+ Friday April 19th, 2019

With a market share over 65%, Google Chrome is the browser of choice for a large majority of internet users. Part of the attraction of Chrome is the wide array of useful extensions including ad-blocking options like Ad-Block Pro and Ublock Origins, however a proposed change to Chrome from Google may render these ad-blockers ineffective, or at least reduce their effectiveness.

According to the proposals outlined in the Manifest V3 document released by Google which outlines possible changes to the Chrome Extension Platform, Google is contemplating restricting the blocking capabilities of the webRequest API. Google is looking to replace the API with a new one called declarativeNetRequest.

Currently, the likes of Ublock Origins relies on the webRequest API to intercept web traffic and modify it before being rendered in the browser, effectively giving them access to kill ads as they’re detected in your network traffic. The declarativeNetRequest API instead hands over the decisions on network requests to Chrome which uses instructions from extensions in the form of a list rather than waiting for a reply from the extension which is how Ublock Origins works.

Google says that the change to use the declarativeNetRequest API would be ‘more performant and offers better privacy guarantees to users’, effectively speeding up web traffic.

Ublock Origins developer Raymond Hill, has commented on the proposed change on the Chromium bug tracker outlining the negative effects this would have on his extensions saying

If this (quite limited) declarativeNetRequest API ends up being the only way content blockers can accomplish their duty, this essentially means that two content blockers I have maintained for years, uBlock Origin (“uBO”) and uMatrix, can no longer exist.

Mr Hill further went on to point out that the change would benefit web sites rather than users saying

Extensions act on behalf of users, they add capabilities to a *user agent*, and deprecating the blocking ability of the webRequest API will essentially decrease the level of user agency in Chromium, to the benefit of web sites which obviously would be happy to have the last word in what resources their pages can fetch/execute/render.

With such a limited declarativeNetRequest API and the deprecation of blocking ability of the webRequest API, I am skeptical “user agent” will still be a proper category to classify Chromium.

The Manifest V3 document is still in the proposal stage, and after the news of the proposed changes reached the news Google has specified that the document is ‘not set in stone’. In a statement to 9to5Google, Google said

These changes are in the design process, as mentioned in the document and the Chromium bug. We want to make sure all fundamental use cases are still possible with these changes and are working with extension developers to make sure their extensions continue to work.

Google is under quite a bit of fire here as both an ad company who makes a significant amount of revenue from web advertising – and therefore getting you to see ads benefits them, as well as being the developer of the Chrome browser.

Google, and other companies have been attempting to clean up the sometimes terrible ads found on the internet as part of the Coalition for Better Ads. Under their ad standards a number of ‘bad’ ad behaviours including pop-ups, auto-playing videos, full-screen ads, along with pre-stitial ads are being, or soon will be blocked by default by the browser.

We all love choice when it comes to our apps, devices and extensions so seeing Google render an effective, and much loved extension ineffective isn’t great news. The good news is that it’s not implemented as yet, but it’s something we should all be watching.

Source: Manifest V3 (Google Doc).
Via: TheRegister.

Daniel Tyson  

Avatar

Dan is a die-hard Android fan. Some might even call him a lunatic. He's been an Android user since Android was a thing, and if there's a phone that's run Android, chances are he owns it (his Nexus collection is second-to-none) or has used it.

Dan's dedication to Ausdroid is without question, and he has represented us at some of the biggest international events in our industry including Google I/O, Mobile World Congress, CES and IFA.

5
Join the Ausdroid Conversation

avatar
4 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
5 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
5 Comment authors
DarrenzahmadchrisPukeyLukeadrian Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Darren
Ausdroid Reader
Darren

I’ll guess they’ll just switch to making a adblock program that runs outside of the browser then. Can’t be stopped that way.

zahmad
Guest
zahmad

The take up of Chrome as a default browser has led them down this path. I’m glad some of the ausdroid audience have seen the light and gone back to Firefox.

Been trialing the Brave browser on my android phone, however on the mac its still a resource hog…

chris
Guest
chris

Chrome is a buggy pile of steaming $#!7 that crashes all the time, is a memory hog and unreliable.
I moved to Firefox and this is one of the reasons for doing so, Google seems to think they can do what they want and we will just live with it. I can’t.

adrian
Guest
adrian

Ublock is essential. Mozilla Firefox is a great browser. I stopped using Chrome on my desktop and phone about 9 months ago and news like this reinforces my decision.

PukeyLuke
Guest
PukeyLuke

Yes agreed, Google multi billion dollar advertising company wants to control ad-blockers on Google Chrome. I have always preferred Firefox “and news like this reinforces my decision”.

Check Also

Google says “Happy Easter” with a connected device sale on the Google Store

If you’ve been holding out on getting a Google Home Mini and Chromecast (Gen 3) …