Google's Manifest V3 will make the fight against third-party adblockers even worse

 In this photo illustration, a silhouetted woman holds a smartphone with the Google Chrome logo displayed on the screen.
(Image credit: Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

After years of delays, Google is finally rolling out its Manifest V3 Chrome browser extension framework, encouraging extension developers to make the switch as it begins to drop support for Manifest V2 on Chrome Beta, Dev, and Canary channels.

Google has even been sending emails to users informing them when an extension is no longer supported and has been turned off, according to X (formerly known as Twitter) user Leopeva64.

One of the biggest concerns surrounding this move has been breaking adblockers that rely on V2’s framework, as V3 is far more restrictive. For instance, uBlock Origin needs around 300,000 rules to work properly, which far exceeds V3’s hard limit of 30,000 — and the former’s number doesn’t even include custom rules. 

Chrome also removed the blocking version of webRequest API and replaced it with declarativeNetRequest API in V3. Unlike V2, this gives the browser the final say on modifying requests instead of the adblock extensions, making said extensions much less effective at blocking ads and tracking requests.

Users and privacy advocates have been sounding the alarm on the potential ripple effect this will have on online privacy and security. However, one could argue that since V3 is still a work in progress, many of these issues can be worked out in the future by both Google and third-party developers (though they will exist in the current version).

What is Google’s incentive for aiding adblockers’ functionality with Manifest V3?

While I wholeheartedly believe that the developers will create workarounds for these issues, it will instead be impeded by Google every step of the way. You only have to look at how the tech giant has been escalating its tactics against adblock extensions being used on Chrome browser for YouTube.

Recently, users have reported that YouTube videos will auto-skip to the end if they have an adblock extension enabled in their browser, as well as video buffering issues and error messages that claim content isn’t available on the app. There’s even a new tactic reportedly being tested called server-side ad injection, in which websites directly integrate advertisements into video content on the server. Not only does this bypass adblock on Chrome browsers, but it even seems to work on Mozilla users with the uBlock extension. Thankfully, developers like Sponsorblock — which broke the news on SSAI in the first place — are already working on workarounds.

In other words, Google is using Manifest V3 to continue its crusade against third-party adblockers, in conjunction with all these other tactics and tools that it’s currently testing out on YouTube. If developers want to stay ahead of the curve and continue to run functioning extensions, they will have to accept the fact that Google will fight them on this tooth and nail.

For now, if users are concerned about their privacy and safety, it’s time to make the switch to Mozilla Firefox. It’s one of the few browsers that doesn’t run on Chromium and offers a host of extensions that protect your internet privacy on every level. It also recently announced that it wouldn’t be deprecating Manifest V2 support as it continues to build on previous MV3 Chrome compatibility in new updates.

In other words: do what you should have done years ago and switch to Firefox if you’re truly concerned about Chrome’s upcoming privacy troubles. It’s clear that despite what Google attempts to do with adblockers, Mozilla is committed to providing developers with the tools it needs to fight back.

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Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.