Chrome 101 ships with controversial advertising system trials

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 26, 2022
Google Chrome

Google plans to release a new stable version of the company's Chrome web browser later today. Chrome 101 is released four weeks after the last version of Chrome was released, which was Chrome 100.

chrome 102 release topics advertising

The new release is not particularly interesting in regards to new features that Google introduces in it. The Chrome Status page lists just a few, and the majority of the features listed on the page are of interest to developers only.

Controversial trials for advertising APIs begin

Two features that may be of interest to many Chrome users are not listed on the page. It is possible that these are not listed because they are run as trials in the browser. So-called Origin Trials introduce features in Chrome to a subset of users, often to give developers access to these features to implement and test services.

The two features, Topics API and First "Locally-Executed Decision over Groups" Experiment (FLEDGE), are run as Origin Trials in Chrome 101 to 104 on the desktop.

To better understand what these do, it is necessary to look back at the development of Google's privacy sandbox initiative and intention to retire third-party cookies on the Internet. Google's main source of revenue comes from advertising, and the retiring of third-party cookies poses a threat to its core business. Google is now in a position to find something equally lucrative and at the same time less invasive in regards to the privacy of users on the Internet.

Google's first attempt to establish a replacement was called FLoC. Announced several years ago, FLoC, or Federated Learning of Cohorts, moved the tracking from individual users to groups of users. Many companies and organizations, including Brave, DuckDuckGo and Vivaldi, criticized FLoC and announced that they would block it in their browsers and products.

Criticism centered around several core objections:

  • With FLoC in place, sites would be informed about a user's group interests, even if the site has never been visited by the particular user.
  • FLoC adds another data bit to fingerprinting. Since a FLoC is made up of a few thousand users, it is a small group and as such ideal for fingerprinting.
  • Google is in control of sensitive topics, which are not included in interests that are revealed to sites and advertisers.

Google dropped FLoC in early 2022 and announced that it would use Topics instead for its future cookie-less advertising system. Topics runs locally in the web browser. The API uses algorithms to determine topics of interest based on the user's browsing history. The interests are stored locally in the browser for three weeks. When a user visits a site, three of the interests are revealed to the site in question and its advertising partners.

FLEDGE, First "Locally-Executed Decision over Groups" Experiment, is the second advertising technique that Google trials in Chrome versions 101 to 104. The technique moves "the interest data and the final ad decision" to the local browser. Google hopes that the technique addresses core privacy concerns while giving advertisers enough data to display advertisement that is potentially of interest to users.

Topics and FLEDGE are not without criticism either. Both do not address the issue with the selection of sensitive topics. A Microsoft Edge developer published a short script in mid-2021 that could be used for cross-site tracking with FLEDGE.

Chrome 101 will launch later today.

Now You: What is your take on these new techniques?

Chrome 101 ships with controversial advertising system trials
Article Name
Chrome 101 ships with controversial advertising system trials
Google plans to run two advertising API trials in Chrome 101 to Chrome 104. Here is what this means for users of the browser.
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. JohnIL said on May 20, 2022 at 8:21 pm

    I think many almost seem addicted to Chrome and would rather complain about it but still use it. It’s hardly news that Google makes much of its revenue from monetizing user data for ads and analytics. Doesn’t seem to deter many from using Chrome even when there are plenty of good browsers to choose from? Sort of like people complain about Windows and yet their threats to move to Linux seem rather unfounded in terms of Linux desktops meager market share. For the record, I have not used Chrome in years and don’t miss it one bit.

  2. NeonRobot said on April 27, 2022 at 11:16 am

    Thet need to pull out “new” versions with two line changes more frequently. just imagine chrome 1584.

  3. Iron Maiden said on April 27, 2022 at 7:52 am

    inbefore @Iron Heart shows up in the comments to defend this new atrocity feature.
    He will try to talk us through how Brave will disable this feature to “protect” their users from Google all while they introduce 3 new crypto features baked into their so called “privacy-focused” browser and again all while suing any Brave fork that tries to remove their skeptical crypto features :D

    1. Iron Heart said on April 27, 2022 at 8:20 am

      @Trollish Maiden

      > 3 new crypto features

      That have nothing to do with user privacy. :D Brave is partly about a privacy-friendly ad delivery system that nobody actually has to use since it’s opt-in. Nice attempt at trolling regardless.

      > defend this new atrocity feature
      > He will try to talk us through how Brave will disable this feature to “protect” their users from Google

      But if I say that Brve will disable this anti-feature to protect users, I am not exactly defending the anti-feature, right? Logic doesn’t seem to be your forte. And yes, they will most certainly disable or remove it since it doesn’t belong into a browser.

