In a recent blog post, Google announced that it will be resuming the plan to transition to the new “Manifest V3” extension format for Chrome. This comes after the company temporarily paused the rollout a year ago due to concerns raised by developers. While Google has made some changes to address these concerns, the implementation of Manifest V3 will eventually result in a shift towards a more limited filtering system for extensions in Chrome. In this blog post, we will explore the details of the new extension format, the reasons behind the transition, and the potential impact on users and developers.
Manifest V3: A Second Attempt:
Google’s previous attempt at rolling out Manifest V3 was met with significant backlash from the developer community, particularly content blocking extension developers. However, after pausing the process and gathering feedback, Google has made improvements and introduced new features to address the concerns raised.
Addressing Developer Feedback:
Based on the feedback received, Google has made several key changes to the Manifest V3 format, including:
- Offscreen Documents: This feature provides DOM access for extensions to use in various scenarios such as audio playback, improving user experience.
- Service Worker Lifetimes: Better control over service worker lifetimes has been introduced to support extensions that call extension APIs or receive events over an extended period.
- User Scripts API: A new API allows userscript manager extensions to enable users to safely run their scripts on specific web pages.
- Improved Content Filtering: Google has increased the limits in the declarativeNetRequest API for static and dynamic rulesets, enhancing content filtering support.
With these changes in place, Google has seen a significant increase in support for Manifest V3 among extension developers. Content blocking extension developers have expressed optimism about the new platform, highlighting that browser teams are actively working on a unified platform and considering developer feedback.
The Phase-Out Timeline:
According to Google’s blog post, Manifest V2 will start to be disabled in pre-stable versions of Chrome, including Dev, Canary, and Beta channels, from June 2024 onwards. Users using these versions will experience automatic disabling of Manifest V2 extensions and will no longer be able to install them from the Chrome Web Store. Additionally, Manifest V2 extensions will also lose their Featured badge in the Chrome Web Store.
Google plans to gradually roll out these changes and gather user feedback to ensure a smooth transition. The company aims to closely monitor feedback and data collected during this process to determine the timing and extent of the stable channel rollout. It is important to note that enterprises using the ExtensionManifestV2Availability policy will have until June 2025 to migrate Manifest V2 extensions within their organizations.
Next Steps for Extension Publishers:
Google urges extension publishers still using Manifest V2 to complete the migration to Manifest V3 before June 2024. To facilitate the migration process, Google has published a comprehensive migration guide that covers all the necessary steps. Regular updates from July and October provide a summary of recent improvements made to the Extensions platform. In case of any difficulties during the migration process, extension publishers are encouraged to reach out to Google’s support channels for assistance.
Controversies Surrounding Manifest V3:
The transition to Manifest V3 has sparked debates within the developer community and among privacy advocates. Critics argue that the limitations introduced in Manifest V3 will disproportionately impact ad-blocking extensions. Google has imposed an arbitrary limit on the number of filtering rules that content-blocking extensions can include, potentially restricting their effectiveness. The initial limit of 5,000 rules was later increased to 30,000, but this still falls far short in comparison to the 300,000-plus filters offered by popular extensions like uBlock Origin.
Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the privacy benefits touted by Google. Critics point out that malicious add-ons still pose a threat to users’ data even with the new webRequest API. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has criticized Google’s claims about Manifest V3, describing them as “deceitful and threatening.” They also argue that Google’s performance justifications for the transition are questionable.
While Chrome is the most popular browser, its decision to implement Manifest V3 may drive users to explore alternative options. Mozilla Firefox, for example, will also be implementing Manifest V3 but without the limitations imposed by Google. Mozilla has assured users that popular content-blocking extensions like uBlock Origin will continue to provide effective privacy tools in Firefox.
Google is moving forward with the implementation of Manifest V3, despite initial backlash and ongoing debates surrounding the limitations it imposes on Chrome extensions. The company has made efforts to address developer concerns and improve the platform by introducing new features. As the transition progresses, it remains to be seen how users and developers will adapt to the changes and whether alternative browsers will benefit from Google’s decision. In the ever-evolving landscape of browser technology, the impact of Manifest V3 will continue to unfold.