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Google is replacing Chrome's lock icon because most people don't know what it means

The lock created a false sense of security.

Photo by Arkan Perdana on Unsplash

Do you know what the lock icon in your web browser means? If not, you're far from alone. Google now plans to replace the lock next to the address in Chrome with a variant of the "tune" icon you see below. Simply put, most people don't understand it. According to Google's research, only 11 percent of users realize that it refers to HTTPS encryption. Many others think it means the site is trustworthy — a problem when even phishing sites use the technology.

The tune icon doesn't imply trustworthiness, Google says. Instead, it signals that security is the default state. It also invites a click, making it more likely that you'll use site controls. Many people never even realized they could click the lock, according to the company.

Google Chrome 'tune' icon
Google Chrome 'tune' icon (Google)

Most users will see the replacement icon in Chrome 117 on Android and desktop, which is scheduled to arrive early in September. As you can't tap the icon in Chrome for iOS, Google is pulling the icon entirely on Apple's mobile platforms. If you just can't wait, you can see the icon now in Chrome Canary if you enable the Chrome Refresh 2023 flag.

The change is overdue in some respects. Google defaulted to HTTPS web connections in Chrome 90 two years ago, and that came months after Mozilla made a similar change in Firefox. Over 95 percent of page loads in Chrome for Windows use HTTPS, the company adds. Much like the floppy disk icon sometimes used to represent file saves, the lock is a relic from another era.