Google Says It is Not Killing Ad Blockers

Posted on June 14, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google Chrome, Google with 34 Comments

Google: Ads Don't Ruin the Web, Site Owners Do

Responding to the controversy around a pending change to Chrome, Google this week said it is not killing ad-blockers. Instead, it is simply trying to make them safer.

“We are not preventing the development of ad blockers or stopping users from blocking ads,” a new post to the Google Security blog claims. “Instead, we want to help developers, including content blockers, write extensions in a way that protects users’ privacy.”

The issue here is rather complex, because it involves internal platform changes that Google is making to Chrome, and these changes impact how certain types of browser extensions, including ad-blockers, work. The changes that Google is making are collectively known as Manifest V3, and the parts that impact extension developers the most are in a new API called Declarative Net Request, which replaces parts of an older Web Request API.

“Instead of a user granting each extension access to all of [the user’s] sensitive data, we are creating ways for developers to request access to only the data they need to accomplish the same functionality,” Google explains. “With the current Web Request API, users grant permission for Chrome to pass all information about a network request – which can include things like emails, photos, or other private information – to the extension. In contrast, the Declarative Net Request API allows extensions to block content without requiring the user to grant access to any sensitive information.”

And in addition to the security and privacy benefits, the newer Declarative Net Request API also provides “significant, system-level performance benefits” as well.

But this change is controversial because so many popular extensions, especially ad blockers, rely on the Web Request API. Google says it is working with extension developers to help them update their offerings to work with the new API and that it will continue “iterating” Manifest V3 “to find solutions that both solve the use cases extensions have today and keep our users safe and in control.”

That sounds wonderful. But those ad blocker extension makers don’t seem very impressed by Google’s efforts.

“They’ve been trying to give the impression that they’re working with the developer community, when in fact they’re pretty entrenched in what they want to do,” Jeremy Tillman, the president of the privacy and security-focused ad blocker Ghostery told Wired. “The new API is not in itself a bad thing, but it becomes a bad thing when it’s the only option because it lacks the flexibility that the Web Requests API provides.”

It doesn’t help that Google’s primary revenue generator, by far, is ad sales. And that Google worked with the advertising industry to create a built-in ad-blocker in Chrome that, wait for it, doesn’t actually block ads. That ad-blocker rolls out worldwide in July.

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (34)

34 responses to “Google Says It is Not Killing Ad Blockers”

  1. Atoqir

    I am glad a lot of attention is given to this subject on tech blogs and other media.

    This is a very very important topic and it lives with a lot of people. Even in the Reddit AMA the Edge team had yesterday more than half the questions where about this ad blocking issue.

    If Google is stubborn other browser makers like Vivaldi, who said they will back port the functionality if needed, Brave or FireFox will have an opening to become more successful. If Google in the end really cripples ad blockers I will install other browsers when friends and family ask to look at their PC. And I will make sure we roll out another browser as default at work. It may be a small act but I hope lot of techies follow suit. And according how lively this topic is, I assume they will.

    Personally i don't think Google will change their plans. In the past they didn't either when there were controversies and Chromium developers like Peter Kasting usually tell everybody on forums and comment sections how complainers are wrong and Chromium devs are always right. And how all the changes are for the good of the people even if they don't know it yet or too dumb to understand.

    We will see...

    • Pbike908

      In reply to Atoqir:

      I really like the new Firefox for Windows. It was a little wonky when the latest major revision first came out, however, it's pretty solid now. I was considering switching to Edge Chromium when it comes out, however, if ad blockers don't work as they do currently I will almost assuredly continue to use Firefox.

  2. waethorn

    There was a leaked transcript of some notice wherein Google stated to shareholders that adblockers were something that was impacting their primary source of revenue.

  3. waethorn

    In other news: Facebook says they don't sell your user data.

  4. jimchamplin

    It’s not killing them. If they don’t die immediately from the blow, it can’t be proven that Google killed them. ?

    The real issues with ad blocking is that it’s as much a security issue as anything else. There are lots of malicious ads that redirect or hijack the session and can deliver malware.

    When Google can guarantee that every ad on the internet is checked and safe, then they may have the privilege of considering the possibility of breaking ad blockers.

    But it if they try, we should stop then again just so they know who actually controls them.

    • wright_is

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I agree - although I don't use any adblockers add-ins, I just block them at the DNS level.

      That is why I am happy to pay for Thurrott - I get great content and I don't feel bad about collectively banning ad domains as potential malware sites.

  5. jgraebner

    This is an issue that I really struggle with. I do use an ad blocker, but I also wish I didn't feel the need to do so. I completely recognize that most content providers can't survive by giving away their content for free and that advertising is the most obvious way to deal with the fact that there are limits on how much directly-paid content that the typical user can afford. I do pay for a handful of sites that I view regularly (including this one), but it also isn't uncommon that I come across pay-walled content that I'd be interested in reading, but I just can't justify the cost. I appreciate that there is a lot of ad-supported content out there.

