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Discussion on: Chromium and the browser monoculture problem

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omrisama profile image
Omri Gabay

I switched to Firefox because of the Monoculture. If anyone has been following the webRequest API deprecations from Extension Manifest v3, this is exactly why many people including me think a Monoculture is bad. I'm surprised this article didn't cover that tbh

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kenbellows profile image
Ken Bellows Author

To be up front about it, the reason I didn't cover the Extension Manifest v3 issue is that I basically know nothing about it haha. I heard that browser extensions were changing, but didn't know there was a controversy over it. I'm not an extension developer, and tbh I don't even use very many extensions, so it really hasn't been on my radar.

But I'm interested. Would you mind filling me in on the relevant aspects, and how it relates to the monoculture debate?

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omrisama profile image
Omri Gabay

(I'm not 100% correct most likely but this is my understanding).

I use uBlock Origin. uBlock Origin and several other Adblockers work by blocking ads on the request level; Through the extension manifest, they request access to the webRequest API which lets extensions intercept requests coming in to the browsers and block ads that are delivered through (probably?) Javascript embedded in a page.

There's another class of Adblockers, like Adblock Pro which block ads based on "rulesets". Meaning, they let the Ads render first and then they remove them once the DOM content finished loading. They look for heuristics of something that could characterize ads in the DOM (I think). I've also heard that Adblock Pro sells your info but I don't know about that lol

Google, in the new 3rd version of the Extension Manifest for Chromium based browsers, is deprecating extensions' access to the webRequest API (or some subset of its functionality). This is gonna make it impossible for uBlock Origin and other adblockers of its kind to effectively block ads.

Remember that Chromium is FOSS, and Google said they want to make these changes under the guise of "performance improvements". The community tested their claims and found the performance improvements were negligible at best.

Google first said they wouldn't make these changes, and then came back recently and said they're doing it anyway.
Conveniently enough, the changes to the Extension manifest aren't gonna apply to "paying enterprise costumers". Hmm...