Google says the changes will improve performance and security. Ad block developers and consumer advocates say Google is simply protecting its ad dominance.
Google has found itself under fire for plans to limit the effectiveness of popular ad blocking extensions in Chrome. While Google says the changes are necessary to protect the “user experience” and improve extension security, developers and consumer advocates say the company’s real motive is money and control.
As it stands, the Chrome web store currently offers users a wide variety of ad blocking extensions that can help curtail the volume and nosiness of online advertising. From Adblock to Ghostery, such extensions make it harder for ad networks to build a detailed profile of your online activities or serve you behavioral ads based on your daily browsing habits.
Last year, Google began hinting at some changes to Chrome’s extension system as part of its Manifest V3 proposal. Under these changes, Google said it would be modifying permissions and other key aspects of Chrome’s extensions system. The extension development community didn’t respond well, and said the changes would harm many popular user tools.
Currently, many Chrome adblock extensions use Chrome’s webRequest API, letting users block ads before they even reach the browser. But Google’s proposal would require extensions use the declarativeNetRequest API, which leaves it to the browser to decide what gets blocked based on a list of predetermined rules. While some extensions, like AdBlock, already use the latter, developers say the overall result will be tools that simply don’t work quite as well overall.
In the wake of ongoing backlash to the proposal, Chrome software security engineer Chris Palmer took to Twitter this week to claim the move was intended to help improve the end-user browsing experience, and paid enterprise users would be exempt from the changes.