    The problem is that an awfully large percentage of ad-supported websites are basically broken by the ads. Many are so slow loading as to be almost unusable while many others are so distracting (auto-playing video/animation, big ads that interrupt the text, etc.) as to make the content basically unreadable. Obviously, the problem is that ads are not really effective unless they make themselves noticed, but I really wish the ad industry would invest more effort in trying to make ads tolerable instead of trying to wage an unwinnable war against ad blocking technology.

    • txag

      In reply to jgraebner:

      I have thought about this for a while, and I have come around to the position that either I will pay for content, or go without it. The online advertising industry is a sewer, and I don’t want to swim in it.

  6. Stooks

    Will this change Google is making also impact the new Edge?

    Google and Facebook are quickly becoming the bad guys in this industry.

  7. Bill Strong

    The ad blocker guys are saying manifest v3 doesn't allow them to prevent the ad from even downloading, which saves bandwidth for the user. I also wonder if Google will count the ad impressions on ads that are downloaded, but not run. A little double dipping in the money jar on Google's part could increase their revenue. And since nobody ever reads the ToS, Google's Ad Platform could simply be updated to allow this practice. Instant win for Google and their shareholders.

  8. maglezs

    What about security problems or mining in ADS? Maybe this change help...

  9. fishnet37222

    If you believe Google, I've got some ocean-front property in Kansas for sale.

  10. Daekar

    When in doubt, look at the incentive structure. By my estimation, there is no reason to believe anything Google says on this topic, especially when the extension creators aren't satisfied with how things are going. I'll trust the company which helps me block ads before the company that makes billions of dollars selling them.

    Personally, I hope Google doubles-down on this and pisses people off. We need more diversity in the browser market, and they might just be myopic enough to cause power users to move on to a different vendor.

  11. Chris_Kez

    Who to believe here? My inclination is to follow the money.

  12. dontbe evil

    yes yes yes, sure sure sure ... they'll just make it more secure showing only google adsense

  13. AnOldAmigaUser

    Ad-blocking is an existential threat to Google, that is how they make their money. There is every reason for them to make blocking ads more difficult, and no reason for them to facilitate the efforts of ad-blocking companies. They did not develop Chrome for altruistic reasons, they developed a browser to allow them to hoover up more of our digital exhaust to aid in their ad targeting.

    Fundamentally, an ad driven internet, or more correctly, the ad driven internet that we have, is a bad idea on multiple fronts. Far too many companies collect far too much information regarding our lives; and there is far too much ability for bad actors to manipulate the system and plant malware on our devices. I do not mistrust Google, so much as I mistrust the digital advertising complex that has developed around it.

  14. james_wilson

    Try this. Install Firefox on your PC. Create a Firefox account. Import bookmarks etc. Install Firefox on your android / iOS device. Log in. Everything synced?

    You now don't need Chrome.

  15. david.thunderbird

    It is the old "My way or the highway" gooGle response. "So F U".

  16. martinusv2

    I like the picture Paul. That's a lot of adds ;)

  17. Bats

    Speaking about many ads are in the* website? I am counting six. Seven, if you include the Thurrott Premium sale ad. 

    Like I stated for so many years, Google is clearly a data company that creates ad-supported first class products. In order for these products to remain FREE and FIRST CLASS, someone has got to pay for it. And it's not going to be the end user, unless he or she wants to pay GSuite, Youtube Premium, etc...

    Gone are the days of the popup ads. Remember those? I don't recall experiencing one, in the past 10-15-20 years. 

    The Developers are just going to have to adjust.

    Web developers are getting slick these days. A lot of websites today can detect, whether an Ad blocker is being used and won't allow the user to access the web page unless the blocker is turned off. Obviously, we know why. Like, sites with ads are simply trying to generate revenue. Quite frankly I don't have a problem with that.

    As for Google's ads, I hardly even notice them. When I search for info, the ads I see are mere words with the word "Ad" distinctly right next to it. I don't have a problem with this, because it supports the crazy-popular Gmail service.....and Search.....and Google Drive, etc..... It's an unbeatable "trifecta" that is clearly paid for by business owners around the world.  

  18. DavidBenMesecke

    They way around this is to disable gupdate and gupdatem in your services, that way google won't be able to push the updates forcing users to accept spyware and viruses on their computers. A better alternative of course is to uninstall the chrome browser altogether and use Firefox instead. Unfortunately for me and other web developers that is not an option so those who for some reason need the chrome browser can use my workaround. I just did after reading this. I also disabled Google Chrome Elevation Service to effectively hinder Google to elevate its permissions. I am not sure this is undisruptive yet though so you do so on your own advice. Make sure to alway use multiple ad blockers including Ghostery and UBlock origin. Also make sure to configure your ad blockers so they block all third party content and then only open for some of it on the site where you need it after careful consideration and investigation. That takes some time but it saves far more time as you thereby gain knowledge to help you keep unwanted content and also viruses out.