Chrome to Remove Address Bar Lock Icon for a Good Cause

Chrome is phasing out the address bar lock icon, but it’s for a good reason. Google announced that the lock icon, which indicates HTTPS usage, no longer serves its original purpose as it can be misleading.

Chrome address bar lock

The Problem with the Address Bar Lock Icon

A few years ago, Google added the lock icon to Chrome’s address bar to indicate that a site used HTTPS, signaling the presence of an SSL certificate and an encrypted connection. However, HTTPS only guarantees data privacy between the machine and the server, not the website’s overall security. Moreover, as Google highlights, almost all phishing sites use HTTPS, and the lock icon can mislead users into thinking these sites are secure.

Misconceptions about the Chrome Address Bar Lock Icon

According to a 2021 study, only 11% of respondents correctly understood the lock icon’s meaning. Due to the potential confusion, Chrome 117 will replace the lock icon with a settings icon, resembling sliders, on both desktop and Android versions. Furthermore, for iOS, the unclickable lock icon will simply be removed.

The New Address Bar Icon

The new settings icon in Chrome’s address bar does not imply a site’s trustworthiness. It rather denotes menu access for settings and controls. Information about HTTPS will still be available in the drop-down menu, displaying the message “The connection is secure” without implying the site’s safety.

The Padlock’s Evolution

Google began flagging websites without HTTPS in 2018 with Chrome 68. HTTPS adoption increased gradually, with only 14% of the top one million most accessed web pages using the protocol in 2013. By 2018, over 68% of Chrome traffic on Windows was encrypted, and in 2023, that number will surpass 95%.

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The Chrome address bar lock icon served its purpose in promoting HTTPS adoption. However, due to potential misconceptions, it’s time to say goodbye and introduce a more accurate representation of website security.

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