Since Google's official unveiling of the Chrome Web Store six months ago, the company has been on a mission to redefine our perception of what constitutes an operating system, a browser and a program, blurring the lines between each. In Google's world, an OS is a browser and a program - one of those hefty pieces of compiled code we used to download or (gasp!) install from a CD - is now a Web app.
Indeed, even the tiniest, incremental changes point clearly in this direction as word comes that the next version of Google's Chrome browser will give users the ability to kill that final remnant of the fact that they're actually using the Web - the address bar.
According to independent technology news blog Conceivably Tech, the next version of Chrome - Chrome 13 - will give back 30 pixels of vertical screen space by getting rid of the address bar. More importantly, the browser will slide further into the background and out of plane view of the user.
Instead of showing a URL bar permanently, the user will have to double-click a tab to see a shortened version of the URL that is displayed with a hover effect, if you move the mouse pointer away from the field, the URL bar disappears. The feature has to be enabled via a flag in a recent Canary or nightly build version of Chrome 13. To activate teh hidden URL bar, users will also have to right-click a tab and select "Hide the toolbar"Besides killing the URL bar, the new feature also moves the tools menu, hides any extension and introduces new back/forward buttons.
The company made it more than clear at this year's Google I/O, the yearly Google developer conference, that Chrome would comprise a major focus for the company and that it will be much more than a "browser". In fact, it dedicated its second of two keynotes to the topic, pointing to the browser's more than 160 million active users and the variety of increased graphic and functional capabilities that take it beyond our standard expectations for browsers. In the same keynote, the company announced the soon-available Chromebook, which will center the user experience within Chrome.
With the address bar disappearing further into the background, Web apps will again take on an increased relevance, as users navigate by clicking on Web app icons, rather than typing in URLs - much as they are used to navigating OSX or Windows. In many ways, URLs are a holdover from a past time. Just as we don't type command line strings into a DOS window on a Windows machine very much if ever anymore, Google wants our Web experience to consist of point and click, not mistaken backslashes and misspelled domain names.