Lately I’ve noticed several of my clients entering URLs into the search bar in their browser. This is both inefficient and potentially harmful.
For example, if you want to go to Dropbox.com or Facebook.com, it’s faster and safer to type “drobox.com” or “facebook.com” into the address bar than in the search bar. Why? Because if you already know the address, you’re wasting time searching for it. This is like calling information and asking “what is the number for 802-234-6368?” You already know the number!
Potentially more concerning is the risk that someone may be gaming the results of the search you perform. For instance, someone could take out a malicious ad on a URL, e.g., “facebook.com” so that when you search for Facebook.com, a link to their site is returned along with the other search results. Many users don’t know the difference between the main website they are looking for and the plethora of other results that are returned, and just click on the first link they see.
The thumbnail at left highlights the location of the URL bar versus the search bar in Mozilla Firefox. Note that they are close, and it’s easy to mistake one for the other. Apple Safari looks very similar. However, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer have taken to combining the search bar and URL into one. That way, if you type a valid URL, you get the resulting website, but if not, the browser does a search for you instead. I like this simplified approach.
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