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Google Chrome changes that could limit ad blockers are coming next year

Google Chrome changes that could limit ad blockers are coming next year


Ad blockers like uBlock Origin rely on the Manifest V2 spec, which pre-release versions of Chrome will stop supporting in June.

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Illustration: The Verge

Google has shared an updated timeline about Manifest V3, the latest version of its Chrome extension specification that has faced criticism for putting limits on ad blockers. After putting the update on pause last year, Google announced on Thursday it will continue the transition to Manifest V3 with some key changes.

One of those changes is “improved content filtering support” for the Declarative Net Request API used by ad-blocking extensions. Google previously proposed putting restrictions on the functionality of this API for security reasons, potentially impacting the effectiveness of ad-blockers across all Chromium-based browsers including Chrome and Microsoft Edge.

Developers and privacy advocates pushed back on the change, and Firefox even developed a workaround for the incoming restrictions. But now, Google will continue the deprecation of Manifest V2 and will automatically disable Manifest V2 extensions in users’ browsers as early as June 2024. Users also won’t be able to download Manifest V2 extensions from the Chrome Web Store at that time.

So far, the changes garnered a positive response from AdGuard chief technology officer Andrey Meshkov. In a post published earlier this month, Meshkov says the changes should allow ad blockers to “offer nearly the same quality of filtering that they demonstrated with Manifest V2.” However, Alexei Miagkov, the senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, tells The Verge Manifest V3 still puts unnecessary limitations on developers.

“These are helpful changes, but they are tweaks to a limited-by-design system,” Miagkov says. “The big problem remains the same: if extensions can’t innovate, users lose and trackers win... We now all depend on Google to keep evolving the API to keep up with advertisers and trackers.”

Despite this small olive branch Google appears to be extending to ad-blockers, the company hasn’t been so friendly to those types of extensions as of late. YouTube launched a global crackdown on ad-blockers last month that prevents some users from watching videos with the extensions turned on.

Correction November 16th, 9:41PM ET: Firefox is based on Gecko, not Chromium. We regret the error.