By Jared Newman | Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm
Google may take minimalism to the extreme with future versions of the Chrome browser.
As ConceivablyTech points out, the latest Chrome Canary build — an early-stage version that precedes developer and beta versions — includes the ability to hide the URL bar. To turn on this feature, enter “about:flags” in the URL bar, enable “Compact Navigation,” relaunch the browser, right-click any tab and click “Hide the toolbar.” (Don’t be shy; you can install Canary side-by-side with other Chrome versions.)
Once you do this, the URL bar will disappear, providing an extra 30 pixels of room to browse. The forward button, back button and tools icon nest within the same strip of space as open tabs. Clicking an open tab creates a drop-down URL and search bar that’s much shorter than screen width.
I’m not ready to decide whether a hidden URL bar is something I’d like, but this implementation already needs one major change: When you open a new tab, the cursor automatically moves to the URL field, but it doesn’t do this when you click on an existing tab. I want the ability to click on an open tab and immediately start typing a search or web address when the omnibar drops down.
Users who are concerned about security may not like this option anyway, because it can obscure a site’s security credentials. The URL bar briefly appears when you click a link, but not when you open that link in a background tab. I also wonder how Google feels about the hidden omnibar. Keeping the bar in view, I imagine, would encourage the user to conduct more web searches, which is the whole point of Chrome to begin with.
If the hidden URL bar does make it into a stable version of Chrome, it’ll almost certainly be an optional feature. It could, however, play a big role in a touch-screen version of Chrome OS, which is supposedly in development.