Google has started testing the long-awaited – and long-dreaded – changes to its extension system APIs, that is set to severely limit the functionality of adblocking software installed by Chrome users.
The new version of the APIs, known as Manifest V3, is now available in Chrome Canary, the earliest alpha build of the browser used by developers. Eventually, these changes will make their way to the official, stable channel, and affect all users of the world’s dominant browser.
There’s been a new announcement made by Google’s Simeon Vincent, who posted on the Chromium Extensions Google group.
“Think of it as an early alpha. The “dev preview” is the first opportunity for extensions developers to start experimenting with a work-in-progress version of the MV3 platform.
We’re far from finished with the implementation work on the MV3 platform, so first and foremost expect changes.
As for what’s changing, the four big-ticket items in MV3 are:
- Host permissions changes
- Blocking webRequest -> declarativeNetRequest
- Background page -> service workers
- Remotely hosted code restrictions”
The declarativeNetRequest API has already been available for experimentation in Chrome Canary and we’re continuing to iterate on it’s capabilities
Google’s explanation for the changes is that it aims to provide increased security – but critics see it as a means to cripple extensions that allow users to block unwanted ads and trackers – whose presence and functionality, in turn, is the bread and butter of the giant’s entire business model.
In technical terms, Manifest V3 will replace the current API, called “blocking webRequest” – that allows add-ons to intercept, block, and modify all incoming and outgoing traffic – with something far less powerful. The new API is known as “declarativeNetRequest” that severely limits the usefulness of blocking extensions by limiting the number of rules they can apply.
In addition, webRequest can still be used – but only to monitor traffic, without the capability to change it before it’s displayed in the browser – something that ad blockers do.
And although Google has come up with a guide to help developers migrate to the news system, many of those providing adblockers have given up on publishing their extensions for Chrome. According to previous announcements, one of them is the creator of uBlock Origin, a popular and resource-friendly open source blocker.
According to reports, Google will launch Manifest V3 for all users at some point in 2020. Currently, Chrome holds about two-thirds of the browser market, so it’s no wonder that most people forget there are other options out there. But viable alternatives do exists, and those determined to continue using adblockers for a safer and saner web experience should waste no time starting to look for a new browser.