Chrome users will soon be able to encrypt search traffic sent via the address bar even when not signed into Google, the company has announced.
From version 25, currently still in the beta and developer channel, that same facility will be extended to searches made using the ‘Omnibox’ (or address bar), as Google calls it, including those via other supported search engines.
Google has gradually enabled SSL searching across its search, browser and Gmail services in the last couple of years, and it remains a work in progress.
Many users are probably now confused by which parts of their interactions with Google are currently encrypted and which are not.
Gmail and Google search started using SSL encryption experimentally in 2010 and 2011, rolling this out across its .com and country domains thereafter. Confusingly, for a while, that meant visiting a secure (https) versions of its sites but all searches and email are now encrypted by default.
Firefox implemented SSL searching for Google address bar searching last summer so Google is really playing catch-up when it comes to Chrome’s address bar.
“Users shouldn’t notice any changes. If anything, their searches will be slightly faster due to Chrome’s implementation of the SPDY protocol, but there should be no other user-visible effect,” said Google engineer, Adam Langley.
Services such as Twitter and Facebook have also started to implement SSL encryption across their services in the same pragmatic manner.
The day when all traffic between browser users and major Internet services is encrypted by default now looks near, and not before time. Hitherto, SSL has been limited to the ecommerce systems used by retailers.
There are a number of scenarios where it us a useful layer of security, mostly when using unencrypted Wi-Fi hotspots.