Google has confirmed a timeline for changes to its Chrome browser that could break some ad blockers. Google Chrome modifications, dubbed Manifesto V3— have already led some users to flee to alternatives such as Firefox.
More people could switch to Firefox over the next year, as starting in January 2023 in Chrome 112, Chrome may experiment to disable support for Manifest V2 extensions in Canary, Dev and Beta channels, according to a Blog Publish.
Things start to heat up in June in Chrome 115, Google “may perform experiments to disable support for Manifest V2 extensions in all channels, including the stable channel.”
Then, in January 2024, the Chrome Web Store will remove all remaining Manifest V2 items, with Enterprise V2 support ending at the same time.
Manifest V3 includes an overhaul of the permissions system by removing the blocking version of the WebRequest API. Google says the change will improve security because currently an adversary could change everything on a person’s webpage without the user or Google knowing. The change also makes it easier to detect abuse when the extension is submitted to Google’s store.
But upcoming Chrome changes could break “a number of extensions,” says independent security researcher Sean Wright. He predicts that older extensions that aren’t well supported will suffer. “While this may be a good thing from a security perspective, it is important to note that the change will likely have a significant negative impact on users of these browsers.
“Since most people are much more interested in functionality, it will be interesting to see how many users simply switch from Chrome to browsers like Firefox.”
Opposition to Manifest V3 in Chrome
The V3 manifesto met with opposition. Groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) say the tech giant could better monitor its apps using humans, rather than limiting how current apps work.
Meanwhile, some critics point out that the change to Manifest V3 suits Google’s ad-based business model. “There are several other methods Google could use to improve security,” Wright says. “It’s in Google’s interest to keep ad blockers out, because that’s a big part of what their business model is based on.”
Some ad blocking extensions have adjusted, with companies such as AdGuard launched its own Manifest V3-compliant version on the Chrome Store. However, ad blockers such as Ghostery have been vocal in their opposition changes to Google Chrome.
Google defends Manifest V3
Google defends the move to Manifest V3, saying the possible drop in functionality is worth it for the security benefits. Manifest V3 is intended to protect less savvy Chrome browser users, Google says.
“Extensions are among the most powerful tools users have to personalize their Chrome browsing experience, so it’s critical that all uses remain possible with Manifest V3,” says David Li, Product Manager for Google Chrome.
He says Google is working with the developer community “to deliver an incredibly secure and capable extension platform,” adding that the browser maker “will continue to announce new features in Manifest V3 in response to developer feedback.” .
Firefox confirms support for ad blockers
The arrival of Manifest V3 will be a blow to Chrome users who like to use privacy-focused ad blockers to improve their experience. Fortunately, Firefox has confirmed it will maintain support for the blocking version of the WebRequest API in Manifest V3, which will keep more privacy-focused ad blocking extensions available to its users.
For all Chrome users looking to switch, there is online guides detailing how to move everything to Firefox. If you don’t like Firefox, there are other Chromium-based alternatives, including Brave, which integrates ad blocking into the browser itself, Vivaldi, and Edge.
If you’re an Apple user and want to avoid Chromium, the engine that Google Chrome is based on, and many other browsers, there’s always Safari, which offers built-in tracker blockers.