Despite sharing a common Chromium codebase, browser makers like Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi don’t have plans on crippling support for ad blocker extensions in their products — as Google is currently planning on doing within Chrome.
The three browsers makers have confirmed to ZDNet, or in public comments, of not intending to support a change to the extensions system that Google plans to add to Chromium, the open-source browser project on which Chrome, Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi are all based on.
The Manifest V3 scandal
Google announced plans to modify the Chromium extension system last October when the browser maker said it would develop a new set of standards — collectively known as Manifest V3 — that will modify how extensions work on top of the Chromium codebase.
It took extension developers a few months to understand how intrusive the Manifest V3 modifications were, but they did eventually realize that Google was planning to replace one of the main technology through which extensions interacted with website requests, in favor of one that was far inferior.
Initially, it was thought that extensions which provided ad-blocking services would be the ones impacted the most, but it was later also discovered that extensions for antivirus products, parental control enforcement, and various privacy-enhancing services were also affected.
Users protested against Google’s decision, and the company came under heavy criticism from the public — with many users accusing it of trying to sabotage ad-blocking extensions that were cutting into Google’s advertising business profits.
Google backtracked on the change a month later, in mid-February, but it appears that the promise to keep the old extension technology intact was just a lie.
At the end of May, Google made a new announcement in which it said that the old technology that ad blockers were relying on would only be available for Chrome enterprise users, but not for regular users.
This time, Chrome developers seem intent on plowing through with their decision, with the Manifest V3 changes being scheduled to go live in January 2020, when ad blocker extensions would see their ability to block ads greatly diminished.
The move has angered Chrome users beyond belief, with many vowing to switch browsers, and many setting their eyes on Firefox, whose developers have been working to transform and rebrand the former fan-favorite into a privacy-first product.
But Google’s planned Manifest V3 changes are being added to the Chromium base, meaning they’ll also likely impact other Chromium-based browsers as well.
In an email to ZDNet on Friday, Brendan Eich, CEO of Brave Software, said the Brave browser plans to support the old extension technology that Google is currently deprecating.
“To respond on the declarativeWebRequest change (restricting webRequest in full behind an enterprise policy screen), we will continue to support webRequest for all extensions in Brave,” Eich told ZDNet.
In addition, Brave itself supports a built-in ad blocker, that users can utilize as an alternative to any extension.
Furthermore, Eich told ZDNet that Brave would continue to support uBlock Origin and uMatrix, the two extensions developed by Raymond Hill, the Chrome extension developer who’s been highlighting Google’s plans to sabotage Chrome ad blockers for the past months.
ZDNet also received a similar statement from Opera, another browser vendor which uses the Chromium codebase.
“We might also consider keeping the referenced APIs working, even if Chrome doesn’t, but again, this is not really an issue for the more than 300 million people who have chosen Opera,” an Opera spokesperson told us.
This is because, just like Brave, Opera also ships with a built-in ad blocker.
“All the Opera browsers, both on mobile and PC, come with an ad blocker that users can choose to enable,” the spokesperson said. “This means that Opera users aren’t really exposed to these changes – unlike users of most other browsers.”
Further, this ad blocker is very configurable because it also allows users to import custom domain lists, so users can block any advertising domain they want, giving them full control of what types of ads they can see, or not.
Vivaldi, another pretty popular Chromium-based browser, published a blog post on Monday affirming its support for giving users a choice — even if the company has not yet decided how it will proceed.
“How we tackle the API change depends on how Google implements the restriction,” said Petter Nilsen, Senior Developer at Vivaldi.
“Once the change is introduced to Chromium, believe me when I say that there are many, many possible scenarios. Restoring the API could be one of them. We’ve restored functionality before,” Nilsen said.
“If the API is removed altogether and no decent alternative is implemented, we might look into creating a limited extensions store.
“The good news is that whatever restrictions Google adds, at the end we can remove them. Our mission will always be to ensure that you have the choice,” Nilsen added.
The only major browser maker who did not respond to our request for comment on this issue was Microsoft.
The company announced last year it was ditching its proprietary EdgeHTML browser engine for a Chromium port of Edge, which is currently in public testing.
Microsoft’s plans in regards to Google’s Manifest V3 changes are currently unknown.
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