Google is working on the Chrome extension manifest version 3 at the moment which defines the capabilities of Chrome's extensions platform.
The updated manifest is available as a draft currently that anyone may access. Draft means that it is not set in stone yet and that things may change. Google will release the updated version of the manifest eventually though and make it mandatory after a transitional period.
Interested users and extension developers may follow the tracking bug, issue 896897, on the Chromium Bugs website.
Raymond Hill, known as Gorhill online, the author of the popular content blockers uBlock Origin and uMatrix, voiced his concern over some of the planned changes; these changes, if implemented as proposed currently, remove functionality that the extensions use for content blocking.
Google plans to remove blocking options from the webRequest API and asks developers to use declarativeNetRequest instead. One of the main issues with the suggested change is that it made to support AdBlock Plus compatible filters only and would limit filters to 30k.
Hill mentioned on Google's bug tracking site that the change would end his extensions uBlock Origin and uMatrix for Google Chrome. While it would be possible to switch to the new functionality, it is too limiting and would cripple existing functionality of the content blocking extensions.
If this (quite limited) declarativeNetRequest API ends up being the only way content blockers can accomplish their duty, this essentially means that two content blockers I have maintained for years, uBlock Origin ("uBO") and uMatrix, can no longer exist.
The new API would limit content blockers for Chrome-based browsers and eliminate options to create new and unique content blocking extensions. All that would be left are AdBlock Plus like filtering extensions that would all offer the same blocking functionality.
While there would still be adblockers for Chrome, the limit of 30,000 network filters would make even those less capable than before. EasyList, a very popular blocking list, has 42,000 filters and if users add other lists used for other purposes, e.g. social blocking, that number would increase even more.
You can follow the discussion on uBlock Origin's GitHub page as well.
Could this have been Google's plan all along? Create a web browser and use it to combat the use of content blockers? Block some annoying ads, allow basic content blockers, and block any other form of content blocking to make sure that Google's advertising business improves again?
Some users would certainly move to Firefox if uBlock Origin, uMatrix, and other content blockers would no longer work in Chrome-based browsers. Even if millions would migrate, it would still leave Chrome dominate the entire desktop browser market.
It will also be interesting to see how Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, and other Chromium-based browser developers react to the change, if it passes the way it is proposed right now.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.