Google to stop ad blockers working in Chrome | Ad blocker extensions will going to block in Google Chrome.
Google is following through with a change to the way that extensions work in Chrome, and the move will effectively stop ad-blocking tools working.
The only version of Chrome that will be allowed to use ad blockers is the Enterprise edition. The changes are part of a revamp to the extension system, in a relaunched version of the browser dubbed Manifest V3.
Third-party extensions use tools called APIs to interact with Chrome, to access user data and to take control over how the browser works.
One of those APIs, called WebRequest, is used by many ad blockers to prevent ads from being downloaded and shown in the browser.
Those particular capabilities in WebRequest API are being “deprecated” under Manifest V3, which is coding speak meaning that the ad-blocking side of that tool is effectively being removed.
The full WebRequest API will still be available in the Enterprise version of Chrome, which businesses pay to use.
That’s probably so companies can build extensions that block specific content not deemed suitable for an office, rather than indicating corporate support for ad blockers. Everyone else using the free version of Chrome is left with weaker protection.
There is an alternative API that ad blockers can use, called DeclarativeNetRequest, but it has some limitations, including a shorter list of what it can block.
Google has said it’s working on a solution to allow adblocking tools to continue being used, but these plans have been in the works – and criticised openly by ad-blocker developers – for months.
That’s not the only change impacting third-party extensions, though the other major alteration is of more obvious benefit to Chrome users.
At the moment, extensions can ask users for permission to access their data, but some request more than they actually need, so Google is clamping down, increasing protection of user data by restricting permissions.
If tools in the Chrome Web Store gather more data than is necessary, Google may ban them from the store and disable them in the browser.
How will it affect you?
Manifest V3 is still in development, so it’s not clear if and when these changes will roll out. The clamour of criticism that’s greeted those details that have been announced may yet influence Google’s decisions.
Additionally, the mooted mitigations, such as extending the blocking capabilities of the replacement API, could be rolled out in time for affected extensions to update and avoid the worst aspects of the changes.
As it stands, if Google rolls out Manifest V3 as planned, blocking and anti-tracking tools such as uBlock Origin, Adblock Plus and Ghostery will no longer work as well – if at all.
The developers behind those tools will be able to alter how they operate, but they probably won’t block as many ads and trackers as they do now. Of course, Chrome has its own built-in ad blocker, which it introduced last year.
However, this isn’t a ‘proper’ blocker because it only removes ads that Google has deemed too annoying or intrusive, based on a set of standards the company helped set, which includes ads that automatically play sound or take over an entire page.
If Google doesn’t back down from these changes, and ad blockers such as Ghostery and uBlock Origin can’t find a way to work around them, the only solution will be to switch to a new browser.
What do we think?
Google makes the bulk of its revenue from advertising, so it’s hardly going to be a fan of ad blockers.
The filtering tool built into Chrome reveals what Google would like to see, which is better ads that we don’t feel compelled to block.
Google isn’t the only online company worried about the rise of ad blockers – newspapers and other publishers have suffered from the shift to the web, and that’s only likely to continue if web users block all ads.
On the other hand, ads chew through your mobile data allowance, irritate by taking over the entire page or playing audio and videos, and have even been known to spread malware. And that’s before we even get to tracking for behavioural advertising.
No wonder a quarter of Brits block ads, according to eMarketer research. If those web users want to stick with full ad blocking, it could be good news for Mozilla Firefox and other, rival browsers, and bad news for Chrome.
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