Google still on track to limit ad-blockers in Chrome

Google is still on track to limit the effectiveness of ad-blocker extensions in the company’s Chrome web browser by making changes to APIs available to Chrome extensions.

The company revealed plans to publish a new manifest for extensions, called Extension Manifest V3, that defines the core functionality of browser extensions for the Chrome browser.

One of the planned changes impacts content blockers. Without going into details: Google plans to remove an API that is used by content blockers currently to filter content on the Internet. There will be a replacement for the current API that content blockers may use instead to continue blocking web content but it will limit the number of filters that content blockers may load at any given time.

Google plans to limit the number of rules that an extension can specify to 30,000 entries, and the number of dynamic rules to 5000 entries. EasyList alone, a list of blocking filters used by many content blockers, has over 75,000 rules currently. The change will impact the effectiveness of ad-blockers on Chrome unless extension developers find a way to compress the list, find ways around the limit, or bring it down to the 30,000 mark using other ways.

Google has stated in the past that the values are not set in stone and that it may raise the values before the new Manifest lands. Chrome engineers added support for dynamic rules recently and Google has stated that webRequest API blocking capabilities will remain available to Enterprise customers but not for non-Enterprise customers.

Closing Words

ublock chrome

Manifest V3 is available as a draft and it is possible that Google is going to increase the values of the filtering options to values that match what content blocking extensions require.

Google’s argument that the limiting happens because of performance impacts of filter lists that are too large seems like a pretextual argument to limit content blockers on the platform.

Raymond Hill, the developer of the content blocking extensions uBlock Origin and uMatrix, suggests that Google is now in a position to limit the effectiveness of content blocking extensions on Chrome. The company is well aware of the fact that content blocking is hurting its revenue; the rise of Chrome put Google in a position to do something about it. Chrome is the dominating browser on today’s Internet both on the desktop and on mobile.

It is clear that Google cannot just block content blockers entirely as it would lead to a mass exodus of users to other platforms. Instead, it puts out another argument for the change that makes it seem as if content blockers cause performance issues because of the sheer number of filters that they use.

Limiting the effectiveness of content blockers makes them less desirable for Chrome users. While some may migrate to other browsers, others might not mind that some ads are displayed.

Firefox is probably the prime candidate for Chrome users as it supports extensions on the desktop and on mobile. All major content blocking extensions are available for Firefox as well. Other potential options include the Chromium-based browsers Brave and Opera which both block ads by default, Microsoft’s upcoming Chromium-based Edge version, and any other browser that does not impose these limits.

The built-in adblocker that Google launched in Chrome in 2018 blocks only advertisement on sites that use display techniques that violate certain desktop and mobile experiences.

Now You: Would you switch to another browser if Google does not change its plans? (via 9to5 Google)

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