The Difference Between The Address Bar and the Google Search Field

June 27, 2011 by Kevin

Traditionally, a browser's address (or URL) bar has always been kept separate from the search bar. Web users should know the difference between the two and how developments in the last few years have brought up more issues on this topic.

First, let's look at how the standard address bar works using the web browser Firefox as an example. When you type in to the Firefox address bar and hit enter it saves whatever you typed in a Firefox file hidden away somewhere on your computer. Your browsing history is only saved locally. Firefox uses this information to give suggestions to you the next time you type in the address bar. It is not sent to the developers of Firefox and does not affect what other Firefox users see when they type in their address bar. As you can see below, typing "inter" in the Firefox bar brings up the Intersites Website from when I typed "" and a Google Search from when I typed "intersites." An interesting thing to note is that even though I typed "intersites" in to the Firefox bar it is still recorded by Google since by default Firefox searches Google when a search term is entered in the address bar.

Now let's check out how the search field works on Everything you type in the search field is recorded on Google's servers. If you type in the bar and hit enter, or type in the bar and leave it there for at least 3 seconds, Google records whatever you typed as a search keyword and stores it indefinitely in their databases. If you type in the bar and delete it within 3 seconds Google saves that text for 2 weeks and then deletes it. Google uses all this information they gather to give users useful, relevant results about what's being searched for in their town and around the world. As you can see below, typing "inter" in the Google search field brings up popular results such as internet explorer, internet speed test, and internal revenue service: things which I've never typed in before.

As browsers evolved over the years developers began to combine the address bar and the search field. The first major browser to do this was Google Chrome. The bar at the top of Chrome is called the omnibar. Basically, the omnibar combines your regular address bar and the Google search box into one area in your browser. The omnibar records your search history just like the search field on and offers search suggestions based on worldwide aggregate data. It also shows you suggestions of web sites you have visited before as you start to type. You can see below that typing "inter" in the Chrome bar brings up sites from my history as well as popular search terms.

You can enable a similar combined bar feature in Internet Explorer 9 (which uses Bing for its search) by clicking "Turn on suggestions" when typing in the address bar.

There are many browsers out there to choose from with different ways of managing browsing and searching. Now that you know a little more on the topic you're a better informed internet user and can make the right decision when it comes to choosing a browser. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave them below!

Posted in Help Me Understand

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