The latest update to Google Chrome extensions may spell the end of ad-blockers as we know them.

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The search engine giant is losing billions of dollars in revenue.

Google has revealed that its Chrome browser extensions that use the Manifest V2 framework will no longer work as of January 2023, potentially affecting ad-blockers or simply ceasing to function.

Developers will be unable to submit new Manifest V2 extensions to the Chrome Web Store after January 17, 2022, but they will be able to update existing extensions. After a year, in January 2023, the browser will no longer support Manifest V2 extensions, and update support will be discontinued.

Manifest V3 was developed to address concerns surrounding security and performance for its predecessor — V2 could be exploited to create malware and obtain sensitive data.

“Years in the making, Manifest V3 is more secure, performant, and privacy-preserving than its predecessor,” said David Li, product manager for Chrome extensions and the Chrome Web Store. “It is an evolution of the extension platform that takes into consideration both the changing web landscape and the future of browser extensions.”

Once Manifest V2 extensions are indefinitely blocked in Chrome, developers will naturally need to update their extensions to function under Manifest V3. But it’s not that straightforward for ad-blockers, at least in the case of Raymond Hill, developer of the hugely popular uBlock Origin.

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He said the changes in the Manifest V3 proposal would effectively break the extension, which also operates as a content blocker.

As The Register noted, Adblock Plus and other plugins that deliver an ad-free experience for users will still be able to function to an extent, but modifications may make it become a shadow of its former self; the changes in V3 limit the abilities for extension developers.

With full functionality at stake for plugin makers, Firefox creator Mozilla said it’ll mostly adopt Manifest V3, but it won’t replace the blocking webRequest API uBlock relies on with Google’s alternative, declarativeNetRequest (DNR).

The revision of the Chrome browser extension framework, which was first introduced in 2019, is being stressed by Google as solely an update to patch security issues. “In fact, this change is meant to give developers a way to create safer and more performant ad blockers,” the search giant said. But others are not so sure this is the only motivation behind Manifest V3.

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“Our criticism still stands,” Alexei Miagkov, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Register. “The reasons they have stated publicly [for this transition] don’t fully make sense.”

Google loses billions in revenue from users blocking ads.It even reportedly pays the world’s most popular ad-blocker, Adblock Plus, to whitelist them via its ‘Acceptable Ads’ policy, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if Google’s rumoured plan to phase out support for ad-blocking technology has an ulterior motive. It has already cost publishers approximately $27 billion, and this figure will only rise as users increasingly use ad-blocking on their smartphones, as well as desktops and laptops.

In addition to a changing ad-blocker landscape, Google Chrome recently updated with a contentious Idle Detection API that detects user inactivity.


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