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article imageGoogle disables pressing backspace to go back in Chrome

By James Walker     May 20, 2016 in Technology
Google has removed the "press backspace to go to the previous page" feature from experimental versions of Chrome after determining people frequently trigger it by accident in forms. After entering lines of data, hitting backspace can delete it all.
For many users of Chrome and other web browsers, tapping the backspace key is known as a quick shortcut to return to the previous page. At first glance, it appears to make sense, with "backspace" obviously translating to going back a page.
The backspace key is one of the most frequently pressed keys on the keyboard though. It has a multitude of functions that are usually more important than navigating between pages, including deleting characters when inputting text.
A common web browser annoyance is accidentally pressing backspace while entering data into a form. If you've selected a field, the key will go back a space in the text as intended. If you've accidentally clicked out of the form, the default event will fire instead, taking you away from the form and to a different page entirely. You then have to return to the form and input all the data again.
Google has decided to take action to help relieve the frustration. After analysing usage data, it determined that 0.005 percent of all page views in Chrome originate from inadvertently pressing backspace after entering data into a form. That compares with 0.04 percent of all page views that come from pressing the backspace key intentionally.
In the current experimental build of Chrome, Google has disabled pressing backspace to navigate between pages. It cited user feedback as the reason for the change, recognizing the frustrations of heavy form users.
"Years of user complaints have been enough that we think it's the right choice to change this given the degree of pain users feel by losing their data and because every platform has another key combination that navigates back," the company said in a patch description.
Despite the benefits when using forms, the change is unlikely to go down well with every Chrome user. Google recognised that some people enjoy being able to use the backspace key to switch back to the previous page. It has disabled the feature by adding a customisable flag, allowing users to turn it back on if desired. It also lets Google make it the default again in the future, "should there be sufficient outcry."
As foreseen, some users have reacted negatively to the plans, questioning why Google wants to change something that is largely a standard across the major browsers. Others suggested alternative, more versatile approaches to disabling the backspace key, such as only blocking it after the value of a form element is changed. This solution could satisfy both groups of users, especially if a warning message was displayed letting you override the block and continue to the previous page.
There's no indication when this will appear in the public build of Chrome. Google could choose to reverse the change or develop one of the programmatic solutions pitched by the developer community, settling in a middle ground between ease of navigation and ease of form entry.
More about Google, Google chrome, Web browsers, Chrome
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