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Google says it’s not trying to stop ad blocking on Chrome

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The search giant addresses the Manifest 3 controversy

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google has faced increasing criticism over some proposed Chrome changes that developers claim could prevent popular ad blockers from working properly. Dubbed Manifest 3, the changes involve crippling the WebRequest APIs that developers currently use to block content in favor of a new declarativeNetRequest API that’s more limited. Google revealed the changes were being made over performance and privacy concerns, but the developers of Ghostery showed that performance in most popular ad blockers simply isn’t an issue in Chrome.

Google is now backtracking on some of its changes following a backlash from developers of ad blocking extensions. “It is not, nor has it ever been, our goal to prevent or break content blocking,” says Chrome engineer Devlin Cronin in a Google Groups post. “We are committed to preserving that ecosystem and ensuring that users can continue to customize the Chrome browser to meet their needs. This includes continuing to support extensions, including content blockers, developer tools, accessibility features, and many others.”

While developers will still need to switch from using webRequest API to declarativeNetRequest, Google is going to increase the overall blocklist from a 30,000 limit and allow developers to use dynamic blocklists. That will address some of the criticisms of the changes, but they’re still a work in progress and could change further. “These changes are in the design process,” says a Google spokesperson in a statement to CNET. “We want to make sure all fundamental use cases -- including content blockers -- are still possible with these changes and are working with extension developers to make sure their extensions continue to work while optimizing the extensions platform and better protecting our users.”

Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, with more than a billion users across Android and desktop operating systems. Google added its own ad blocking to Chrome last year, but it’s only designed to tackle ads that don’t meet Google’s Better Ads standards.