If you’ve been following the Firefox 4 betas, you’ve probably noticed that they’re dumping the status bar. OK, a lot of people didn’t use it, but here’s the thing:

When you hover over a link, the status bar tells you where it will take you.

This is important (especially for security) — important enough that they’ve moved the functionality elsewhere…but in a broken manner. They’ve put it into the location bar — you know, the field where you type in a URL, or look to see where you are.

The problem is that there isn’t room in the location bar to show the full URL of a hovered link except for very short links. The status bar has the entire width of the browser. The location bar has to share that space with the navigation buttons, the search box, the feedback button (during the beta), any custom toolbar buttons, the site name on secure websites, etc.

Just about every link I hover over ends up with critical information cut off in the “…” between the start of the hostname and the parameters at the end. That’s almost useless. (Almost, because at least the hostname is visibla, but it would help to see the page name as well.)

Displaying the target URL in some way is core functionality for a web browser, and you shouldn’t remove or break core functionality. In some ways this is worse than the proposal a few years ago to remove “View Source,” because that at least isn’t core functionality for a browser (though it is core functionality for the web, because it encourages people to explore and tinker and learn how to make their own websites — which is exactly why that was put back in). It’s crazy that I need to install an add-on to get back something as basic as a working preview for links.

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