How Google's anti-adblocking draft affects other Chromium-based browsers - gHacks Tech News

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How Google's anti-adblocking draft affects other Chromium-based browsers

Google is working on a new manifest for Chrome extensions that defines the capabilities that extensions have in Google Chrome.

The manifest is available as a draft currently which means that it is not set in stone. One of the changes impacts most adblocking extensions for Chrome significantly if it passes in its current state.

Google plans to limit an API that most content blockers use currently and replace it with a new API that is limited as well. Core limitations include a fixed limit for the number of blocking rules that extensions may support. Google set the limit to 30,000 in the draft; popular blocking lists have more than double the number of entries already, and that does not even take into account options to use multiple lists. Google knows about that but has not adjusted the limit since draft publication.

Google Chrome is based on Chromium code to a large extent. The changes that Google proposes could impact other Chromium-based web browsers such as Vivaldi, Opera, Brave, or the new Microsoft Edge browser as well.

The big question is this: will extensions be limited on these browsers as well if Manifest launches in its current state? There is no catch-all answer as it depends on a number of factors.

First of all, one has to realize that the change affects extension capabilities only. While the change might affect extensions in all browsers, it won't affect browsers that come with their own ad-blocking capabilities provided that users of these browsers use these already or switch to them when extensions lose the effectiveness.

Brave and Opera

brave browser interface

Brave and Opera include ad-blocking functionality by default; these will continue to work just like before regardless of the new Manifest file for extensions.

Third-party browser developers who use Chromium as the source can change the Manifest or code in the browser to change the limits or keep the old API supported.

The companies have not revealed their position on Manifest V3 if it lands in its current state.

Vivaldi

The good news is that whatever restrictions Google adds, at the end we can remove them. Our mission will always be to ensure that you have the choice.

Vivaldi published a blog post on June 4, 2019 in which it highlighted the company's stance on the matter. The company noted that Google's current proposal would limit ad-blocking, privacy, and security extensions significantly. It made it clear that it would try and find ways around the limitations, e.g. by restoring the old API if possible, or even implementing a limited extensions store that would give extensions the capabilities that they require to work properly just like they do right now.

Vivaldi noted that Google's implementation is not final and that Google might change it or improve the capabilities of the new API to match those of the old.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based)

Microsoft's new web browser uses Chromium as its core and as such will impact it as well. Microsoft operates its own extension store and allows the installation of Chrome extensions next to that.

Microsoft has not responded publicly to Google's Manifest V3 draft but since the company operates its own extensions store, it is in a better position already even if Google goes ahead with the plans.

Closing Words

The proposed Manifest changes impact other Chromium-based browsers. Third-party browser makers have options to reverse or mitigate the changes, e.g. through the use of internal content blocking functionality, restoring the old API or using their own extensions store with different Manifests (besides still supporting the Chrome Web Store).

It is certainly too early to come to a definitive answer. It all depends on Google and whether the company will go forward with the changes or modify them.

Ultimately, there is still Firefox which is not based on Chromium code that users may switch to.

Now You: Do you think Google will go ahead with the changes?

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How Google's anti-adblocking draft affects other Chromium-based browsers
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How Google's anti-adblocking draft affects other Chromium-based browsers
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How are Google's proposed changes to Chrome's extensions Manifest that would limit adblocking affecting other Chromium-based browsers?
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Comments

  1. John P said on June 6, 2019 at 11:28 am
    Reply

    Hey Martin, thanks for writing this. I’d like to add a few observations you might’ve not know about. Firefox’s adopted Chrome’s web extension and theoretically will be fairly easy for them to adopt manifest v3. The last check, they have not release any public statement weather they adopt Manifest v3 or not. However, a discussion by a Firefox dev alluded to the potential of adopting it and was criticized by Gorhill (ublock creator). You can read it here:
    https://old.reddit.com/r/firefox/comments/aithmh/raymond_hill_creator_of_ublock_origin_ubo_and/eerce78/

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 6, 2019 at 11:44 am
      Reply

      Thank you! I think one of the main issues today is that most browser makers are funded by ads. Mozilla relies on payments by Google and other search companies, and the largest part of Google’s income comes from its advertising part.

