There is a growing gap in how much space browsers should leave for ad blocking – and Chrome and Firefox have ended up on opposite sides of the battle.
The interruption is about a feature called Web Request, which is commonly used in ad blockers and is crucial for any system that wants to block a domain at the wholesale level. Google has long had security concerns regarding Web Request and has been working to remove it from the latest add-on standard. called Manifesto V3, or MV3 for short. But, in a blog post recentlymade Mozilla clear that Firefox will retain support for Web Request, keeping the door open for the most sophisticated forms of ad blocking.
Google’s strategy has been heavily criticized by privacy advocates – the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been a loud opponent – but the search company has not been affected. Although Firefox has a much smaller share of the desktop market than Chrome, it could be a chance for Mozilla’s product to truly define itself. For Google, however, sticking to MV3 will have a huge impact on the overall role of ad blocking on the modern web.
Understanding Manifesto V3
The changes in Manifest V3 are part of a planned review of the Chrome browser extension manifest file specification, which defines permissions, capabilities, and system resources that any extension can use.
Under the currently active specification – Manifest V2 – browser extensions can use one API function called Web Request to observe traffic between the browser and a website and to modify or block requests to certain domains. The example Google provides for developers shows an additional script that would block the browser from sending traffic to “evil.com”:
The Web Request function is powerful and flexible, and it can be used for both good and bad purposes. Ad blocking extensions use the feature to block incoming and outgoing traffic between certain domains and a user’s browser. In particular, it blocks the domains that will load ads and stop information from being sent from the browser to any of the thousands of tracking domains which collects data about Internet users. But the same function can be used with intent cut users’ login information or insert additional ads on web pageswhich has been Google’s motivation to change how it works in Manifest V3.
According to the new specification, the blocking version of the Web Request API has been removed and replaced with an API called Declarative Net Request. Instead of monitoring all data in a network request, the new API forces additional manufacturers to specify rules in advance on how certain types of traffic should be handled, with the extension that can perform a narrower set of actions when a rule is triggered. For some add-ons, this will apparently not be a problem: Adblock Plus, one of the most popular ad blockers, has come out in favor of the MV3 changes – although it’s worth noting that the add-on has a financial relationship with Google. Others, however, may be hit harder.
Google has presented the changes as a benefit to privacy, security and performance, but critics see it as a calculated attempt to limit the effect of ad blocking on a company that is almost entirely funded by ads. (I dess SEC reportsGoogle consistently cites “new and existing technology blocking online ads” as a risk factor that could affect revenue.)
But the creators of some ad-blocking and privacy-enhancing add-ons have said the change will undermine the effectiveness of their products. Jean-Paul Schmetz, CEO of the privacy-focused browser extension Ghostery, aimed in particular at Google’s introduction of the MV3 standard in light of the company’s latest privacy statements:
“While Google is pushing a ‘privacy by design’ message on the surface, it still claims a monopoly over the entire ecosystem by stifling digital privacy companies that are already working to give users back control over their data,” says Schmetz. The border via e-mail.
The Ghostery add-on is an excellent example of a product that would be severely affected by Google’s changes. In addition to blocking ad content, the add-on analyzes the communication between a website and a user’s browser to look for data that may inadvertently identify a unique website visitor and replaces it with generic data before network traffic leaves the browser. Doing this requires the ability to change web traffic on the fly and as such will do so severely curtailed by MV3 restrictionssay the developers.
Adblock developers are also worried as the effects of these changes will reach far beyond the Chrome browser. The MV3 specification is part of Chromium project, an open source browser created by Google that forms the basis of not only Chrome but also Microsoft Edge, the privacy-focused, bold Opera browser, and many others. Because Chromium supports these projects, browsers that depend on it will eventually need to do so as well. migrate to the MV3 add-on formatand extensions for these browsers will then no longer be able to block ads with web request.
Mozilla pushes back
As the primary developer of Chromium, Google exercises tremendous power over what browser extensions can and cannot do. This distinguishes non-Chromium-based browsers – especially Firefox and Safari – because they have a chance to take a different approach to add-on design and can now differentiate themselves with a more permissive ad-blocking strategy.
For compatibility reasons, Mozilla will still use most of them of the Manifest V3 specification in Firefox so that extensions can be downloaded from Chrome with minimal changes. But, crucially, Firefox will continue to support blocking through Web Request after Google phases it out, allowing the most sophisticated anti-tracking ad blockers to function as usual.
By justifying the decision, Mozilla has been clear in recognizing that privacy is a core value for people who use its products, as Security Chief Marshall Erwin said. The border.
“We know content blocking is important for Firefox users and we want to make sure they have access to the best available privacy tools,” said Erwin. “In Firefox, we block tracking by default but still allow ads to load in the browser. If users want to take the additional step of blocking ads completely, we think it’s important to enable them to do so.”
Regarding Google’s claims about the security benefits of its MV3 changes, Erwin said that immediate security gains by preventing the blocking of web requests were “not obvious” – especially since other non-blocking features of the web request had been retained – and did not appear to make significant reductions in the probability of data leakage.
Regardless, Google seems to be keeping pace. Despite a flurry of criticism from ad blocker developers, Google spokesman Scott Westover said The border that the company supported blocking and only intended to limit the type of data that certain add-ons could collect.
“We’re excited to see Mozilla support Manifesto V3, which is meant to make extensions safer for everyone,” Westover said. “Chrome supports and will continue to support ad blockers. We’re changing the way network request blocking works as we make fundamental changes to how extensions work to improve the security and integrity of our add-on platform.”
Google has heard positive feedback about the changes from many content blocking developer, Westover said, pointing out The border to the praise of the creators of Adblock Plus.
It is possible that Firefox’s setting for ad blocking will encourage more users to switch to the browser, which is currently expected to compensate less than 8 percent of the desktop browser market compared to Chrome’s 67 percent. When Manifest V2 support expires in June 2023, changes in functionality will become more apparent to users of all Chromium-based browsers. Until then, Mozilla will patiently claim integrity, although you will sometimes need to look deep into a specialist blog.
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