Google Stays Execution Of Adblockers
Written by Ian Elliot   
Monday, 03 October 2022

Google has revised the timetable for phasing out Manifest V2  as Chrome extensions transition to Manifest V3. Now V2 extensions have a new deadline of January 2024 for holders of an Enterprise policy.  

Manifest V3, Google's solution to issues of web security and privacy, has been dubbed the "adblocker killer". Work on its new and revised APIs started some years ago and has faced many issues - technical and political. Both extension developers and end users have expressed opposition to the phasing out of Manifest V2 and now Google has a revised timetable for ending its support which, it claims, gives everybody more time to adopt V3.  

manifestV2timeline

According to David Li, who announced the more gradual and experimental approach to what is going to be a major upheaval

"This change will give Chrome users increased safety and peace of mind while browsing and installing extensions by providing more transparency and control over permissions, adding stricter protocols for accessing resources outside the extension’s context, and ensuring that extensions work well on all devices." 

He provided the following details of how Manifest V2 support is being phased out:

  • Starting in January in Chrome 112, Chrome may run experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in Canary, Dev, and Beta channels.
  • Starting in June in Chrome 115, Chrome may run experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in all channels, including stable channel.

The stay of execution, i.e. the extension of support for Manifest V2, is for enterprises and is restricted to those who have the ExtensionManifestV2Availability enterprise policy.

Li also provided milestones for how the Chrome Web Store is transitioning to Manifest V3:

  • In January 2023, use of Manifest V3 will become a prerequisite for the Featured badge as we raise the security bar for extensions we highlight in the store.
  • In June 2023, the Chrome Web Store will no longer allow Manifest V2 items to be published with visibility set to Public. All existing Manifest V2 items with visibility set to Public at that time will have their visibility changed to Unlisted.
  • In January 2024, following the expiration of the Manifest V2 enterprise policy, the Chrome Web Store will remove all remaining Manifest V2 items from the store.

The key change in Manifest V3 is limiting the use of the webRequest API, which until now allowed extensions to interact with each and every request to download a file or resource.This essentially allowed an extension to monitor, analyze and block web traffic. In particular, it allows adblockers to detect when a web page tries to download an ad and block it. The replacement API is declarativeNetRequest which requires a list of URLs that need attention - hence "declarative". The actual work in implementing the list is done internally by the browser, making it faster and more secure. The only problem is that the number of URLs and the nature of the URLs is limited and this effectively defeats ad blocking using a Chromium-based browser, see Google Changes API Making Chrome Adblocking Harder and Google To Limit Ad-blockers In Manifest V3 for more details.

Mozilla has pledged to continue to support Manifest V2 in Firefox. The Vivaldi browser recently made the same commitment and, since Google announced the revised timetable, Brave has tweeted that Manifest V3 will not prevent Brave from blocking ads as it has ad blocking built in. Will Chrome, and Microsoft Edge which is based on the same engine, will see a long-term decline in traffic? We'll have to wait until 2024 to find out.

manifestsq

 

More Information

More details on the transition to Manifest V3

Manifest V2 support timeline

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Last Updated ( Monday, 03 October 2022 )