what will change for you

Google is preparing to migrate its Chromium browser extensions to the Manifest V3 protocol. A change that is criticized only by organizations that do not please people and protect internet users.

Let’s not cut corners: Google’s desired transition from Manifest V2 to Manifest V3 could eventually threaten ad blockers on PCs. In the name of providing greater security enhancements for users, Google has decided to enter the final phase of the dreaded transition.

A change that is discussed and therefore can change your online habits. A brief overview of this case to fully understand what it is all about.

What is Manifesto V3?

Developers have been hearing about this popular Manifest V3 for several years. The general public was able to find out in 2021, but more so last summer, when complaints against him began to mount.

Manifest V3 is an API or application programming interface proposed by Google that aims to replace the existing V2 version in Chromium browsers. Google Chrome will also be affected, as well as Microsoft Edge, Opera or Brave. Even Firefox, which isn’t developed under Chromium, will be, but we’ll come back to that later.

According to Google, this Extension Rights Manifesto V3 brings new development restrictions for browser extensions to strengthen user security and privacy. Among the changes made by the tech giant is the replacement of Web Request with an entirely new API called Declarative Net Request. It was this change that many extension developers protested.

According to Google, the operation of Web Request is quite simple, but because of this, it introduces malicious behavior. ©Google

Web Request observes and analyzes traffic and can then quickly block, intercept or modify elements of it. Ad blockers use it extensively, and this is where their effectiveness comes from: this freedom, flexibility of use, and the ease with which ads can be identified and blocked before they appear. But again, according to Google (malicious extensions can also observe and influence traffic), these are the points that make it weak, which is why it decided to change the API to create a less permissive gateway.

Declarative Net Query therefore brings a radical change. It now forces developers to pre-define queries that tell them how to behave based on traffic. In other words, extensions will no longer be able to freely observe and modify requests at any time. “This allows extensions to modify network requests without intercepting them or seeing the content, which provides more privacy”As explained on the page dedicated to the API by Google.

Are ad blockers in danger?

It is common to come across an article on the Internet predicting the death of ad blockers in browsers with the slightest change from Google. If the giant has no qualms about removing these tools (which are hindering his work), it’s usually a storm in a teacup. But this time everything can take a different scale.

The powerful Electronic Frontier Foundation, which campaigns for an open Internet, has repeatedly taken a stand on the issue, condemning the changes made by the Mountain View firm. This new Manifesto for the association will not only harm those who publish extensions, but also directly users, as well as the efforts made over the years to protect privacy.

The article of condemnation was particularly supported by academics and developers of Internet protection extensions. The main competitor of the famous Adblock Plus, TrackMeNot, AdNauseam or even Ghostery, opposed the arrival of this new Manifesto.

Ghostery, which is featured in most major browsers, is one of the main voices against this change to the Manifesto. ©Ghostery

For its part, Adblock says it is ready to move to Manifest V3 by taking all necessary measures. As many have pointed out, the extension was closed back in 2015 due to its financial ties to Google. The Sundar Pichai-led company has been accused of conflict of interest.

Officially, as we said above, Manifest V3 is designed to provide more security and protection to the users of the extension in Chromium browsers. However, Google is one of the largest advertising networks in the world. Advertising revenues of the Alphabet group (the company’s parent company) amounted to 210 billion dollars in 2021. That’s why the company needs these funds, and ad blockers don’t help. A simple attempt to restore the deficit, then? Google denies this and even maintains that ad blockers can still work, but use different rules.

What can change for you?

If Google had planned a clear roadmap until it abandoned Manifest V2 at the end of last year, the company has finally revised its plans and decided to postpone everything to a later date after feedback from developers. As such, Manifest V2 will no longer have an expiration date of January 2024, which will cause all expansions that haven’t made the transition to be removed from the store.

manifesto roadmap v3
Google has changed the roadmap for the full implementation of Manifest V3 on its website. A reprieve for users and developers to polish their extensions. ©Google

To be honest, it is still difficult to understand the real shock that the transition to Manifest V3 will have on the general public, unless you are on the technical side of the force. Indeed, ad blockers will appear to be more limited in effectiveness, but it seems more unlikely that they will disappear entirely. And again, we are only talking about extensions in Google Chrome or Chromium browsers. However, among them, Brave or Opera integrated functions that directly embed the privacy of their users into their code. These lines will not be changed in any way.

For its part, Firefox is preparing and hopes to invest minimal capital in this business. Yes, a secure browser used by more or less 5% of users worldwide will adapt and accept Manifest V3. The reasons are simple: this will allow for easier interoperability of extensions between browsers. However, in a blog post published last year, the browser announced that the Web Request API would still be supported.

Even if the ad blockers in Google Chrome were really threatened, users would not be left without an alternative. Then comes the choice and desire to switch browsers as needed and leave your comfort zone, leaving the most used browser in the world.

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