Windows XP still has a small but vocal core of fans who seem determined to keep on using it forever.
Because it’s a Friday afternoon, we shan’t allow ourselves to get drawn into why a lot of us in the security community think that’s a bad idea for the community as a whole.
Having said that, we can at least accept that jumping from XP to Windows 10 means spending money, and that switching to Linux instead means getting used to something very different.
So, XP diehards, we feel some of your stress at facing up to the change.
We’re not quite so sure what we feel about the sort of resistance that a much more trivial change seems to have provoked…
…namely, negative reaction to the news that Google is in the process of altering a single keystroke in Chrome.
You read that correctly.
There are people who are unhappy that Google intends to stop the [Backspace] key going back a page in the Chrome browser:
How is someone who grew up in terminal times expected to navigate back when using a two-button mouse? Are you suggesting that the only remaining options are Alt-Left (a two-hand key combo for that I have to move my mouse hand towards the keyboard, and then back) and the back button left of the omnibox (for which I may have to move the mouse across much of the whole display height/width, and then back)?
The problem with [Backspace] is that it has traditionally had two meanings, and two quite different behaviours, in your browser:
- Go back and delete the previous character when you are filling in a field in a form.
- Go back to the previous page if you aren’t filling in a field, even if you’re in a form.
Think how many web warnings you’ve seen in your life saying, DO NOT PRESS YOUR BROWSER’S BACK BUTTON IN CASE YOU ACCIDENTALLY PAY FOR THIS ITEM TWICE, or words to that effect.
Think how easy easy to press the wrong sort of [Backspace] by mistake, when you’re sure your cursor is inside a form field but isn’t.
With that in mind, Google’s change should be one to which it is hard to object.
It’s not like setting off for work one morning and finding that someone swapped round the pedals in your car so that the clutch is in middle, the brake on the right, and the volume pedal under your left foot.
It’s not even like renting an unfamiliar model of car at the airport where the indicator stalk is on the other side of the steering wheel, causing you to wipe the windscreen unnecessarily for your first few turns until you get used to it.
As Google itself pointed out:
We have [usage measurements] showing that 0.04% of page views navigate back via the backspace button and 0.005% of page views are after a form interaction. The latter are often cases where the user loses data. Years of user complaints have been enough that we think it’s the right choice to change this given the degree of pain users feel by losing their data and because every platform has another keyboard combination that navigates back.
Sometimes, when online security is concerned, you really do have to take one for the team.
Especially if the feature change you are being asked to accept will prevent data loss by other people more than 10% of the time, as it will here (0.005%/0.04%).
Doubly especially in this case, where Google has also said:
We’re doing this via a flag so that we can control this behavior should there be sufficient outcry.
In plain English, if you feel really negative about the change, you can turn it off for yourself and pretend it never happened, while leaving everyone else to enjoy the benefits of it.
Of course, it’s possible we might just have been trolled by the commenter above.
Let’s hope so 🙂
20 comments on “Google Chrome provokes browser backspace security controversy”
I’m surprised more people aren’t complaining about Chrome monitoring your keystrokes and sending them back to Google
There’s nothing wrong with monitoring certain “keystrokes”. You’re implying that it functions as a “keylogger”, which is completely different. The browser identifies when the “go to previous page” function has been evoked, and it’ll know whether the browser’s Back button was used or not. Nothing wrong with that.
Many installers (including that for Chrome) include a check box consenting to the collection of “anonymous usage statistics.”
But yes, people will still complain.
I have no love loss for anyone still using XP at this point. Drag yourself out of the dark ages and into relative safety (compared to XP) to something released in the last 5 years. I personally have a keyboard with a dedicated “Back” and a mouse with a programmable side button that is also, yup, a back button.
I do not really see google’s concern…
I have been using Backspace to go back to the previous page (on Opera, Netscape, FireFox, SeaMonkey and others on Windows, Linux and briefly OS X) for 20 odd years and never had an issue.
