Google's Manifest V3 (MV3) Impact on Ad Blockers and Ad Tech

Ana Kealy

Ana Kealy

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Google's Manifest V3 (MV3) Impact on Ad Blockers and Ad Tech

Could 2023 be the year when everybody will be seeing digital ads? Could we witness one of the biggest growth rates in digital advertising? This is a possibility since Google’s Manifest V3 or MV3, as it is also called, will be rolled out in a major update to Chrome extensions. In doing so, Google might render Chrome ad blocker extensions useless, and leave the door open for Ad Tech.

The move, first announced in 2018, came under a lot of scrutiny due to what could be considered a conflict of interest. Google, a tech giant whose main revenue comes from advertising, is making significant changes to their web browser that will have a direct impact on the ability of ad blockers to function. 

Manifest V3 vs. Manifest V2

With “Manifest V3”, Google is changing the way Chrome’s extensions work. Described by the company as “one of the most significant shifts” into the way its web browser works, the new extension manifest is “more secure, performant, and privacy-preserving than its predecessor.”

Manifest V2 allows extensions to use the API feature Web Request. Through this feature, the browser extensions can monitor the traffic between the browser and websites, and can modify or block Web Requests based on a set of rules.  

With MV3, extensions will not be able to modify requests in the same way. They will be using a new “declarativeNetRequest” API that replaces the “webRequest API” and that will allow the modification and blocking of requests in “a privacy-preserving and performant way”. 

What will happen is that the extensions will not be able to modify the network request but it will ask Chrome to modify it on its behalf, based on a declared set of rules. As a result, ad blocking and privacy extensions will not be able to dynamically filter network requests to find and block ads. Instead of having dynamic filtering rules, Chrome’s solution will include a list of 30,000 URLs which is around 10% of the rules currently used by extensions. 

By having Chrome modifying requests, Google wants to increase efficiency and user privacy, since the extension access will be limited and it will not get details about the network request anymore. 

MV3 Timeline

Google’s timeline for the launch of Manifest V3 is available on Google’s own blog. Here are the essential milestones:

  • January 2023 (Chrome 112), Chrome may start running experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in Canary, Dev, and Beta channels.
  • June 2023 (Chrome 115), Chrome may start running experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in all channels, including stable channels.
  • June 2023, Chrome Web Store will no longer accept MV2 extensions and existing ones will be hidden from view. 
  • January 2024, MV2 extensions will be completely removed from the store.

The Future of Ad Blocking Technology 

For the past few years the adoption of ad block technology has been increasing at a steady pace. In January 2022, Hootsuite’s Global Report showed that 37% of internet users aged between 16 and 64 worldwide were using ad blockers. In the US the figure was 34.2%, in China 43.4% and in most European countries the figure was also over 30%.

There are many Ad Blockers available on the market like AdBlock, Adblock Plus, AdGuard, Ghostery, etc. All of them will have to come up with solutions that will counter the effects of the new MV3. 

With developers already experimenting workarounds, it will not be possible to confirm a viable solution until it is tested in a live environment, so they all have to wait for the new manifest to go live. 

Therefore, we can anticipate that at least for a period of time from launch, users will not be able to stop ads from showing in their browser, unless switching to Firefox, Brave or Vivaldi. Mozilla, the owner of Firefox, confirmed that its approach to MV3 will still allow ad blockers to work as they will still support webRequestsAPI. Brave and Vivaldi also stated that the ability of their browsers to block ads will not be affected by Google changing its rules for extensions.

MV3 Impact on Ad Tech 

Is MV3 really going to be the killer of ad blockers? Quoting Tiago Oliveira, EXADS CTO, “I do not believe so, ad blockers will continue to exist, even if less efficient. They will definitely face a more difficult task, needing to adjust their mechanisms for blocking ads to possibly rely on a hybrid approach of using the built-in “declarativeNetRequest” API and also client-side ad discovery strategies. The latter means, in many situations, degrading the page rendering performance, and so, also degrading the end user experience. Overall MV3 is a risky move that may allow the ad tech industry to poke into a chunk of that lost ad blockers revenue. Over time it may drive users to search for higher quality websites or even to migrate towards other more user focused web browsers.” 

The EXADS CTO also added:  “Independently of where the ad blockers’ industry grows to, and how end users react to MV3, as an Ad Tech company, EXADS will continue working to improve its ad block circumventing solutions. We want to help publishers and advertisers to tap into the significant cohort of users who currently leverage these mechanisms on their browsers.”

Conclusion

Ad blocking technology has evolved and grown in popularity in the last few years, making its impact felt on publishers who are losing a considerable amount of revenue. Whether Google’s MV3 launch for Chrome users will diminish the losses on a temporary or permanent basis remains to be seen. 

Meanwhile, there are ad tech providers such as EXADS who include in their offering Ad Block Circumvention tools. So if you don’t want to wait any longer to recover your lost revenue due to ad blocking, contact us today! 

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Ana Kealy

Ana Kealy

Product Marketing Manager

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