Google’s Chrome is the most popular way to browse the web on desktop and mobile, thanks to a combination of features that make it a reliable, albeit sometimes resource-intensive, app. However, Google’s recent moves are going to ruin the Chrome experience for many users, and we nearly missed them.
Google a few months ago announced a proposal to change the way Chrome extensions work, which would prevent current ad blockers from working. Google received plenty of negative feedback from users, but this hasn’t deterred the company from going forward with these plans.
Google a few days ago responded to some of the criticism (via 9to5Google) regarding its Manifest V3 changes, explaining what will change going forward. The company confirmed that the ad blocking capabilities of Chrome would no longer be available to regular Chrome users. Chrome will still block content if you’re a paid, enterprise user of Chrome.
A Google’s spokesperson told 9to5Google that “Chrome supports the use and development of ad blockers,” adding that Google is “actively working with the developer community to get feedback and iterate on the design of a privacy-preserving content filtering system that limits the amount of sensitive browser data shared with third parties.”
However, as the blog points out, the Chrome changes will make it impossible for most Chrome ad blockers to work in the near future. Google’s moves aren’t surprising, considering that it makes money from advertising. Alphabet noted in a recent SEC Form 10-K filing that ad blocking extensions are a “risk factor” to revenue:
New and existing technologies could affect our ability to customize ads and/or could block ads online, which would harm our business.
Technologies have been developed to make customizable ads more difficult or to block the display of ads altogether, and some providers of online services have integrated technologies that could potentially impair the core functionality of third-party digital advertising. Most of our Google revenues are derived from fees paid to us in connection with the display of ads online. As a result, such technologies and tools could adversely affect our operating results.
What’s also interesting is that Google made it clear during I/O 2019 that it wants to offer better privacy and security to users, something that seemed to go against its bottom line. Google tried to redefine privacy to suit it needs around that time. The fact that it’s trying to protect the customizable ads that it sells to businesses is also an indication that Google won’t give up collecting user data anytime soon.
In Google’s defense, we’ll remind you the company is looking to improve the advertising experience on the web, and prevent the kind of annoying ads that you’d use ad blockers to stop from appearing in the first place.
Also, in the same response, Google said that future versions of Chrome will make it easier for end-users to deal with permissions that extensions require and force developers to inform end-users of what data their extensions will access. The move is meant to protect privacy and prevent abuse, which is certainly laudable. However, that doesn’t minimize the fact that Google plans to temporarily or permanently disable third-party ad blockers.