Google is testing a feature in its search results pages that replaces the URL in a result's snippet with the name of the site on which it appears. So, for example, a WebProNews article titled "Netflix Redesign Rubs Many Users the Wrong Way," which has a URL that looks like this: www.webpronews.com/netflix-redesign-2011-06, would just display WebProNews instead of the URL.
This was first reported by Alex Chitu at Google Operating System, working off a tip from David from Making Money with Android. It appears that even within the test, you users aren't seeing this happen for every result.
According to Chitu, "David, who noticed this change, says that he searched for [madvertise] and 'most of the results looked normal, with the website title, snippet and URL. However, two search results displayed the website name instead of the URL.'"
We're still waiting to hear back from Google on plans for this feature and/or the extent of its testing.
As a user, I'm not sure this change would be an improvement. If you can see the domain name, you can tell what the site is, and sometimes the structure of the URL itself can give you an idea of what kind of page you're actually going to be landing on, particularly if the result comes from a site that you're familiar with.
I'll be surprised if Google turns this into the norm for all search results, but it will be interesting to see if they roll it out on a broader basis .
It's clear that as a general rule, people will complain when sites are redesigned. Some redesigns draw more criticism than others, and this would be just a minor adjustment to Google's current design (which was broadly redesigned in the last year or two, and to plenty of criticism). Still, I can't say I've ever seen anybody complain that Google shows URLs in search results, and I'd bet that some will complain if they're removed.
What do you think? Should Google change the URLs to site names?
Update: A reader points to a similar test in Italy, where Google is testing both the URL and the site name together, which makes more sense in my opinion. Read the comments below.