For those not familiar, Google Chrome gives users the ability to add custom search engines based on keywords. For example, in my daily work I have to perform many searches – be it to search for an employee on the company Intranet or to search the ticketing system for an existing service request – and these are tasks that I have simplified by associating simple keywords that I can use in the Omnibox (like “in” for Intranet or “sr” for Service Request) with a Query URL. I’ve been using this system for years now, committing this to my muscle memory and making it an integral part of my daily workflow.
I was surprised to find that this stopped working for me a few days ago and immediately took to Reddit to find out if others were having the same issue. I found that indeed an intentional change had been made in Chrome v88.0.4324.150 where the default behavior of pressing the space bar after your keyword in order to trigger the feature had been changed to pressing tab instead.
This understandably caused a lot of outrage as it had not been previously communicated and it disrupted long-established behaviors for many. Sure, users could retrain themselves to use tab instead of space, but that would take time and undoubtedly disrupt productivity. More importantly, the looming question was WHY? Why would a change like this be made with seemingly no good reason whatsoever? Why fix something that wasn’t broken?
In a bug report, Chrome devs explained that the change was done to prevent unintentional triggering of the feature. However, the community outrage was too great and immediately angry posts and workarounds started popping up. One of these involved disabling the chrome://flags/#omnibox-keyword-search-button flag, which restored the old behavior but only while that flag was still available.
Thankfully, the saga came to an end yesterday when – via a Chrome Help Community response – Google acknowledged that based on all the feedback, the decision had been made to roll back this change and restore the feature to its original behavior. The rollback was to happen gradually and required a browser restart. I can confirm that I now have this feature back and all is right with the world again. It was good to see that Google listened to their users and made the change promptly, and hopefully learned from this experience. If, by chance, custom search keywords are not working for you by pressing space, try updating to the latest Chrome version and restarting your browser.