Google hasn’t been fond of ad blockers, but now they’ve decided to extend an olive branch to smooth things over. Some time ago, the company announced the latest version of its Chrome extension specification, Manifest V3. However, due to the numerous criticisms regarding its significant impact on ad blockers, the company put it on hold.
Manifests provide browsers with various information about extensions, including their permissions and compatible versions, enabling them to enforce changes on developers. In the case of Manifest V3 for Google, extension developers wouldn’t, for instance, be able to add a feature that allows loading code from a remote server.
Among the many added changes in Google’s new Manifest, there’s an “improvement in compatibility with content filtering” for the Declarative Net Request API used by ad-blocking extensions. Initially, the company proposed restricting the API’s functionality due to security concerns, potentially impacting the effectiveness of Chromium-based browsers (including Microsoft Edge).
After strong opposition from developers and privacy advocates, Google has ultimately decided to proceed with the transition to Manifest V3, though making numerous changes that, theoretically, won’t harm developers.
While this new Manifest V3 has been well-received by Andrey Meshkov, the CTO of AdGuard, who stated that it “offers nearly the same filtering quality demonstrated with Manifest V2,” Alexei Miagkov, a senior technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has told The Verge that the new version of Manifest continues to unnecessarily limit developers.
“These are useful changes, but they are tweaks to a system limited by design,” Miagkov said. “The big problem remains the same: if extensions cannot innovate, users lose and trackers win… Now, we all depend on Google continuing to evolve the API to keep up with advertisers and trackers.”
With this move by Google, extensions using Manifest V2 will automatically deactivate starting in 2024, and users also won’t be able to download extensions with that version from the Chrome Web Store.