      > suing any Brave fork that tries to remove their skeptical crypto features

      Are you referring to the incident with “Braver”. Dear liar, as you well know, the people behind “Braver” were not threatened with legal action because they removed the crypto aspect of the browser, they were threatened with legal action because they were in clear violation of Brave’s brand. “Braver” is too close of a name for the product. If I opened up a shop country-wide and called it “Walmarter”, I am pretty sure the lawyers of Walmart would write to me too, you absolute troll.

      > inbefore @Iron Heart shows up

      Too slow, you didn’t even manage to do that.

      1. Anonymous said on April 27, 2022 at 3:06 pm

        best reply ever .. i come here for IronHeart and his fans.

  4. soup nazi said on April 27, 2022 at 2:39 am

    @John G:

    “Edge would win in privacy control.”

    How would you know? Have you inspected the code yourself? Subjected it to an audit? You can’t, it’s proprietary. So your comment is bullshit.

    No soup for you. Next!

  5. computer said no said on April 26, 2022 at 10:25 pm

    Looks like the shepherd google is finally bringing in the floc.

  6. pHROZEN gHOST said on April 26, 2022 at 8:36 pm

    Google should have bought Twitter

    1. Trey said on April 26, 2022 at 11:17 pm


  7. Henk said on April 26, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    If you just Google (pun intended) for contextual vs. personalized advertizing effectivity, obviously you will find that there’s been a lot of research into this.

    Also you may see that based on such research, over the last few years, more and more marketing researchers are now beginning to conclude that personalized ads (ads adjusted to perceived individual or subgroup target user preferences) are not really more effective than good old contextual ads (ads adjusted to the actual content any user is downloading at the same time).

    There are even indications that in fact, contextual advertising may be more effective: for several reasons, such as triggering less “unease” with the targeted users.

    Some publishers have already acted on this. For example, in 2020 the Dutch public radio-tv streaming service NPO stopped using third party cookies and switched back to contextual advertising. They’ve reported that since making the switch, they’ve seen just a steady growth of their monthly ads revenue.

    So, maybe Google is fighting some kind of rearguard action here. Maybe, just maybe, there still is a tiny little ray of hope in all this madness that surrounds us online today.

    1. Yash said on April 26, 2022 at 7:29 pm

      I haven’t researched on this topic yet, never will, but from my personal experience personalized ads are cancer. Products are limited and often users get trapped in a bubble with limited products.

      Advertising was created for the sole purpose of introducing users to new products which user may buy. With personalized ads it doesn’t matter if you visit a grocery site or tech site or a car shop, products are not as diverse as they should be, which should be personalized ads’ forte. Then there is small matter of authenticity of ads. Overall I prefer non-personalized ads and I find online ads useless. Never in my life have I ever clicked on a personalized ads to buy a product coz more often than not, products are crap and are repeated many times.

      1. owl said on April 27, 2022 at 1:36 am


        You’ve hit the nail on the head enough with your insight!
        You’re right!

      2. Yash said on April 27, 2022 at 2:32 pm

        Well I have long nails. I use them to hit all types of heads…..wait what!

      3. owl said on April 27, 2022 at 11:57 pm

        > hit the nail on the head
        …..wait what!

        It’s an idiomatic expression in the American language.
        In other words, you “hit the mark” or “spot on”!

      4. Yash said on April 28, 2022 at 6:53 am

        I know what it means, I just took it a different way towards d***head. Includes head lol.

  8. chesscanoe said on April 26, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    The situation seems to be a continuation of the “tail wags the dog” where non tech savvy lawyers try to drive tech companies to protect user interests. Guess who is going to stay ahead of this situation?

  9. nuts said on April 26, 2022 at 4:31 pm

    Firefox works fine with third party cookies blocked in settings.

    Third party cookies are optional unnecessary spyware.

  10. John G. said on April 26, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    I wonder when Google will start to release a browser to just only browse. Not to be a merchandising tool and a cookie collector with privacy at the bottom. Sincerely, this is nuts. I actually dislike Edge Chromium for a couple of things but if both browsers are compared, probably Edge would win in privacy control. Thanks for the article! :]

    1. Anonymous said on April 27, 2022 at 2:11 am

      Why don’t you like Edge? They are almost identical, I don’t understand. Chrome loads quite slow in my pc so I just use Edge.

      It’s just a matter on who you want to send your data, Microsoft or Google?

      1. John G. said on April 27, 2022 at 4:47 pm

        > “Why don’t you like Edge? They are almost identical, I don’t understand.”

        In fact I have Edge Chromium installed and it was my preferred choice to browse for official sites in order to use my electronic ID (i.e. burocracy purposes). My dislike started when I lost an important fligh ticket because at the time of paying, Edge crashed. It was the only flight plane and the only ticket available that day. Basically I dislike Chrome for that bad experience but nothing more. Edge is better than Chrome in some other ways (I use the speaking function to hear the pages, newspapers and so forth, and also to hear the PDFs). Probably I will turn back to Edge near soon as Chrome is eating my RAM and my CPU version over version. The more version numbering the more RAM is wasted.

