Last week, Google announced that it plans to make some changes to how the Chrome web browser works. While the changes are supposedly out of security, they’ll also render a lot of plugins less effective, particularly ad blockers.
To wit, Manifest V3 (the name for the proposed changes to Chrome) will deprecate one of Chrome’s API’s blocking capacities, which is used by ad blockers. The replacement API doesn’t allow for as much flexibility or power, effectively making uBlock and the like much less useful. Additionally, Google says the old API capabilities will still be accessible, but only by those paying for the enterprise version of Chrome.
Google-oriented blog 9to5Google has more information about all of the above.
Chrome and Google ad revenue
Since its debut in September 2008, Chrome’s become the most popular browser online. According to Net Marketshare, Chrome makes up 66.2% of desktop and laptop web browsers used; Firefox trails in a distant second with about 9.6%.
On top of that, Chrome’s open-source base, the Chromium browser, has become the basis for most major non-Firefox browsers. Even Microsoft has decided to convert Edge into running on Chromium. This has raised concerns by some about a possible lack of browser diversity.
The reaction I’ve seen so far to Google’s Chrome changes are all (justifiably) negative. Between security concerns, data caps on mobile devices, and so forth, there’s plenty of reasons people use ad blockers. Reducing ad blockers’ effectiveness also looks like a conflict of interest on Google’s part. In 2018, Google earned a whopping 85% of its revenue from advertising; thus it has a very strong interest in ensuring its ads are visible to online users.
Recommended Chrome alternatives
Barring some change on Google’s part, it looks like there’ll be fewer blocked ads for a lot of web users. Of course, more tech-savvy web users will want to investigate Chrome alternatives.
The most likely one to benefit is the #2 browser, Firefox. It’s also the alternative to Chrome I recommend for Windows, Mac, and Linux users. Firefox’s functionality is on par with Chrome; it also shares a similarly sizable ecosystem of extensions. Firefox also has the advantage of no ties to any of the major tech companies.
Firefox is also available on Android phones. Unlike the mobile version of Chrome, mobile Firefox can use the desktop version’s extensions, including ad blockers.
For Mac users, the native Safari browser is another option I’d recommend.
What about Chromium-based browsers as Chrome alternatives?
From what I could find, it’s not clear whether Google’s Chrome changes will also affect Chromium-based browsers, such as Microsoft Edge. Still, if a Chrome-like browser’s absolutely needed over Firefox/Safari, Edge or Chromium itself might be alternative options to consider.
Brave (another Chromium-based browser) says it won’t be affected by Google’s action, as ad blocking/security is one of its chief features. However, some might take issue with that Brave is run by Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla (the maintainers of Firefox). Eich resigned from Mozilla after backlash arose over his donating to supporters of California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 ballot measure. Between that and Brave’s questionable business model (which seems to rely on some cryptocurrency system built into the browser), I recommend using one of the browsers I listed above instead.