To me this is simply a “Dumbing Down” of the technology to suit those that don’t know how to use it.
Very happy I do not use google chrome.
Exactly right, this is PC in the tech world and just like PC it is going to far. Thankfully I could care less and I don’t touch Chrome.
– Mac users \_(ツ)_/¯
2) Websites, as mentioned, can do this when it’s important. Every site I build, when there’s an important form (including one that has more than 100 fields and takes 10 mins to fill out), has a simple script that tells it to ignore the backspace in any context outside of erasing a form field. Problem solved.
As Google’s stats show, people don’t actually use [Backspace] that much. But when they do, it ends badly 10% of the time. Adding code to every single web page to deal with that situation seems a lot more fussy, oeverall, than just altering the browser a bit.
I don’t always press my [X] key, but when I do–I do it twice.
Stay on this page, my friends.
Thank you Duck. Thank you Google. I’m not a dinosaur after all.
We’ve seen a slew of rather steep UI changes in the past few years, and a staggering majority of them annoy me–e.g. Windows8 forgetting that millions of mice still exist, or GoDaddy’s “improved” zone file management.
I’ve stated many times I’m not resistant to change itself [Garth Algar, v=1TtGQnyPZ6g] but have lamented so many of them that lately I’ve genuinely wondered if it’s merely “my time,” and I’m around the corner from dinner at 14:30 and routinely shouting at kids to get off my lawn.
I actually like this change and feel a bit better about my place on the extinction chart.
While I agree with most of the article, there is really no reason for the condescending, assholeish tone that the article is written in. Software should conform to the user, not the other way around. I was using the backspace key occasionally and while I don’t mind the change, having an *option* to use backspace to move to the previous page, even if disabled by default, can never be a bad thing for the user.
If you read the article, I think you will find that you agree with it, based on what you have said here.
This complaint is nonsensical. Using the right alt key instead of the left makes this an easy one handed combo. And what do you have to click on in the bottom right of your browser that going to the top left to click the back button is going to interrupt your work flow more than going to another page altogether?
I trained myself to use the alt-left-arrow long ago, and I am surprised Chrome has kept the backspace dual function for so long. It can definitely cause headaches with unintentional back navigation.
Fwiw, Chrome is no longer offering new updates for XP or Vista even though MS is still supporting Vista for a while yet.
“trained myself to use the alt-left-arrow long ago”
As Weird Al might say, [I’m] posting “me too” like some braindead AOLer.
I, too, have a mouse with a back button, but I don’t see why it can’t be a popup on first client launch post-patch (which would also be a useful source for other patch notes relevant to end-users) with the option toggle included on the window.
Then again, i’ve always had rather a grumbling streak about that not being everyone’s default where user-impacting changes occur.
You’re asking for a lot of programmatic fuss for a little-used function (0.04%) that nevertheless ends in misuse 1/8th of the time (0.005%), don’t you think?
You want a popup every time anything changes? Seriously? “Do you want to carry on allowing SHA-1 (please don’t) Y/N?”, “Do you want to inhibit HSTS (please don’t) Y/N?”, “Do you really want to keep running this browser on XP (please don’t) Y/N?”, and so on…
I simply installed a Chrome extension called “Goodbye Backspace!”. It takes up little room, and keeps the $%@#$! page from going back when I hit backspace. Nothing is more frustrating than having typed a long post, and when I hit the backspace to, you know, MOVE THE CURSOR BACK A SPACE, the whole page goes back to the previous page, losing my entire post. At least Google Docs SAVES dynamically so I don’t lose any of THAT…if I did, I think I would be replacing monitors from punching them over and over.
If people are THAT exercised about how far they have to move their hand to page back in the browser, get a mouse with a couple of extra buttons and configure one to move the browser back. Most Logitech multi-button mice come with at least two already configured to do this. Then it’s only a half-inch movement of the thumb or a finger to press a button that does it for you.