The internet is a dangerous place. If you aren’t careful, you could end up downloading an unwanted file, opening an infected email, or seeing something you desperately wish you could unsee. But the ways in which bad agents change how we use the internet aren’t always so obvious or destructive. Sometimes, the issue can be as simple as not being able to back out of a website with the back button, forcing us to close the tab entirely to escape.
If you’ve never experienced this phenomenon (lucky you!), here’s how it works: You search for something on Google, click a link, and realize the site isn’t for you. You click the back button on your browser, but nothing happens. You click again — still nothing. Only after mashing repeatedly will you finally be returned to the original Google Search page (or, in all likelihood, several pages before that, because you clicked too many times).
It turns out that there’s a name for this dastardly trick: Google’s Chrome team calls it “history manipulation,” which makes it sound like something a supervillain would come up with. But every villain needs a foil, and as 9to5Google pointed out this week, Google has been working on solution since at least 2016, and just released a flurry of code changes within the past several days that seem to address the issue once and for all.
The first of the changes allows Chrome to detect whether or not an entry in your browsing history is legitimate. The second adds metrics which are sent to Google to gather information about the process. And the third will implement history manipulation intervention, which should let Chrome skip all the fake entries.
Google hasn’t actually released this feature out into the wild yet, but it will appear behind a flag in the coming weeks. If you want to try it sooner, you can always download Chrome Canary. But once the feature has been thoroughly tested, it will likely make its way into a future version of Chrome.