Brave confirms it will support Manifest V2 extensions like uBlock Origin even after Chrome drops them
Last week, we reported that Vivaldi's ad blocker will continue working even after Manifest V3. And now Brave has done the same to reassure its users that it too will support ad blocking after the dreaded update, and Manifest V2 extensions like uBlock Origin.
Brave's ad blocker will support Manifest V3
Brave Software tweeted a message to educate people that Manifest V3 will break ad blockers, and that its own browser will not be affected by the change. A few months ago, Brave's CEO and co-founder, Brendan Eich explained that the limitations caused by Manifest V3 affects extensions directly by restricting their capabilities, but that browsers can still access the required API. This is what Brave browser will rely on to ensure its built-in content blocker continues to function.
It will change once the extended support for Enterprise is over, when Google removes said code from the Chromium project, and all browsers that rely on it will have to follow suit. Vivaldi’s developers had said that their browser would use the underlying Manifest V2 code to ensure that the built-in ad blocker continues working until Chromium removes the code. Brave on the other hand has a different approach, as it has implemented a custom ad blocker written in Rust, and hence is not limited by the same restrictions.
Brave browser and Manifest V2 extensions
There's more to this bit of news. Here's what the tweet from the company says.
"Brave will support Manifest V2 extensions such as uBlock Origin even after Chrome stops doing so."
Vivaldi had assured users its ad blocker would continue to function beyond Manifest V3, but Brave browser wants to go one step further by saying it will support third party Manifest V2 extensions. Brave's ad blocker is quite good, and in some ways better than Vivaldi's implementation, especially when it comes to the ease of adding custom filters. But uBlock Origin with its element picker, custom filters filter lists, etc., is far more powerful than a built-in content blocker with limited features. So while this could be incredible news for users and developers, I'm not sure how Brave's plans to support Manifest V2 extensions could work out in reality.
A Reddit user points out that Eich had questioned whether Google will kick Manifest V2 extensions from the Chrome Web Store, and when asked about how Brave's long term support for Manifest V2 code paths could work, he had replied that "we could fork them back in at higher maintenance cost".
He had also mentioned that Brave was open to curating some add-ons like uBlock Origin and uMatrix for a start, this seems to suggest that the browser may not support "all Manifest V2 extensions"as the tweet seems to suggest, but only a select few. That's not exactly impressive. I can only imagine that Brave could accomplish this is by either bundling the add-ons as an optional feature that users can toggle, or by hosting a web store for extensions on its website. Eich's words about hosting and curating add-ons suggest that it could be the latter.
Wouldn't it be better to open a proper extension store, similar to Opera's add-ons site? Brave launched its own search engine and partners with cryptocurrency wallets, so one might assume that the company has the resources to host its own web store for extensions. That would require some effort and willingness from add-on developers, who would have to upload and update their Manifest V2 extensions to the store. Brave would need to review the extensions in order to prevent malicious plugins from sneaking in. A curated list of specific add-ons would be easier, and financially viable, to implement.
An extension store would still only be a temporary solution. Once Chrome drops Manifest V2 completely, both Brave and Vivaldi will need to find a different way to support older extensions, or see their users switch over to Firefox.
But there's some good news, Google will drop support for Manifest V2 in 2024, as opposed to its previous plans to discontinue it in 2023. This will provide browser makers and developers of ad blockers with some much-needed time to work on their projects, to find a way to continue protecting users from the harmful changes of Manifest V3.