      I suspect that one of the main reasons why Mozilla has not implemented a full ad-blocker in the Firefox browser is that it would dry up the organizations main revenue source. Content blocking stands for many of the things that Mozilla has high up on its agenda: privacy and also security.

      Opera has an ad-blocker and I’m not sure how it affects the company’s bottom line. Brave blocks ads but makes revenue from its integrated currency system that rewards users and publishers for keeping ads that it manages visible on sites.

      Microsoft is in a good spot as well. While it makes a lot of money from advertisement, it is not nearly as dependent on the revenue stream as Google or Mozilla. It could seriously hurt Google if it would roll out Internet Explorer and Edge with content blocking enabled by default, and it would probably also start to drain users from Chrome.

      1. user17843 said on June 6, 2019 at 2:08 pm
        Reply

        > I suspect that one of the main reasons why Mozilla has not implemented a full ad-blocker in the Firefox browser is that it would dry up the organizations main revenue source.

        Indeed, but this is really short-sighted by Mozilla. They could simply whitelist all search engines. Imho this is legitimate.

        > Opera has an ad-blocker and I’m not sure how it affects the company’s bottom line.

        I don’t know if it’s still the case, but Opera used to whitelist google, etc., in their ad-blocker, to not harm their revenue.

        > Microsoft is in a good spot as well.

        They have already said to have tracking protection by default, which will reduce a couple of ads too.

        It doesn’t look like they will block ads at the moment, but it would be a good move from a business perspective, but I doubt they will want to block their own ads in Bing, which makes this a problem.

        Mozilla has a big problem with the funding. You see the contradiction. They want to be the browser for the user, but they still haven’t enabled tracking protection for everyone, even though it massively increases performance, so it’s a no-brainer.

        But I wonder if their problem is simply psychological, or if they had contracts which google which explicitly forbids blocking of google services until 2019.

        I would think with the premium amount of money Google paid to Mozilla their lawyers would have included a couple of premium-contracts as well, and Google certainly new the dangers from the possibility of tracking-blockg in in Firefox.

        It’s simple. If Tracking-protection reduces the amount of Data Google gets, it also reduces their revenue, which in turn reduces the Mozilla revenue.

    2. Jim said on June 6, 2019 at 3:18 pm
      Reply

      A good comment by the UBO author. For anyone whose been on this earth for more than 20 years, we know what the real objectiv is here: to take away user freedom to decide how the computer works and put it in the hands of the (frequently malicious) entity on the other end of the connection, aka the website the user is visiting.

      *that* is why they are limiting effective content filters, instead of limiting overly intrusive and bloated websites. It already happened with Javascript. Many websites use JS to annoy you. So the natural solution was to disable it. And so, the browsers made that much more difficult and obscure to do. And now we have a 50% rise in websites that can’t function at all without Javascript, and annoying embedded in-page pop up windows on literally every mainstream website in existence. By opting out of JS, you are opting out of the annoying anti-features that websites use, so they’ve crafted a world where (if you don’t have Javascript), then you can’t use the site, period.

  2. Allen said on June 6, 2019 at 11:37 am
    Reply

    Dear Google, welcome to your DoJ antitrust investigation.

    1. Robert Ab said on June 7, 2019 at 1:18 am
      Reply

      Nothing will happen to Google. Like to Facebook.

      I would rather expect European Commission to fine Google AGAIN.

  3. Anonymous said on June 6, 2019 at 2:12 pm
    Reply

    “Google is working”…

    Why always depersonalize what is devastating as an abstract entity like “Google” and at the contrary always name the leaders by their names when it’s something good? Who is evil, Google or its owners?

  4. user17843 said on June 6, 2019 at 3:13 pm
    Reply

    I think there is a high likelyhood of v3 being adopted by Firefox, and becoming the de facto standard on the web.

    One reason is that Mozilla has already signaled acceptance of v3., and they basically have no other choice, as everything else would be a lot of work.

    The only question is whether we will see backwards compatibility.

    The big problem with this is that, just like with Firefox abandoning the old extension system, only few developers will be willing to develop for a system that basically no one uses.

    So what is needed is some kind of alliance (Brave, Opera, Edge, Firefox, Vivaldi, etc.) of openly and publicly supporting the current state of extensions.

