and new feature in Chrome, Google looks as if it plans to kill off two relics from the Old Web.

There are more than a few relics from the Old Web still kicking around, despite new technologies that have made them all but obsolete. Traditional email is often described as an ailing dinosaur, what with our tweets, texts, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) messages, and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iMessage. Purchasing and downloading MP3 files seems archaic in light of the dozens of capable streaming services like Pandora (NYSE:P), Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) All Access, and Spotify. And why many adult sites still require a paid subscription is a mystery few can -- or dare to -- explain.

But recently, two sneak peeks at a service and a feature coming out of Mountain View hints at Google's possible plans to kill off two antiquated technologies: the bookmark and the URL.

Combining aspects from bookmarking sites such as Pocket and Pinterest and note-taking services like Evernote and Keep, Google will soon introduce Google Stars, which will allow users to save, share, and organize Web content. A very early build of the service was leaked by Google+ user Florian Kiersch in a YouTube video showcasing Star's preliminary stages, which internal testers are still dogfooding.

Unlike the current, archaic form of bookmarking through text links and folders, Stars organizes links in an "image-rich" grid that can be automatically organized as soon as a site is dragged and dropped into place. According to the service's splash screen, Stars will also feature an advanced search that will autocomplete URLs and search through entire pages, making for fast and easy link retrieval on the fly. And everything can be shared publicly or directly to other users.

As mentioned before, Google won't be breaking any new ground with its service, considering Pocket and Instapaper have been around for years. But with the possibility of native integration into Chrome, Stars could finally put an end to bookmark folders filled with hundreds of unread links users will never get around to visiting.

But while such a change would be welcome to many Chrome users, Google's war on the URL hasn't garnered an equal number of supporters.

Making its debut in the Canary build of Chrome -- which tests new browser features before they make their way into the public build -- a feature called "origin chip" only displays a website's domain rather than the lengthy URL indicating what site is currently being viewed. Although clicking the "origin chip" will reveal the full URL address, many folks prefer the at-a-glance information without having to perform an extra step.

And the "origin chip" has another factor against it: Researchers Aaron Higbee and Shyaam Sundhar from the security firm PhishMe discovered a vulnerability in the feature that hides both the domain and the URL if the address has too many characters, potentially obscuring a malicious website that users could easily recognize.

"We've discovered that if a URL is long enough, Canary will not display any domain or URL at all, instead showing an empty text box with the ghost text 'Search Google or type URL,'" the pair said. "While Canary is intended to help the user identify a link's true destination, it will actually make it impossible for even the savviest users to evaluate the authenticity of a URL."

Clearly, there's more work to be done in both cases. Still, it's nice to see two very old aspects of the Web improved upon and maybe replaced by better alternatives -- at least in one browser. However, if proven successful and other browsers follow suit, we may finally put an end to scrolling through hundreds of bookmarks and cut-and-pasting lengthy URL addresses just to navigate our way around the ever-evolving Web.
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