Google's war on ad blockers is just gearing up, with YouTube doing its best to detect and block ad blockers and Chrome aiming to roll out the ad block-limiting Manifest V3 extension platform in June 2024. A new article from Engadget detailing the "arms race" over ad blocking brings up an interesting point regarding the power that YouTube and Chrome have in this battle: a dramatic update advantage over the ad blockers.
In addition to hamstringing Chrome's extension platform with no real user-centric justifications, Manifest V3 will also put roadblocks up before extension updates, which will delay an extension developer's ability to quickly respond to changes. YouTube can instantly switch up its ad delivery system, but once Manifest V3 becomes mandatory, that won't be true for extension developers. If ad blocking is a cat-and-mouse game of updates and counter-updates, then Google will force the mouse to slow down.
Chrome's "Manifest V3" makes dramatic changes to the Chrome extension platform. The current platform, Manifest V2, has been around for over ten years and works just fine, but it's also quite powerful and allows extensions to have full filtering control over the traffic your web browser sees. That's great for protecting privacy, speeding up the web, and blocking ads, but it also means you can download a browser from the world's biggest ad company and use it to block ads—and that was only going to last for so long.
Google's first attack on ad blockers is blowing up the "WebRequest API"—the primary API that ad blockers use—and replacing it with a more limited filtering API that Google has more control over. The new declarativeNetRequest API now has extensions ask Chrome to block a network request on their behalf, features arbitrary limits on the number of filtering rules, and puts limits on how effective individual rules can be.
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