Google Chrome Will Limit Ad Blockers Starting Next Year

Google Chrome is set to recommence the transition to the new Manifest V3 extension format after facing significant criticism and delays due to its impact on extensions, particularly ad blockers.

The Google Chrome team’s endeavor to adopt the Manifest V3 extension format, underway for the past few years, encountered setbacks and prolonged criticism, mainly due to the introduction of a filtering rule limit that significantly affects extensions, notably ad blockers. Despite a pause in the rollout in December 2022, the team is now prepared to resume the transition process.

Manifest V3 was introduced on the Chrome stable channel in 2021 but did not replace Manifest V2 immediately. Both formats have been supported, but this dual support will change in the coming year. David Li, Product Manager at Google, confirmed in a blog post that the transition to Manifest V3 is set to resume.

Starting June 2024, the team will turn off Manifest V2-based extensions on pre-stable Chrome versions, including Dev, Canary, and Beta channels. Simultaneously, the automatic disabling will prevent users from installing these extensions from the Chrome Web Store. Extensions carrying a Featured badge on the store will also lose this designation.

Stable channel users will experience these changes more gradually, with the transition expected slightly later. Google anticipates observing and stabilizing changes in pre-stable versions for at least a month before expanding the rollout to stable channel Chrome. Consequently, regular Chrome users can expect these modifications as early as July 2024.

One significant change introduced with Manifest V3 is the imposition of limitations on extension capabilities, particularly impacting ad blockers. A cap on the number of filtering rules an extension can provide has been implemented; it was initially set at 5,000 but increased to 30,000 after user backlash. In contrast, the Manifest V2 format does not impose any limit on filtering rules.

Google’s rationale for these limitations is to enhance Chrome’s efficiency and reduce resource consumption while protecting user privacy from extension developers. However, these impending changes have generated discontent among ad blocker users and developers, leading some to be willing to switch to alternative browsers.

Despite the criticism, Andrey Meshkov, CTO of AdGuard, has voiced support for Manifest V3, noting, “With Manifest V3, we’ve observed the immense effort that browser teams are putting into working on a unified platform, and I see how they are listening to the feedback from extension developers.” Meshkov expressed confidence that adblockers could adapt and improve within the new framework.

Notably, Google’s efforts to limit ad blockers extend beyond Chrome, with recent actions including blocking ad blockers on YouTube and slowing down video playback for viewers using ad blockers. The evolving landscape of browser features and limitations underscores the ongoing challenges and adaptations within the online ecosystem.

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