The world's most popular web browser may soon going to limit the effectiveness of its ad-blocking extensions. In January this year, Google had listed a set of proposed changes to its web browser, Chrome, called Manifest V3. Amongst these was one that would limit the capabilities of ad-blocking extensions for Chrome’s non-enterprise version. Enterprise Chrome users would get the browser’s full ad-blocking capabilities, while other users would have limited functionalities.
While the move sparked quite a few concerns amongst users and developers, Google seems to be going ahead with the changes.
“Chrome is deprecating the blocking capabilities of the webRequest API in Manifest V3, not the entire webRequest API (though blocking will still be available to enterprise deployments). Extensions with appropriate permissions can still observe network requests using the webRequest API. The webRequest API's ability to observe requests is foundational for extensions that modify their behavior based on the patterns they observe at runtime," the company wrote in a response on its Chromium Extensions Google group
What this means is that while the free version of Chrome will still allow ad blockers to work, their capabilities may be reduced. Google has said that it might look to revisit what ad blockers will be allowed to do on the free version, but that’s didn’t commit to what exactly they would be allowed to do.
At the moment, some ad blockers can block ads on the browser before they’re downloaded. This will not be possible with the new set of changes. That functionality of browser extensions will be limited only to enterprise users of the software, while others will have to deal with more limited features.
Further, “The new extension APIs are not going to break content blockers, but it will help them work more safely and potentially faster," said Chris Palmer, a Chrome software security engineer, on Twitter.
For the record, not all ad-blockers work using Google’s webRequest API at the moment. Some, like Ad-Block Plus (a very popular ad-blocking extension for Chrome), uses a rule-based system that Google is proposing. So, it’s possible that many users won’t even notice the change in the way Chrome works.
Also, limiting ad-blockers seems to be in Google’s interest since the company’s main revenue stream is through advertising, and Chrome is one of the essential ways for it to deliver said ads to devices. The company itself admitted the same in a recent SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission) filing, as pointed out by 9to5Google.