Special Case URLs

Several types of URLs lead to special case behavior in Chromium and are worth considering as new features are built.


about:blank may sound like the simplest document in a browser, but it is actually a huge source of corner cases and confusion:

  • It may not be empty. The creator of an about:blank document may inject content into it, using document.write or other DOM APIs like document.body.innerHTML.
  • It may inherit an origin. Navigating to about:blank in the address bar has a unique, opaque origin, but an about:blank iframe or popup created by another document will inherit that document‘s origin. (Caveat: Chromium’s process model uses the initiator of the navigation to determine which process it belongs in, but Blink currently uses the parent's origin even if the initiator is not the parent, which we would like to fix in issue 585649. Blink also aliases the origin, so a modification of document.domain in the parent unexpectedly affects the about:blank document as well.)
  • It may change its URL. When another document uses document.open or document.write on an about:blank document, the about:blank document inherits location.href from the other document. However, this type of URL change does not occur for other DOM APIs (e.g., document.body.innerHTML modifications), and the browser process does not yet learn about the URL update at all (and thus the URL in the address bar does not change).
  • It may have URL parameters. Some pages navigate about:blank documents to fragments (e.g., about:blank#foo) or query parameters to communicate with scripts that have been injected into the document. For this reason, we recommend using GURL::IsAboutBlank to detect about:blank documents rather than comparing directly against kAboutBlankURL.
  • It may be considered dangerous. An about:blank document may inherit an origin of a broken HTTPS document or an origin initially blocked by Safe Browsing, resulting in potentially surprising address bar security indicators.
  • It is present as the initial empty document of every frame. While most users will not see about:blank in the address bar very often, it is created extremely frequently. Each main frame and subframe starts on about:blank until the first document commits, and many real pages create about:blank iframes to inject script code or other content into them.
  • It may or may not commit. Surprisingly, only some of the above cases generate navigation commit events in the browser process. The initial empty document will commit if the iframe or window.open call has no URL or "about:blank" itself, but if the iframe or window.open call use a real (potentially slow) URL, there will be no commit for the initial empty document.
  • It may or may not stay in session history. In most cases, the initial empty document is replaced in session history when the first non-blank URL commits, such that you cannot go back to the about:blank NavigationEntry. This is not true if a window is created with window.open("about:blank"), though, in which case the NavigationEntry is preserved.


This URL commits when an iframe is created with a srcdoc parameter to define its contents. The contents can only be defined by the parent (or a same-origin document with access to the parent), and the document inherits its parent's origin.

iframe sandbox

When an iframe has a sandbox attribute (which does not include allow-same-origin), it can load its content from a URL but the document has an opaque origin, rather than the origin of the URL. For this reason, it is important for most security checks to look at the origin rather than the URL (see Origin vs URL).

chrome: and os: URLs

chrome: URLs are used for privileged pages that are part of Chromium, such as chrome://settings. Similarly, os: URLs are privileged pages that are part of ChromiumOS. Web pages are not allowed to navigate to them, to reduce the risk of privilege escalation attacks. Note that there are a subset of chrome: URLs that are used for debug commands, described under Debug URLs below.

Debug URLs

Chromium supports a series of “debug URLs” listed at the bottom of chrome://chrome-urls, such as chrome://crash. These are used to crash, hang, exit, or perform other debug actions. Like javascript: URLs, these URLs represent a command rather than a destination, and they do not go through the normal navigation flow or commit at all. Like the other chrome: URLs discussed above, web pages are not allowed to navigate to them.

javascript: URLs

Navigating to a javascript: URL is essentially evaluating a JavaScript expression in the target document, rather than navigating to a new document. As a result, the Same Origin Policy only allows navigating same-origin documents to javascript: URLs. A javascript: URL will never commit to session history. However, if it evaluates to a string (e.g., javascript:"foo"), then the contents of the document will be replaced with the string, similar to a document.write("foo") statement. (This does create a new Document in Blink, though, while document.write does not.)


When Chromium navigates to an error page, it commits as chrome-error://chromewebdata. This URL is not displayed to the user (in favor of the URL that failed or was blocked). Note that this error URL is not stored in the NavigationEntry, but error pages can also be detected using the url_is_unreachable bit on the commit params.