Google appears to be gearing up to add a new feature to Chrome that allows users to create links to a specific word or phrase on a web page, based on a recently spotted change in the Chromium repository. Referred to as “Scroll-To-Text,” the feature is added in the commit via a hidden flag setting that doesn’t appear to have made its way to the Stable Channel just yet.
The feature is intended to make sharing links to specific text on a website easier for mobile users, the commentary on the commit notes. That’s largely because, in its current iteration, it is quite easy to search out specific text on a page using the desktop version of Chrome using the “ctrl+f” search function. Now, the same task can be accomplished on mobile but that requires extra steps. Users need to access the three-dot menu and scroll down to “Find in page” before performing their search.
Either method for finding a sentence or keyword is straightforward enough but the process of sharing that specific information can be tedious. First, users need to share a link to a web page. Then they need to pass along a phrase or keyword that will help discover a specific portion of the text they intended to send. That’s followed by the above-mentioned steps on the part of the receiving party, which may require an additional explanation for some users.
Screenshots can be used too, in a pinch, but those tend to remove the context of the remaining text. So it isn’t really a better solution where the receiving person might want to read an article or source in its entirety.
How will this work?
With the flag enabled, users would be able to send links that contain additional information in the URL. That would be added in an encoded string at the end of the final address, behind a “targetText=” prefix.
The explanation of the flag, linked to from the Chromium Gerrit, goes further to indicate the text would be percent-encoded. That’s down to the fact that URLs don’t do empty spaces between words, with the example provided being “targetText=My%20Heading,” which would highlight the first instance of “My Heading” on a page for users following the link.
The implication, at first glance, seems to be that the feature would add additional steps for those who want to share a link to the desired sentence or word but that isn’t necessarily the case. With the flag in place and appropriate code, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the feature added as a context click option.
If that turns out to be the case, users could be able to simply highlight some text on a web page, right-click — long-press on Android or alt-click on Chrome OS — and then select the option to create a link to that specified text. That would reduce confusion for the average user while still enabling sharable links to be created that direct to a user-defined spot.
Useful but still a ways off
As useful as a Scroll-To-Text feature might ultimately be, it’s not improbable that it won’t ever land in the stable version of Chrome. It could also only arrive as a way for more advanced users to manually type out their links rather than a simplified right-click option for the wider user base.
In either case, there’s a good chance that Scroll-To-Text isn’t going to launch any time soon since this is an early iteration of the feature. Chrome version 74 is likely the earliest timeframe since that update still hasn’t been scheduled. Chrome version 72 has only recently begun to rollout while Chrome 73 is only a few weeks away.
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