Browsing Google Chrome and the Physical Web

Google Chrome Physical Web URL

Chrome 57 has launched, and with it in-browser support for the Physical Web. Now, when a user goes to conduct a search or enter a web URL, any nearby Physical Web addresses will appear just below the address bar as seen in the above graphic.

It adds another piece to the proximity puzzle – allowing your browser to show nearby URLs when you go to enter a Web URL or go to conduct a search.

Use Cases for Chrome URLs

Being able to see nearby Physical Web URLs in your browser suggests some interesting use cases/value propositions:

Closing the Gap on Physical Web Objects – in the world of the Physical Web you walk up to a “thing” and use it. In general, their use case is for that “thing” to include a Physical Web icon. You need to know that the object has a URL attached to it. This is usually accomplished through physical-world icons/signage. You then need to know to “pull down” on a notification tray to see it.

By adding Physical Web URLs to your browser search/address bar, there’s another path to making sure users will more easily be able to “see” that URL.

Show-rooming – Retailers still struggle with ‘show-rooming’ – where users will be shopping, say, for a fridge and go online to compare prices when in the store. By attaching a physical web beacon to the fridge, the retailer has a last chance to catch the user’s attention with a link of their own.

In the Home – This is, perhaps, where beacons can truly start to merge over with the connected home. Device makers (say, the Nest thermostat) can embed a Physical Web broadcast. Now, your thermostat, connected TV or other device can offer up a manual, support hotline or other information as an available link in your browser – and possibly bypass the need for a custom app.

Bluetooth in the Browser

Things start to get really interesting when you take into account the fact that Chrome also supports Bluetooth connections.  By allowing Chrome to connect to nearby Bluetooth devices, you can create use cases where a Physical Web signal leads to a web URL. The web URL leads to a page with support for Bluetooth connectivity.

(We should note that Bluetooth proximity and Bluetooth connectivity are two entirely different things!)

Google does a deep dive on this capability and provides libraries for Angular, Node and Polymer.

We can envision use cases where you approach a fitness machine in a local gym, it has a Physical Web logo, a Physical Web URL shows up when you search in Chrome, and the web page it takes you to can connect to the machine and read out heart rate or other information.

Go Chrome, or Go Physical Web?

This addition to the “proximity pathway” is great. But it adds another layer to an already confusing set of instructions for consumers.

One interesting question: when you’re creating an in-location sign/symbol or marker to let consumers know there is a nearby URL, should you flag it as Physical Web, or Chrome?

I’ve been wondering whether the Chrome logo wouldn’t be a better way to go. It bridges Android and iOS, is a recognized symbol, and is WAY easier to explain.

Because when the current instructions look like THIS, wouldn’t THIS be easier to understand?

Share Your Thoughts

Join our e-mail list for more on iBeacons, Eddystone, Physical Web and BLE. Join the conversation on Twitter, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Have you engaged yet with a Physical Web URL via Chrome? What use cases do you think we’ll see? And do you think the Physical Web icon will be a driver of adoption, or will we see other ways to promote these new features?

Drop a comment below, or pop me a note on Twitter.

Content Creator or “Business Builder”? Drop Me a Line

On a side note, we’ve been partnering with content creators, publishers and entrepreneurs of all stripes. We’ve been building out tools to bring proximity channels to new markets. If you’d be interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to drop me a note – doug (at) . Our mission is to help content creators,  publishers, entrepreneurs and companies to build new revenue streams on the Internet of Things.

3 thoughts on “Browsing Google Chrome and the Physical Web

  1. We’ve struggled with the signage messaging challenge too and I think you are onto something with using the Chrome logo. It’s a brand that is already visible on a billion handsets and presents a call to action that looks familiar to people. The only problem is that given that familiarity the Chrome icon on it’s own may make people think that there is nothing new here. An evolution of the strategy would be to include the Physical Web icon in the corner of the Chrome widget, similar to the numeral that indicates that messages are pending in the Mail/Twitter icon. This co-opts a metaphor that people already understand and adds a twist that may intrigue folks to explore. We already have a Pavlovian urge to clear that number.

    Fortunately we found that not having any signage works too. It’s not ideal, and having signage that is effective would be huge, but it certainly avoids getting so many approvals from a venue’s marketing team who always have their views on what messaging makes the grade. Think of this as an MVP that can then be augmented as people see the value. That’s what we did at San Diego International Airport were we deployed a dozen PhysicalWeb (Bkon) beacons. All our discovery has come from the Android Nearby notifications, and it’s doubled the traffic on the rather obscure web site that we are promoting On average 57% of our visits come from Eddystone URL, eclipsing the traffic we get from a bunch of referral links on several airport web sites (SEA, SAN, JFK), press articles in USA Today and other local journals. If we add Chrome discovery to those numbers, the results could be amazing.


  2. I agree Steve – there’s a sort of series of “levels” I think to engagement. We’re running a prototype with no signage at all but in the aisle or “faster traffic” areas the Chrome idea might be good.

    So, we start to think of it as adding “layers” – a totally ambient Google Nearby approach. A “there when you need it” approach to capture people who you expect might run a web search via the address bar. And signage, for the Physical Web “walk up and use” idea.

    Either way – exciting times!

    Now – question – did you say ANY iOS traffic via the Google Chrome notification widget? Curious.


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