Google gives adblockers in Chrome another year as it postpones Manifest V3

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Last year, Google announced plans to phase out Manifest V2-based browser extensions in favor of new Manifest V3 policies. Although Manifest V3 promises increased safety and "peace of mind," developers argue that the new rules hurt innovations, decrease performance, and cripple content blockers without giving much better security. Google initially wanted to disable Manifest V2 extensions in Chrome in January 2023 but has now decided to revise its plans.

In a new Chrome Developers blog post, the company describes an updated timeframe for migrating from Manifest V2 to Manifest V3. Although Google remains on track to ditch old extensions, developers and customers gained one more year for using and supporting Manifest V2-based extensions. According to the revised schedule, Google will remove them from the Chrome Web Store on January 2024.

Besides the new timeframe, Google has described how it plans to take a gradual and experimental approach to turning off Manifest V2 to "ensure a smooth end-user experience." This approach includes two stages:

  • In January 2023, Chrome 112 will get new flags for disabling Manifest V2 in Canary, Dev, and Beta.
  • In June 2023, Chrome 115 will receive the same flags in the Stable Channel.

The new experimental flags will help customers see how removing Manifest V2 affects their browsing experience. Google also urges developers to release Manifest V3 extensions during the transition period. Unlike the original blog post, the new version does not explicitly say when Manifest V2 extensions will stop working in Chrome. The company only says old extensions "may stop working at any time following the aforementioned dates."

To give developers an extra nudge, Google says Manifest V3 will be a must for those wanting to get the recently introduced "Featured" badge in the Chrome Web Store. Google uses that badge to help customers spot extensions that follow "the best technical practices and meet a high standard of user experience and design."

Here is the revised schedule to govern the Manifest V3 implementation:

  • In January 2023, Manifest V3 will be a requirement if a developer wants to get their extension featured with a badge in the Chrome Web Store.
  • In June 2023, Google will stop accepting public Manifest V2 extensions in the Chrome Web Store. Existing Manifest V2 extensions will switch from public to unlisted. Delisted extensions remain accessible in the Chrome Web Store only via direct links.
  • In January 2024, Google will remove all Manifest V2 extensions from the Chrome Web Store.

Finally, Google promises to improve Manifest V3 and incorporate changes based on feedback from the community and developers. The rules have already received a fair share of improvements, and the company says more to come. Developers can track the progress in the official documentation.

Developers of popular content-blocking extensions are already working tirelessly to ensure they can provide the same user experience after switching to Manifest V3. AdGuard, for example, recently published its first experimental Manifest V3-based extension. Although it is significantly limited compared to the current version, the new extension proves that content blockers will survive Manifest V3 migration (partially, at least). Meanwhile, developers of other browsers take a more aggressive stand and promise not to implement similar rules in their projects.

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