      2. Iron Heart said on April 27, 2022 at 8:01 am


        > It’s just a matter on who you want to send your data, Microsoft or Google?

        Nope. You do know that Chrome and Edge are not the only Chromium-based browsers, right? There are also Brave, Bromite, Ungoogled Chromium, Vivaldi etc., all of which do not engage in collection of personally identifiable information about their users.

        You may find reading this article helpful:

        Remember people, if you have a choice, never use Chrome, Edge, and Opera…

      3. computer said no said on April 27, 2022 at 10:49 am

        @iron heart.
        That is not entirely true my good man.If you use vivaldi or brave or indeed any other clone then you are still communicating with google via the installation of extensions which can only come from the chrome store and also safe browsing etc so we cannot really hide from google.

      4. Mystique said on April 28, 2022 at 1:34 pm

        @computer said no

        I’d imagine Ungoogled Chromium would be the best one to go with if that is your concern. If I remember correctly you can’t really install extensions on ungoogled chromium through the traditional way and besides that aren’t there some extensions (the good ones at least) that can be downloaded and installed from github.
        I get your point though. If I use android as an example each app is jam packed with “analytics” and such, be they google analytics or otherwise and often many at once on top of that a myriad of other elements that are not needed but also work to monetize and likely spy on users to provide various metrics and harvest data but I digress that’s discussion for another day but you guys get the point and I also understand the validity of peoples concerns here.

        It would be nice if we had more options for desktop users even if they are chromium based. A desktop browser such as Bromite or Bold Browser (formerly Braver) might be something people might be tempted to install if they are not comfortable with any other available option such as Brave, Vivaldi, Opera, Edge etc.

      5. Moogle said on May 22, 2022 at 3:07 pm

        installing extensions on chromium ungoogled isn’t that hard. there is a github addon where u can then browse to the chrome extension store and add them. and from the plugin u can easily update them.

        so using ungoogled, u can still continue to use the chrome extensions, no big deal.

      6. steve99 said on April 27, 2022 at 2:12 pm

        Untrue my good fellow, we CAN protect most of our personal, private data from all digital thieves such as google. And you CAN install extensions without the chrome store. To do so, place your Extension Manager in Developer Mode to load any extension from anywhere. I have google blocked on my PC so never use google resources but yet use extensions. As for safe browsing, that is easily disabled either by a browser setting or by a simple hosts file entry. For safebrowsing in the Brave browser, Brave is privacy respecting and does not direct connect to google but instead, uses Brave is an excellent browser btw, I used to cringe at brave fanbois posting here until I recently tried brave myself. Brave is now the only browser I use; it is fast, more private, and beautiful.

      7. Anonymous said on April 27, 2022 at 2:00 pm

        >That is not entirely true my good man.If you use vivaldi or brave or indeed any other clone then you are still communicating with google via the installation of extensions which can only come from the chrome store

        Microsoft and Opera have their own stores, you can also manually install extensions

        >and also safe browsing etc so we cannot really hide from google.

        Safe Browsing is used by many browsers, including Firefox. The feature itself is not privacy invasive thanks to hashing. You can even proxy the requests (local database and in case of a match) to your own servers, which Brave does

    2. Mystique said on April 26, 2022 at 4:07 pm

      Well then you would be waiting a long time. Google’s entire empire is built upon users data and monetizing it. If there is a way for google to make money off of your backs then they will take it every time. There are entire suggestions and plans we don’t ever get to see which get rejected for various reasons or sometimes they are just shelved until the timing is right. Google will often wait until they have eroded just enough for such plans and features that will not come across as completely egregious and invasive based on current events.
      Often at times when Google does something and it appears to be completely innocent it is part of some larger plan just as they did to establish themselves in the browser market.

    3. ThrowAwayUrTV said on April 26, 2022 at 4:02 pm

      They still kinda do, but also don’t have to anymore.

      When Chrome first appeared in 2008, it was bare-bones and very fast, it only needed extensions like ad-block and it completely beat Firefox to a pulp. And later when Chrome became #1, Google started adding subtle stuff like what we have here. There are a number of Chromium forks that you can use if you don’t like what Google is doing with Chrome.

      1. Anonymous said on April 26, 2022 at 9:56 pm

        Chromium-based browsers still beat Firefox to a pulp for general browsing even today, it’s a lot snappier on a lot of websites. But Firefox does video rendering better in my case (especially in full screen mode) and has much better ad-blocking capabilities, so I still use it but Manifest v3 has me a bit worried. If ad-blocking ends up being gimped in Firefox as well then there’ll really be no need to ever use it over Chrome.

