Google’s 3 billion Chrome users now have a reason to switch to Firefox, because the privacy-focused browser has just confirmed some big news. The announcement concerns ad blockers, and the Google Chrome changes dubbed Manifest V3, which may cause some ad blockers to break.
It’s been several years in the making, but many Chrome users have been concerned about their privacy-focused ad blocking add-ons not working in Manifest V3.
While Firefox has always been a viable alternative to Chrome, uncertainty over whether Firefox would also include the changes has stopped many Google users from seeking an alternative. That could now change, because Firefox has publicly announced its approach to Manifest V3 means that ad blockers will continue to work in its own browser.
Support for the WebRequest API
In a blog, Firefox owner Mozilla said it will maintain support for the blocking version of the WebRequest API in Manifest V3, which will keep more privacy-focused ad blocking extensions available for its users. It wrote:
“One of the most controversial changes of Chrome’s MV3 approach is the removal of blocking WebRequest, which provides a level of power and flexibility that is critical to enabling advanced privacy and content blocking features. Unfortunately, that power has also been used to harm users in a variety of ways Chrome’s solution in MV3 was to define a more narrowly scoped API (declarativeNetRequest) as a replacement. However, this will limit the capabilities of certain types of privacy extensions without adequate replacement.
“Mozilla will maintain support for blocking WebRequest in MV3. To maximize compatibility with other browsers, we will also ship support for declarativeNetRequest. We will continue to work with content blockers and other key consumers of this API to identify current and future alternatives where appropriate. Content blocking is one of the most important use cases for extensions, and we are committed to ensuring that Firefox users have access to the best privacy tools available.”
Critics of Chrome’s Manifest V3
Google says the Manifest V3 changes—including its revamp of the permissions system via the removal of the blocking version of WebRequest—will increase security and privacy while also boosting performance. But some Chrome critics have noted that the Manifest V3 changes rather suit Google’s browser, since the tech giant’s business model is based around advertising.
So much so that privacy advocates the EFF called Chrome’s Manifest V3 “deceitful and threatening.”
Manifest V3 “is another example of the inherent conflict of interest that comes from Google controlling both the dominant web browser and one of the largest internet advertising networks,” the EFF said.
Ad blockers such as Ghostery have been vocal about how the changes will affect their extensions. Ghostery CEO Jean-Paul Schmetz told tech site the Verge: “While Google is pushing a ‘privacy by design’ message on the surface, it’s still asserting a monopoly over the entire ecosystem by stifling digital privacy companies that are already working to give users back control of their data.”
I asked Google for a comment on this article and will update it if the firm replies.
Switching from Chrome
Support for Manifest V2 ends in January 2023 and for enterprise users in June 2023, making now a good time to make the switch. The switch from Chrome to Firefox is possible, and online guides are available telling you how best to do this.
The only problem is, some tools are optimized for Chromium-based browsers, especially in a business environment. Chromium-based Chrome alternatives include Brave, Microsoft Edge, Vivaldi, and Opera, but these browsers could also be forced adopt the Manifest V3 changes in full.
For personal use, Firefox is certainly a viable Chrome alternative. The browser includes a bunch of privacy-focused features, and it’s improving all the time.