A new version of Chrome released later this year will break a number of adblockers according to a new bug report submitted Tuesday by Raymond Hill, the administrator of the popular adblocking service uBlock Origin. Although the proposed changes to Chrome will still allow for AdBlock Plus filtering options, Hill stated that this would seriously limit users' ability to determine what type of content they see on the web.
Hill's bug report was placed on the website for Chromium, an open source project that develops the engine used by the browsers Chrome, Brave and Opera and soon Microsoft's Edge browser. In October, Chromium developers announced their plan for Manifest V3, which they claimed would enable trusted Chrome extensions by default & # 39 ;.
Chrome extensions are applications running in Chromium browsers that allow users to customize the way they navigate the web. This can be anything from ad-blocking extensions such as uBlock to extensions that show you what the web would look like if you were color-blind or offensive material from web page's scan.
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For all their usability, many third-party Chrome extensions are also a big vulnerability. As Motherboard reported last year, extensions are an excellent way to give hackers access to your computer. Chromium & # 39; s Manifest V3 is apparently an attempt to make Chrome extensions more secure by restricting the way that extensions can communicate with a user's computer.
In this respect ad blockers such as uOrigin seem to have been victims of good intentions. Although there are many extensions for which you do not want the same access to your computer as adblockers, these adblockers can not serve their purpose without this access.
Ad blocker extensions like uBlock Origin work by reading network requests sent from ads on a webpage to a user's computer and filtering them according to the user's preferences via a Chrome application interface (API) called & # 39 ; webRequest & # 39 ;. However, in the new version of Chrome Extensions, the network requests that are sent via WebRequest to a user's computer can still be blocked, but they can no longer block them.
Instead, adblockers must rely on an API called "declarativeNetRequest," which requires them to specify which types of network request of ads they should block in advance, rather than allowing the dynamic blocking options found in uBlock. The difference is whether you are accused of protecting a house, but you could only choose a few doors to protect and hope that your opponent chose those doors, instead of going through the house and choosing which doors you must protect on the basis of those who actually attacked an opponent.
This API was styled in the way that AdBlocker Plus blocks ads, which is far less robust than uBlock Origin. (Not to mention the fact that AdBlock Plus also allows companies to pay to whitelist their ads regardless of user preferences).
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Moreover, as Hill noted, the declarativeNetRequest API limits the number of specific requests that can be blocked up to 30,000 unique types. This is not enough to enforce EasyList, a popular list of basic rules for blocking unwanted content on the web, and much less sophisticated blocking rule lists.
A similar change has recently been made in Apple's Safari web browser, which was also caught by animosity from ad blocking developers and their users. However, the difference is that Apple still allows uBlock Origin to work with Safari and only gives users a warning that the extension it is blocking will slow down their browsing. However, changes to Chromium may prevent you from working at Block Origin at all.
"Extensions occur on behalf of users, they add possibilities to a * user agent *, and weakening the blocking capabilities of the webRequest API will substantially reduce the level of user agency in Chromium, to the benefit of websites that would obviously like to have it last word in which sources their pages can retrieve / execute / render, "concluded Hill in his bug report.
Based on the response to Hill & # 39; s bug report on Hacker News and within the Chromium bug tracker itself, many users are angry that the new version of the browser prevents them from effectively blocking ads.
"Enable your browser if you have not already," a user wrote on the Chromium bug tracker. "Time to fork Chromium," wrote another. Within 24 hours of Hill's message, the Chromium bug trackers had locked up the problem of more comments and removed various comments made about the problem.
A Google spokesperson told 9to5Google.com that the proposed changes to Chrome are still & # 39; subject to change. Motherboard contacted Google and the Chromium project to inquire whether they were still planning to disable the webRequest API features needed for uBlock origin, and update this when we return.