Chrome Home’s bottom address bar: ahead of its time and intentionally left behind


Many people, including us, have found some of the changes Apple made to Safari in iOS 15 to be familiar, resembling a redesign that Google has spent years testing for Google Chrome. While this user interface, originally called Chrome Home, was eventually scrapped after years of user testing, a former Googler and designer intimately involved in the changes recently posted a short but fascinating account of the rising times. the curtain on the rise and fall of Chrome’s lower navigation bar, now gone.

Ex-Googler Chris Lee was once a designer who worked on Chrome. Specifically, he takes credit for the changes, including the tab groups and Chrome “Home” – no, not this Home, or that other Home – later called Duet and Duplex – no, not this Duplex. Aside from the near-continuous naming confusion, Chrome Home and its associated changes were aimed at rethinking Chrome’s interface, not necessarily by changing how it works entirely, but by better organizing the features already there to make it more usable. While the related UI experiences spanned a huge range (and at times seemingly flawed), that essentially meant bringing UI elements to the bottom of the screen where they were ostensibly easier to access.

Chrome Home demo via Chris Lee.


Of course, the tension of this discussion and the fact that Chrome doesn’t look like this on your phone right now means the test didn’t really work. But the story behind it, as illuminated by Lee, offers a glimpse into how even the creator of a project can (and should) change their mind about data.

The original goal of Chrome Home, according to Lee, who credits himself with the original concept and returning in 2016, was to create a new gesture system for using Chrome, better taking advantage of the growing feature set of Chrome. app without hiding things behind a slowly bloated three-dot menu, while also increasing usability in the face of inexorably swelling smartphone screen sizes. With all that extra space, it was harder to get to the top of the screen, so why not move objects lower down where they’re easier to touch?

The concept proved popular internally and Google made it a priority, with Lee leading a team to refine and test the design, experimenting with tweaks that went beyond just moving the bar. address – many of which have been spotted in testing over the years. In that vein, the company decided that the only way to properly test it was in the live beta versions, which many of us using Android from 2017 to 2020 probably remember as a point of confusion because the look and feel of it. Chrome’s interface seemed to change quickly and randomly.


Several different changes were tested, ranging from simply moving the existing address bar down to the bottom of the screen to later dividing individual functionality into a “split” bar in Duet – the latter covered a range from bar loaded with variable number of buttons to break on top bar and 3 dot menu functionality, up to a “conditional tab strip”.

Lee claims that Chrome Home’s bottom address bar had “cult tracking.” While early responses from our own readership were negative, by the time the company tested moving the address to the top of the screen, many appreciated the feature and were upset by its loss. However, the change turned out to be less popular with a more general audience with “varying technological knowledge”. Ultimately, Lee went from being the original creator of Chrome Home and the one-time team leader to being an advocate against it. And as we can all see from that point of view, Chrome Home ultimately didn’t work, although Safari on iOS 15 clearly took inspiration from Google’s design, and even Samsung started duplicating some of the changes. discontinued from Google.

We’ve all seen and read both the extensive and sometimes frustrating public beta versions of Google and the company’s apparent desire to kill ideas, features, and products even though they are widely used, but the internal machinations behind it. this decision-making process is rarely transparent. . Lee’s memorial to Google Home offers a unique insight into the topic, and as Apple begins to pick up where Google apparently left off, we wonder if the changes Google Home / Duet / Duplex tested could one day revert to Chromium.



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