Google is working to improve browsing by soon offering HTTPS, the first option to try to upgrade page downloads to HTTPS, the company announced Wednesday. If you turn this option on, the browser will also display a full page warning when you try to load a site that does not support HTTPS. The company also announces that it will “re-examine” the URL bar lock icon and plan to try changing the way it looks.
HTTPS is a a more secure HTTP version (yes, “S” means “secure”), and many of the sites you visit on a daily basis probably already support it. Because HTTPS encrypts traffic, it is a useful privacy tool when using a public Wi-Fi network, or preventing your ISP from crawling content in your browser.
Google has encouraged the introduction of HTTPS in stores like this by marking uncertain sites with the Unsecured tag in the URL bar and using https: // in the address bar by default when you type a URL. So far, this HTTPS-First Mode is just an option, but the company says it will “explore” setting the mode as the default in the future.
HTTPS-First mode is available from Chrome 94, according to Google. At the moment, that release is set for September 21st. And HTTP connections will continue to be supported, the company says.
As for the lock icon experiment, I’ll let Google explain what the potential problem is with the icon, blog post:
As we approach the first future of HTTPS, we will also look at the lock icon that browsers typically display when a site loads via HTTPS. Specially, our research indicates that users often associate this icon with a site be reliable, when in fact it is just contact it is safe. In a recent study, we found that only 11% of participants were able to correctly identify the meaning of the lock icon.
So from Chrome 93 onwards, the company plans to change the lock icon with the down arrow as part of the experiment. To me, the arrow feels like you feel more encouraging to click than the lock to learn more about your connection, so I see the reason for the change. Here’s a GIF of what you can expect to see:
Even if the lock changes to an arrow, Google will still display the “Unsecured” tag for sites that are not secure, according to the company.