      2. Iron Heart said on April 27, 2022 at 7:57 am


        > Manifest v3

        …will exclusively be the problem of browsers that rely on third party extensions for their adblocking. Browsers with native adblocking not reliant on extension APIs, like Brave and Bromite, won’t be affected.

        If you use Chrome or Edge, that’s kinda your problem. Switch to a browser that respects the user more, or don’t complain.

        Oh and if you think Manifest V3 won’t come to Firefox like the Mozilla fanboys tout here (while actually knowing nothing about Mozilla’s plans…), I wouldn’t be so sure about that. The point of Mozilla using Chromium’s WebExtension APIs in their browser is to make cross-browser extension development easier. If they go down a route different from Google, the original point of introducing WebExtensions back in 2017 would be moot.

      3. Mystique said on April 27, 2022 at 3:41 pm


        I pretty much agree. Mozilla does not have the backbone or clout to stand up to google anymore. The only reason they went with WebExtensions was not to benefit the user but rather to suckle on the teet of Google to appease them and their financial deal. Google was the big evil that came in and spread its tentacles slowly and meticulously through strategic methods of which allowed them to ingratiate and ensconce themselves firmly as the de-facto standard of the internet whilst taking a collective dump on W3C web standards which now stands as nothing more than a relic… a monument of failure. Their opinions mean nothing and they too capitulate to Google.
        The Webextensions system was created purely as another way for Google to take over the browser world and stamp their proprietary label upon another aspect and control what users can and cannot do of which Manifest V3 is another fine example of.

        I don’t know anything about Mozilla’s plans directly but I do know they are weak and are doing whatever they can to clutch onto Google to remain relevant and financially secure even though they are now trying other methods of monetization outside of google but it will do little to help them as they are now under the thumb of google since the web is now written to benefit google directly.
        Another key and strategic point was for Google to buy Youtube as it is a very large part of the internet today which can be found virtually everywhere. I would be shocked and have to call BS on anyone that claims they have not and never have visited Youtube or go to any website which has some sort of embedded Youtube on it for whatever reason.
        Youtube leans heavily towards favoring google browsers in some ways however there are many reasons why visiting youtube on firefox better but that is for people that tinker with their browser and know what they are doing, for now most can be achieved whilst still using chromium based browsers (for now) but its not something that is easy or supported officially on the disaster that is the webstore.
        The entire webextension system is to absolutely no benefit to the end user. It’s weak, half baked and gimped at best. Google has made no attempt to improve it over the years and/or make it any more powerful than it is, Mozilla on the other hand chose to lie or were delusional enough to claim it would be made better, more powerful or on par with the then current system at the time which absolutely has not happened at all! which infuriates myself and probably a good deal more people that did have, may have and do use firefox fruthermore it also pushed out developers of both the browser itself, the community and the legions of extension developers that not only developed extensions but as a result also helped to find and fix bugs for Mozilla at the very least report them.

        P.S. Web extensions were moot and completely unnecessary from the very start but I digress.

        I disagree with the sentiment that Chrome being somewhat vastly better than Firefox when it first came out, in fact it was multiple factors behind but their marketing and methods of foistware was vastly better which appealed to mass boneheaded audience that would call you on your days off to fix their computer after they have clearly done the wrong thing. It also appealed to the bamboozled audience that still believed in the Google credo of “Don’t be Evil” and looked to them as the lord and savior to propel them through the so called dark ages of the internet through their shiny new toy.
        It appealed to the clowns that were still using internet explorer for whatever reason and finally it appealed to users that were then using android phones and figured themselves as some sort of net savvy genius because they could finally browser the interwebs on their fancy handheld doodad and it appealed to familiarity a market of which was founded by surprise surprise one Google.

        The only reason why Chromium beats firefox is because there are no web standards only a foundation of which is designed and implemented by google with Chrome in mind.

        Mozilla were incredibly stupid and squandered their lead then continued to slap its user base and developers in the face further pushing them towards Chrome. Some day there will be some sort of documentary on the true stupidity that led Mozilla to failure whilst also covering the underhanded and tyrannical behavior from Google but for now lets just all suckle on the teet that is Google and pretend everything is okay.

        Brave wouldn’t have even existed if it were not for Mozilla’s arrogance and stupidity, at the very least not in the way it does today. I’m sure a lot of people remember when Brave was based on Firefox at the start too.

      4. John G. said on April 27, 2022 at 4:51 pm

        @Mystique thanks for the some interesting thinking by your side. “Brave wouldn’t have even existed if it were not for Mozilla’s arrogance and stupidity, at the very least not in the way it does today.” Certainly I agree full 100% percent of each these words.

      5. based said on April 27, 2022 at 1:25 pm

        chromium based browsers can keep the old parts of web ext code all they like, just as Brave promises to do exactly as Firefox has said – but it’s going to a bit shit for those chromium users when the chrome web store removes all non-manifest 2 extensions. Mozilla won’t have this problem.

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