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Is Google’s Manifest V3 the end of ad blockers?

Google is preparing to change from Manifest V2 to Manifest V3, a move that could significantly impact your Chrome browser extensions. Many are now wondering if their ad-blocking extensions could end up being compromised by this evolution in the Chromium browser infrastructure. Will you still be able to use an ad-blocking extension with Manifest V3?

Is Google’s Manifest V3 the end of ad blockers?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

What is Manifest V3?

Manifest V3 is an application programming interface (API) that Google will use in its popular browser, Chrome. Already introduced in Chrome 88 and later versions, Manifest V3 will become the new standard by June 2024, replacing its precursor, Manifest V2.

These Manifest APIs are the systems that govern how Chrome extensions interact with your browser. Like its predecessor, V3 will dictate what actions extensions can take, what changes they make to your settings, and where they store code and data.

Manifest V2 already performs many of these actions, but V3 is notable because it changes the rules for extensions in several significant ways, which, developers worry, may result in poorer performance from certain extensions, including ad-restricting services. However, in its November 2023 update, Google responded to developers’ concerns and promised to make future improvements and maintain open lines of communication as these improvements roll out.

The new ad blocking extension rules will also affect Firefox users, as Firefox extensions will eventually be required to work with Google’s API, too. And, of course, other Chromium-based browsers will be impacted. Google Chrome alternatives like the Brave browser, Vivaldi, and Microsoft Edge will all be affected. If it runs on Chromium, V3 is coming for it.

Manifest V3 transition timeline

  • November 2018: Google announced the proposal for Manifest V3.
  • December 2022: Google announced a delay in transitioning to Manifest V3 to address developer feedback.
  • November 2023: The Chrome team announced the resumption of the transition to Manifest V3, with June 2024 set as the deadline for the full transition to Manifest V3.
  • Lead-up to June 2024: Google encourages developers to complete migration to Manifest V3 before June 2024.
  • June 2024: Chrome will start turning off Manifest V2 extensions in pre-stable versions of Chrome (Dev, Canary, and Beta), continuing with Chrome 127 and later versions. Users will no longer be able to install Manifest V2 extensions from the Chrome Web Store.
  • June 2025: By June 2025, enterprises using the ExtensionManifestV2Availability policy will face a deadline to migrate their Manifest V2 extensions.

What happens after the transition to Manifest V3?

According to Google, its next-gen API will bring in new rules for extensions to make users safer and improve the overall browser experience. Many browser extensions rely on code in the cloud.

An extension you download is often just a bridge between your browser and remotely stored code that changes how your browser operates. That means it can be challenging to assess whether an extension is risky since most of the important code in an extension isn’t stored in the downloadable files.

Enter Manifest V3. This new API will require that extensions contain all the code they will run, giving Google the power to scan them and detect potential risks. It also forces an extension to request permission from Google for the changes it can implement on your browser.

In short, V3 gives Google more power to screen or even block extensions and their functionalities. But it’s all for the benefit of the user, right? Well, not necessarily.

Manifest V3’s impact on ad blockers

First, what is ad blocking? Ad blockers are extensions and applications that stop online ads from loading on the pages you visit. Millions of people use an ad blocker extension to limit or entirely hide annoying ads. This makes their user interface more appealing, but it also protects them from the dangers of malvertising.

Here’s how Chrome’s new API is going to affect your ad blocking software. Most blockers blocklist whole categories of HTTP requests rather than targeting specific URLs. This system is referred to as the webRequest API. It’s an essential part of the process for blocking ads. V3 forces extension developers to use a different system — referred to as the declarativeNetRequest API — in which extensions must create a blocklist of predetermined addresses to block.

Why is that a problem? Because Manifest V3 only allows extensions to run 30,000 rules, and most ad block extensions need the capacity to run at least 300,000 rules to work effectively. In this context, a “rule” would be a mechanism that blocks a specific HTTP address. This is a problem because it makes ad blocking less effective and gives Google more power to limit the function of extensions, which, let’s face it, probably doesn’t want its users to run anyway.

Nevertheless, although ad blockers might not work exactly as they used to, they’re still set to filter out ads nearly as effectively as before. The main challenge with the new rules isn’t the ability to block ads. It’s about how ad blockers can all use the same set of rules together.

Will NordVPN be affected by Manifest V3?

Unlike other privacy tools, NordVPN’s mobile and desktop applications will not be affected by the rollout of the new Google Chrome API. More importantly, our ad blocker, which is available through NordVPN’s Threat Protection Pro function, will still work.

Whether you’re using Threat Protection on mobile or the full Threat Protection Pro desktop security suite, you’ll still be able to avoid ads, as well as enjoying the extra privacy of NordVPN’s tracker blocker. NordVPN’s ad blocker doesn’t rely on your browser or specific Manifest versions. The same cannot be said for many other ad prevention services.

Manifest V3 ad blockers are coming, but they may not work as well as before, and only extensions with V3-compatibility will still work after June 2024. Multiple ad-blocking extensions will cease to function once Manifest V2 stops being supported

If you want to enhance your security on Chromium-based web browsers, we recommend getting NordVPN so you can benefit from Threat Protection Pro. Limit the risk of being infected by malware, block ads, and prevent online tracking, all with a few button taps.

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