    1. Anonymous said on June 7, 2019 at 6:38 am
      Reply

      No one uses Firefox? What a weird thing to say. All of the plugins I need are readily available on this “unused” system.

    2. Anonymous said on June 8, 2019 at 5:25 am
      Reply

      I don’t see why Firefox would have to choose.
      They can implement the new API while retaining the capabilities of the old. They also don’t have to adopt this limit for the number of rules. And they operate their own extension store, so extension authors can easily provide a working version for Firefox.

  5. Adcrap said on June 6, 2019 at 3:43 pm
    Reply

    I am simply baffled that these silly advertisements are bringing in so much revenue. Who the heck is clicking on all this nonsense and why ? Personally I would rather pay a fee and have an ad and tracking free web.

    1. Z66 said on June 6, 2019 at 10:08 pm
      Reply

      Many sites have the option to pay in order to remove ads on them. Why don’t you pay them and visit these sites? You didn’t pay them because you are waiting for a magical fairytale of removing ads in thousands of sites for 1 buck?

    2. AnorKnee Merce said on June 7, 2019 at 10:12 am
      Reply

      @ Adcrap

      All profitable companies have a fixed budget for ads, eg about 5% of annual profits. This money on ads has to be spent whether the ads are effective or not. From whom should these companies buy or place their ads.? = eg from tech companies who have a dominant online presence = they become the major ad brokers, eg Google(Search/Maps/Chrome/etc) and Facebook(WhatsApp/Instagram).

  6. Benjamin said on June 6, 2019 at 4:17 pm
    Reply

    …it is a grave danger to rely on any open source license since almost all of them are privately owned. Programming languages as well as everything that is built on them… It is just that the original inventors made this available as a so called open source license it does not say free as in gratis. So this open source things is fundamentaly a purely private and legaly protected license whose conditions can be changed at any time by the license owner and this will not be a democratic process either. Only because it comes as one of the open source derivatives it does not mean that this must be forever… so many open source projects are on legally shaky ground… there is as of today absolutely no democracy in modern technology no matter how nice and warm and social looking its flavour might be. For corporations it is a compromise between aspects trying to look open and free but not more…

    1. John Fenderson said on June 6, 2019 at 5:40 pm
      Reply

      @Benjamin: “So this open source things is fundamentaly a purely private and legaly protected license whose conditions can be changed at any time by the license owner”

      That’s not entirely true. How true it is depends on which OSS license is being used. With all of them, once software has been released under an OSS license, the terms of the license can’t be changed retroactively. With most of them, they can’t be changed in the future (companies wishing to do so have to either reimplement the software, or add a closed-source layer on top of the open-source code — the OSS code remains open, but the closed source portion is not). With some, the license can be changed for future releases without reimplementation.

      The bigger question is: if a company decides to violate the terms of the license they used, will there be anybody able and willing to sue them over it? If not, then it doesn’t matter what the license says.

    2. ULBoom said on June 7, 2019 at 3:09 am
      Reply

      Ran into this, interesting list of all the built in Chromium features Brave disables:

      https://github.com/brave/brave-browser/wiki/Deviations-from-Chromium-(features-we-disable-or-remove)

      This is from woolyss Chromium, start reading in the gray region below the downloads, Notes:

      https://chromium.woolyss.com/

      I still use v67. Starting in v68 webRTC became impossible to disable. Woolyss authors a chromium version while recommending FF for much better privacy capabilities with their chromium as a reasonable alternative. At least Brave disables webRTC debug log uploading.

      As Brave mentions, some of their privacy comes from proxies; there’s only so much that can be done with Chromium and Google owns it, so they can take it wherever they want.

      Maybe the Brave/Ungoogled Chromium meld will result in a sweet browser.

      1. Benjamin said on June 7, 2019 at 10:09 am
        Reply

        Thank you for the links. Especially the woolyss page is an interesting read.

        Some weeks ago i looked into the brave browser site and tried to find out about how they finance them selfs and all those many folks who already work there.
        My understanding is, that they are trying to build their own sphere based on advertising and paying content producers by the brave users.

        Google is looked out loud and clear but brave is still in there and collects user data… brave users can then even micro pay the content creators… google out, brave in is as i understand it. Open source might be free but it is not gratis.

