Google has shared more details about the upcoming extension specification for the Chrome browser, called the Manifest V3. According to a blog post on Tuesday, the tech giant will replace the existing Manifest V2 with V3 in June 2024. This means any extension that is still reliant on the older standard will be remotely deactivated after the deadline.
The Manifest V3 extension format first came on the Chrome stable channel in 2021. However, it faced a lot of criticism from developers and privacy advocates, which led to a delay in its implementation.
Developers were especially concerned about Google’s plan to introduce a filtering rule that would limit the capabilities of Chrome extension APIs, especially ad blockers, citing security concerns. However, this impacted the effectiveness of ad-blockers across all Chromium browsers, including Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox.
Google Introduces New Chrome Manifest That Will Limit Ad-Blockers From 2024
This was one of the main reasons why Chrome had to pause the rollout of Manifest V3 in December 2022. Even though the team at Google has been offering support for both V2 and V3 on Chrome, that is all set to change from next year.
Google Product Manager David Li said in the blog post that the team will start by disabling all Manifest V2-based extensions on pre-stable versions of Chrome from June onwards, including Dev, Canary, and Beta channels. Chrome 127, which is expected to be the browser version during that time, will prevent users from installing V2 extensions from the Chrome Web Store. Likewise, extensions that received a “Featured” badge from Google will lose the distinction.
As for users of the stable channels, the change will be effective a month later. The Chrome team has said that it will take at least 30 days to observe and stabilize the changes in the pre-stable channel before rolling out to the stable channel version of the browser. This means stable Chrome users will get Manifest V3 in July 2024.
On Tuesday, Google announced that it is moving ahead with the transition from Manifest V2 to V3 but with some notable changes.
One update that stood out from the rest was the “improved content filtering support” for the Declarative Net Request API, mainly used by ad-blocking extensions on Chrome. Google added a limit to the number of filtering rules an extension can offer. In the beginning, the number was capped at 5,000 filtering rules but was increased to 30,000 after facing backlash from developers and privacy advocates.
For comparison, the Manifest V2 did not impose any limits on filtering rules for Chrome extensions.
Google says the reason for implementing such limitations is to ensure that Chrome is lighter on power consumption. Adding that the move will protect users’ privacy from extension developers.
AdGuard, a collaborator of Google that has refined Manifest V3’s tracking and ad-blocking functionalities, expressed support for the extension standard. The company’s chief technical officer Andrey Meshkov said the changes “should allow” ad blockers to offer nearly the same quality of filtering that they “demonstrated” with Manifest V2.
Privacy Groups Raise Concerns Over User Privacy On Google Products
However, not everyone in the tech community seemed convinced with the improvements. Digital privacy nonprofit group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) pointed out that Manifest V3 could stifle innovation for extensions. The EFF warned that if extensions cannot evolve, users will lose out to trackers and advertisers. The group has urged Google to continually update the API to keep pace with the “ever-evolving landscape of advertisers and trackers.”
Google’s latest Chrome manifest update coincides with its pushdown on ad-blockers of all shapes and forms. Recently, the tech giant took a more aggressive stance against users employing ad-blocking extensions on its video-sharing platform, YouTube. The platform denied users access to videos with ad-blockers turned on, forcing them to subscribe to YouTube Premium for an add-less viewing experience.
As a result, Google is facing privacy lawsuits in the European Union, where critics argue that the measures taken by YouTube raise concerns about user privacy and freedom of choice.
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