URLs for Google search results: now cruft-free?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh, Technology
February 25th, 2013 • 6:46 pm

Last week, I wrote about the problem with shortened URLs in Safari’s History feature. A reader wrote to express his agreement and also mention similar issues he was experiencing with unresolved URLs from Google searches crowding his Safari history instead of the actual resolved URLs.

I did notice, a couple of years ago, that, all of a sudden, Google switched to a system where every “live” link in its search results was actually a link to an internal Google URL that would eventually get resolved into the actual URL of the destination. I noticed this, because I had developed a habit of right-clicking on Google search results to copy of the URL of the destination, so that I could then paste it in the document that I was working on.

Of course, Google’s new mechanism meant that I could no longer do that and so I had to develop a new skill and learn to select and copy the green URL underneath the search result, which has always been the URL of the actual destination, but has never been a live link. It was a bit of a pain, of course, because it’s not as easy to select this green URL as it is to right-click on the link and then choose “Copy Link”, but I didn’t have much choice…

That said, I had never noticed that this “improvement” implemented by Google (probably for internal clickage counting or something like that) was interfering with Safari’s History feature.

So after I got the e-mail from this Betalogue reader, I went back to check. Much to my surprise, I noticed that not only Google was not cluttering my Safari history with unreadable URLs, but even the afore-mentioned “improvement” appeared to be gone. Indeed, right now, when I do a search in Google and then right-click on a search result and use “Copy Link”, the link that gets copied is the actual URL of the destination.

So we seem to be back to the situation of a few years back, which, to me, is very much a good thing.

I tried to do some research on the issue, but it’s pretty hard to identify the right combination of keywords to find information about this practice introduced by Google a few years back and now seemingly eliminated again. People who follow the technical aspects of Google’s activities probably know where to look, but I am afraid I am just a regular Google user myself and I don’t quite have the time to delve into developers.google.com.

I am also not entirely certain that the experience that I see on my machine with my current system is exactly the same as the one that other Google users get. There’s quite a bit that goes on behind the scenes when one uses Google (which is what makes some people perceive it as a rather more creepy company than its “Don’t be evil” motto would suggest), and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the experience of other people, even other Mac OS X / Safari users, does not match mine exactly. Indeed, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Google changes these behaviours again in the future.

But for now at least, it looks to me like we can once again copy links directly on Google search results pages without having to select the green URLs.

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