        Other interesting example is the .php programing language or wordpress which each have a single owner of the license. The US government can and will forbid any exports of this code base shall the need arise… see the pgp case many years ago.

  7. Bobby Phoenix said on June 6, 2019 at 4:36 pm
    Reply

    The simple solution is to use an ad blocker at a system level, and not a browser level. AdGuard does just that. Use that, and you don’t even need an ad blocker extension.

    https://adguard.com/en/welcome.html

    Enjoy a 100% ad free web.

    1. Anonymous said on June 6, 2019 at 5:50 pm
      Reply

      Adguard doesn’t implement a lot of anti-adblock and adblock wall technology that uBO does because they’re afraid of possible legal ramifications (because they take money and their premium product is a paid service).

      Once Firefox adopts v3 (they will) then uBO will have to be a system-level program or it’ll just die out.

    2. ghs said on June 6, 2019 at 5:53 pm
      Reply

      Ten (fifteen?) years ago, system-wide HOSTS -based blocking or use of a blocking proxy would stand as a “simple” solution. Nowadays, those really don’t (cannot) provide a workable solution. We now have to contend with dynamic DNS (roundrobin load balancing) and site assets served via CDN, and self-aware “this page failed to load properly” webpages, and SPI (subresource integrity checking), and SSL/https certs (stymies the use of a MITM local proxy)…

    3. Tom Hawack said on June 6, 2019 at 6:46 pm
      Reply

      @Bobby Phoenix, indeed if adblocker extensions are bound to be limited in their power the alternative is blocking with an application. Adguard is at this time the best in its category but not sure its scope is that of an ‘uBlock Origin’, in particular regarding 3rd-party sites.

      The first system-wide adblocker I’ve used was the famous ‘Ad Muncher’ application. An external application is THE solution. I’d love to discover one day a ‘uBlock Origin – The application’, system-wide, independent of browsers’ adblocking policies. Maybe one day?

      In Mozilla’s perspective, even hypothetically, we have userChrome.css and UserContent.css targeted, and now the idea of adblockers being limited should Google’s Manifest V spread as a disease is evoked. In other words and IMO the future is all in controlling browsers from the outside.

  8. Amonynoose said on June 6, 2019 at 5:39 pm
    Reply

    Bad practices won’t win anyway. If your website has annoying popups or stuff that can’t be blocked, people will stop using it. So someone will either find a way to circumvent the API removal or people will stop using websites with abusive practices. You can only get so annoying before enough is enough. My ideal scenario would be an integrated solution that allows fair ads but blocks the bullshit and you don’t even have to bother setting it up, but of course different users, different cases.

    1. Z66 said on June 6, 2019 at 10:11 pm
      Reply

      I don’t see abusive popup and malware style ads in the sites I visit the last 2-3 years. Are you visiting pirate and porn sites???

    2. Anonymous said on June 7, 2019 at 3:42 am
      Reply

      Who decides the “fair ads”? Who decides what is “bullshit”? Control is gone as soon as that “who” isn’t “user”.

      Power is the ability to impose one’s agenda onto others; market share gives clout. This Manifest v3 is the exercise of said ability to impose adverts (the agenda to force ads, trackers, etc.) onto unwilling users, for profiting off said data, ads, etc. (the agenda’s purpose).

      Chrome has market share, and thus this can happen with minimal repercussion, whether users like it or not, got it?

      1. Amonynoose said on June 10, 2019 at 4:11 pm
        Reply

        @Z66 You don’t need to visit fringe sites to get crap thrown at you. Lot’s of news/aggregator sites have popups and overlays, amongst others, hell youtube has annoying shit these days with those blue overlays. Nevermind I never see most of it because I use uBO.

        @A Exactly, so it either has to be regulated or an integrated solution, obviously implying that you can configure that solution, it just defaults to that setting. I think Brave does something like this, i just haven’t touched it in a long time, didn’t look very finished to me, and getting it to work on nix now is a bit of a pain.

  9. 11r20 said on June 6, 2019 at 7:43 pm
    Reply

    So, as long as we’re using a “Gecko” search engine we’ll still be able to use uBlock/Gorhill products to further undermine the global and financial tyranny of
    Sundar Pichai’s “Goolag” who illegally sold western technology to the PRC and is also pushing the Chicom-social-score-model through out the west…As well as violating Anti Trust laws?

