Google’s highly controversial decision to, as many see it, boost its advertising business by limiting the ability of users of its Chrome browser to block ads and trackers, is presenting others with an unexpected opportunity to differentiate themselves.
This is especially true of those browsers built on top of Google’s own open-source Chromium project. Three such browsers: Opera, Brave, and Vivaldi have all confirmed they would not follow Google’s example and severely restrict the functionality of ad-blockers and other extensions.
ZDNet is reporting that the scope of Manifest V3 – Google’s overhaul of its add-on system – will negatively affect not only extensions blocking ads and under-the-hood tracking but also a host of other services aimed at improving the privacy of Chrome users, as well as anti-virus and parental control functions.
The planned Manifest V3 changes were met with strong criticism after they were announced last October. Google then seemingly reversed the decision in February. But the article spells it out bluntly: “The promise to keep the old extension technology intact was just a lie.”
Then came another announcement: paying, i.e., enterprise customers, will have adblockers and other extensions work as before. The message from the tech giant is clear: users of its supposedly free products will enjoy their full functionality only if they pay – one way or another.
And so, starting in January 2020, Chrome users will “rediscover” the internet the way it was before they turned to adblockers: less safe, slow, visually busy, privacy-undermining – simply worse.
The founder of Brave, Brendan Eich explained how Brave was going to resurface elements of chromium that Google is going to be hiding in Chrome, in order to keep ad blockers working as they should for Brave users:
As the article implies, it won't be gone, just hidden from non-enterprise Chrome extensions. The C++ is all there, so we can re-surface, and will.
— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) May 29, 2019
If that’s too much to take, there will be the three Chromium-based browsers, taking advantage of the technology, without making serious compromises at their users’ expense.
More good news is that the makers of Firefox, Mozilla – although not without their share of problematic solutions and practices – do not plan to neuter their own extensions system in a way similar to Google, and will continue allowing the likes of uBlock Origin to run like their creators intended, and their users expect.
Then there’s Microsoft – the new version of whose Edge browser will also be Chromium-based. For now, their stance on the Manifest V3 issue is unknown.