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Google Ditches Chrome's Lock Icon as Most Users Don't Understand its Meaning

Say goodbye to the classic padlock icon in your Chrome browser's URL bar and hello to a fresh new look! Google is planning to replace the decades-old lock icon with a modern "tune" icon in Chrome 117 this September. This change is not just about aesthetics; it's designed to eliminate user misconceptions and improve overall web security awareness.

The padlock icon, initially introduced in the '90s to signify a secure HTTPS connection, has long been a staple of web browsers. However, according to a 2021 Google study, only 11 percent of participants correctly understood the icon's purpose. With HTTPS now used by over 95 percent of Chrome webpages loaded on Windows, the lock icon no longer serves its original purpose of informing users about secure connections. In fact, Google believes that some users may wrongly assume that the lock represents an overall indication of trust or reliability, which can be dangerous as HTTPS doesn't protect against threats like phishing scams.

To address this issue, Google is introducing a new tune icon in Chrome 117, which will accompany the browser's wider Material You-themed redesign. The tune icon is commonly used to represent control menus, offering a more neutral visual cue that doesn't falsely imply trustworthiness. The new icon aims to encourage users to explore their security and connection settings by clicking on it, an option that Google's research shows few people were aware of. The tune icon will still mark plaintext HTTP connections as insecure but won't introduce any additional features.

This isn't the first time Google has revamped the lock icon. In 2016, the company redesigned it to remove colors and adopt a more neutral look. Initially, Google considered replacing the lock with a downward-pointing arrow, which arguably would have better suggested the possibility of expanding for more information. However, the tune icon was ultimately chosen for its wider recognition as a slider control.

Chrome's lock icon will be replaced simultaneously on desktop and Android in early September 2023. On iOS, the icon will be removed entirely since it wasn't tappable on that platform. Users with access to Chrome Canary, an experimental version of the browser used for testing early releases, can preview the new tune icon by enabling the Chrome Refresh 2023 flag. Keep in mind that this feature is still under development and may undergo changes before the final release.