    Let’s keep pressure on Mozilla not to ever bend over to these goolag~globalists

  10. WAYNE said on June 6, 2019 at 10:33 pm
    Reply

    I AM KEEPING MY ADD BLOCKER
    ITS MY COMPUTER I PAY FOR BEING ON LINE
    MY DECISION TO ALLOW OR NOT ALLOW INTRUSIONS

    1. WAYNEEEE said on June 7, 2019 at 8:24 pm
      Reply

      IT’S YOUR COMPUTER, NOT YOUR SITES. THE SITES BELONG TO THE OWNERS OF THEM. YOUR INTERNET ACCESS BILL IS NOT PAYING THE BILLS OF THE OWNERS OF THE SITES FREELOADER.

      1. REEEEEEEEEEEEE said on June 10, 2019 at 4:13 pm
        Reply

        LOUD NOISES!

  11. Armitage said on June 7, 2019 at 2:41 am
    Reply

    The Brave devs have said they will remove this code if it makes it way into Chromium…

    https://www.reddit.com/r/brave_browser/comments/buhq20/chrome_to_limit_full_ad_blocking_extensions_to/

  12. ULBoom said on June 7, 2019 at 3:23 am
    Reply

    Blockers can be installed in the OS as standalones.
    Same as standalone VPN’s vs. browser based VPN’s ( a spectacularly bad idea.)
    In some conference room, googlers are screaming about how neutering ad blockers won’t do much, must be done, won’t do much, must be done…
    Meanwhile google announced the breakthrough feature of speedometers on google maps. Don’t vehicles have speedometers? Anything to get your attention. Maybe I should start wearing two watches?

    1. TWO TIME said on June 10, 2019 at 4:16 pm
      Reply

      Only if the watch comes with dual camera.

  13. John C. said on June 7, 2019 at 12:33 pm
    Reply

    I’ve modified William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2 to: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the advertisers.” I detest advertising in all its forms. If the advertising community were legally able to kick in your front door, enter your house and scream advertising in your face, do you really believe they wouldn’t do it?

    What they’re doing currently for the most part is the “shotgun effect”, where most commercials and ads you see are for products and services in which you haven’t the slightest interest.

    1. Andy said on June 8, 2019 at 12:38 am
      Reply

      If advertisements die then FTA television will die. FTA radios will die.
      Only people who can afford it will be able to watch TV.
      YouTube and all video streaming sites will ask for subscription and many people who can’t afford to pay won’t have access. YouFlix that costs 10$ a month….
      Websites will go balistic and block adblockers. In real world nothing is free. You pay somehow.
      I don’t like advertisements, but it’s very selfish wanting them to die because this way you are excluding so many people especially in 3rd world countries to enjoy various services, because the only way they can pay is with advertisements.

  14. John IL said on June 8, 2019 at 12:30 pm
    Reply

    Ad blocking seems rather short sighted because the end user is the only one who benefits. Web sites lose revenue, they make lose so much they can’t survive or decide to become a paywall for access. Smaller sites suffer the most, and I don’t see the ad blocking users offering up other solutions to the revenue loss. I seriously doubt they would pay or even donate to keep access to those sites. Google made a statement years back where they believed the web needs ads to remain a free access information entity. Google certainly has a vested interest in ads but they also make a point that unless we find a alternative to ad revenue we shouldn’t be trying to eliminate it.

    1. Johnny said on June 9, 2019 at 8:06 am
      Reply

      The user has the right to control what get’s in their computer and ad-blockers do a wonderful job of just doing that.

      With the rise of ads in the internet, there was also a big rise of trash websites (with no meaningful content or stolen content from other websites) which only purpose of existence is to serve ads, many times even malware infected ads, to generate profit for it’s owners.
      So ad-blockers were always to be welcomed!

      Furthermore, ad-blockers usually have a very easy way of deactivating for a specific website with just a click of a button.

      So yes, in a world wide web where advertising and malvertising were completely out of control, ad-blockers were very welcomed and are now absolutely necessary.

  15. Jeff-66 said on June 8, 2019 at 2:37 pm
    Reply

    So I switch browsers. *shrug*.

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