Chrome 85 Beta Brings 64-Bit Wider, Address Bar Changes

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Chrome 85 has now made its way to the Beta Channel and there are reportedly some pretty significant changes incoming. Not least of all, Google has rolled out 64-bit Chrome on Android to a wider user base. But the company has also started making some big changes to how URLs are displayed. And other alterations are being made behind the scenes that will ultimately improve the user experience.

Among the most obvious user-facing changes won't even be applicable to Android. Or at least it won't yet. On desktop platforms, the Omnibox now has two dedicated flags — experimental settings — to hide the URL address. For example, when users visit AndroidHeadlines.com, the site typically shows a long-form URL on desktop. That works like breadcrumbs. It informs users as to exactly which article and page are being visited.

With the flags in place, only AndroidHeadlines.com would be displayed.

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Now, that comes down mostly to security, according to the associated bug tracking reports. Namely, Google is hinging the change in research that shows that showing limited URL information can be effective at combating phishing attacks. On Android, hiding the URL has more typically been associated with AMP pages. And those effectively keep users on pages hosted by Google. But the change will still allow users to see the full URL via a right-click once its implemented completely.

What else is arriving with Chrome 85 beta?

Among the other big changes in Chrome 85 Beta is the wider rollout of 64-bit Chrome on Android. Widespread reports have already detailed that change, first introduced in an earlier beta. Summarily, the change allows Chrome to access more RAM, where available.

Those other alterations are mostly minor. For instance, Google is finally abandoning the ApCache API in Chrome — in line with Safari and Firefox. Drag-and-drop operations on desktops have been improved and so has Web Bluetooth API. Web app shortcuts are now turned on by default. As is support for AVIF image decoding.

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But the bigger change is that WebHID API is now an Origin Trial. That's intended to make HID devices, including gamepads and other user-connected accessories, work better on the web. That could ultimately have some fairly sizeable implications for Stadia users but also for other in-browser gaming experiences.

Here's when to expect the changes

Outside of a download of comparably buggy Chrome beta on desktop or the Beta app on Android, these changes won't arrive for most users just yet. Instead, they're slated for the former platforms on August 25. Chrome OS users on Chromebooks won't see any updated features until September 1.