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Date: 2023-11-17 15:50:13
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Google is following through on its threat to kill ad blockers. Its language is friendly and understanding—gushing with “ongoing dialogue” and “addressing developer feedback”—but the meaning is clear: Today’s full featured, privacy focused Chrome extensions are living on borrowed time. If you install one, Google will delete it.
Firefox and Safari are the only major browsers unaffected. In today’s SB Blogwatch, we muster Mozilla.
Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: MITE AN/TGC-14A(V).
What’s the craic? Arif Bacchus reports—“Google will start disabling Manifest V2 Chrome extensions”:
“Removed from your browser”
The company now says it is moving forward with plans to disable Manifest V2 extensions in Chrome. … You’ll no longer be able to install these extensions from the Chrome Web Store.
It means some older extensions you use might end up being removed from your browser come 2024. … The changes [will be] in the non-stable versions of Chrome first, but Google says it’s planning to roll out the changes to the standard version of the browser … though the exact timing isn’t certain.
What’s new in V3? Here’s Abner Li’s list—“Manifest V2 Chrome extensions will be disabled”:
“Applies to ad blockers”
With Manifest V3, Google wants to make extensions safer by prioritizing privacy, but was initially criticized for the impact to ad blockers. The Chrome team has since added new features in response. … Google spent this year closing the functionality gap between Manifest V2 and V3 with:
Offscreen Documents, which provide DOM access for extensions, …
Easier control over service worker lifetimes, …
A new User Scripts API, …
New features let extensions access the Side Panel and Reading List, …
More generous limits in the declarativeNetRequest API, [which] specifically applies to ad blockers.
Horse’s mouth? Google’s David Li—“Resuming the transition”:
“Gradually roll out”
In December of last year, we paused the planned deprecation of Manifest V2 in order to address developer feedback. … In addition to closing gaps, we’ve also added new features to the platform.
With these changes in place, we’ve seen support for Manifest V3 increase significantly among the extension developer community. Specifically, we are encouraged by our ongoing dialogue with the developers of content blocking extensions, who initially felt Manifest V3 could impact their ability to provide users with the features they’ve come to expect.
We will gradually roll out this change, gathering user feedback and collecting data. … Enterprises using the ExtensionManifestV2Availability policy to ensure the continued functioning of Manifest V2 extensions in their organization will have one additional year – until June 2025.
I guess that doesn’t sound so bad, right? Wrong, says Nightseer:
This is a bit like in a restaurant, where on the first page of the menu they show you the most overpriced and expensive items, so … when you get to the very expensive, but not as overpriced items on the 2nd page you feel like you are getting a great deal.
Plus, Manifest V3 still gives them a lot of power over ad blocking. So, nah, I will keep sticking to Firefox. Google, after all, is the biggest advertising company on the web, so their interest definitely is in sabotaging ad blockers.
Fair point. u/RememberToLogOff has a different metaphor:
When I think about the fight for privacy, I think of a story about someone being swallowed by a man-eating snake: “I noticed from afar, this crowd trying to pull them out of the snake’s mouth. There was a scream from the whole crowd every time the snake pulled them deeper.”
Feels like after each news cycle, the snake just waits a bit. As any tug-of-war, all things being equal, heavier players win. Man-eating snakes are pretty damned heavy.
Google is the new Microsoft. gary_0 has read this story before:
Anyone remember “DOS ain’t done until Lotus won’t run”? Now it’s “Chrome ain’t done until uBlock won’t run”.
If it’s not Manifest V3 that makes the Internet safe for advertising, it’ll be a “browser integrity” token or some other kind of DRM-by-another-name. Google has made it clear with YouTube that the arms race is on, and sooner or later they’ll go nuclear.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see. AmiMoJo sees both sides:
The main casualties are ad blockers. Disabling Manifest V2 was postponed before due to complaints from ad-blocker devs. They have addressed a lot of the issues that were raised, although there are still some outstanding. The main one being that they can’t auto-update filter lists, so will have to keep publishing updates to the extension itself.
On the plus side, Manifest V3 may be a precursor to introducing extensions to Android. One of the main improvements is efficiency and power consumption. Having run ad blockers on Firefox for Android, I can tell you that they eat up more power than they save.
What do ad-blocker devs think? Here’s AdGuard CTO Andrey Meshkov:
My opinion about MV3 did improve with time. … It is not ideal: DNR is not a full replacement for the blocking webRequest, but [Google] made me hope that they can compensate for what we’re losing by other platform improvements.
MV3 is basically MV2 with one tectonic change: Replacing persistent background pages with ephemeral service workers. [But] what if, instead of investing huge amount of time into DNR, they put it … into providing better tools for extensions to persist their state—so that we didn’t have to rewrite the extensions from scratch to make them work with the new service workers model? … Unfortunately, that’s how hindsight works.
It’s not just about ad-blocking freeloaders, though. u/SirPuzzleheaded5284 sounds puzzled:
The problem is that ad blockers are not the only ones using MV2. … Imagine killing off more than 50% of your extension ecosystem just to make marginally more money on ads.
Meanwhile, ciaran_o_riordan digs Google’s grave:
Ad-blockers are the canary in the coal mine of the open web.
Hat tip: cowcat
You have been reading SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites … so you don’t have to. Hate mail may be directed to @RiCHi, @richij or [email protected]. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Do not stare into laser with remaining eye. E&OE. 30.