There’s a problem with the web that we’ve all likely faced. You go to read an article on a less-than-stellar website and find that it’s not what you were looking for. Then, when you use the back button to leave, nothing happens, and you have to click it many times to truly leave. Google’s Chrome team calls this “history manipulation,” and has come up with a new solution to put it to an end.

The history manipulation issue has been on the Chrome team’s radar for at least two years, with one Googler describing it as “resulting in guaranteed frustration.” Recently, history manipulation has been getting more attention from both users and Google. The unfortunate reason for this is that websites are abusing users’ trust in the back button by maliciously inserting ads into the tab history.

In a trio of new code changes, discovered in Chromium’s Gerrit source code management, Google has decided on a way for Chrome to know whether or not a history entry is legitimate. Initially, these pages will be silently flagged, and Chrome will send metrics about the pages to Google for analysis. The ultimate goal is to skip these false entries entirely.

Given the possibility for unexpected behavior for both users and web developers, the feature will be temporarily hidden behind a flag, wordily named #enable-history-manipulation-intervention. Once the flag is enabled, Chrome will skip every false page when you click either back or forward.

As with many of the things we discover in code changes, it will be a few weeks before we see this flag arrive in Chrome, even in beta and dev channels. If you want to get an early taste for this subtle improvement to the web, the flag should arrive on Chrome Canary very soon.

More upcoming Chrome changes:

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About the Author

Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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