All major browsers display a lock icon or similar icons in the address bar next to the address of a site when the connection to the site is secure (uses HTTPS). It offers Internet users information about the state of the connection on a glance, and may help identify issues related to the connection state.
Users may activate the icon to display additional information in the web browser. Chrome displays whether the certificate is valid, the number of cookies that are in use, and a link to the site’s settings.
The lock icon could be a thing of the past in Chrome in the future, as Google plans to run an experiment soon that replaces it with a down-arrow icon. The change will only affect secure connections, Chrome continues to display a “not secure” indicator if the connection to a site uses HTTP or improperly configured HTTPS.
The information that is displayed when the down-arrow icon is activated is identical to the lock icon information.
Google revealed yesterday that it will run the change as an experiment in Chrome to gather more data and use it to determine whether the lock icon will be replaced with the down-arrow icon.
The company explains that it discovered in a recent survey that most surveyed users did not understand the lock icons meaning. Only 11% of users identified the meaning of the lock icon correctly, while the remaining 89% did not.
The majority associated the lock icon with a site’s trustworthiness and not with connection security. The lock-icon reveals the secure state of the connection to the site in question only.
The experiment will be run in Chrome 93. Enterprise customers may opt-out of the experiment using policies.
Google plans to inform its customer base if the lock icon will be replaced with the down-arrow icon in the web browser.
Will Chrome users understand the meaning of the down-arrow icon better than the lock icon? It will cause lots of confusion in the beginning, as many users are trained to look for the lock icon specifically, especially when they connect to financial, state or medical sites.
In fact, part of the confusion surrounding the meaning of the lock icon could come from years of being told to look for that icon in the address bar.
Now You: do you think that the switch to a neutral icon will improve user understanding?
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