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Chrome Restricts Ad-Blockers: What This Means For You

June 11, 2019

10:43 am

Google Chrome may be one of the most popular browsers out there, but it has provoked plenty of ire recently in the way that it handles ad-blocking extensions. Critics have suggested that recent changes to Chrome will make dedicated ad blocking plugins ineffective.

The problems stem from an update made to Chrome back in January, which – although controversial – Google has reiterated this week that it will not back down from.

Google has promised to offer its own ad-blocking feature within Chrome. That said, it’s not quite as ruthless as you might hope.

Luckily, there are a few alternatives, so read on for our recommendations on what you can do to block-while-you-browse.

Google to Restrict Chrome Ad-Block Extensions

In January of this year, Google updated its Manifest V3 extension system. To the average Chrome user, this didn’t mean much, but developers were soon registering their disgust on the official Google forums. The issue stems from the way in which ad-blockers are affected under this new change.

Essentially, Google has implemented a new rule system, named “declarativeNetRequest”, that decides what ad blockers can and can’t display. Under the new Manifest V3 extension, this is limited to 30,000 ‘rules’ that dictate the how the browser deals with adverts on the page. That might seem a lot, but it’s common for ad blockers to use upwards of 75,000 rules, all to stop you from seeing those pesky ads.

What this means in real terms is that current ad blockers simply won’t be permitted to be as effective. They certainly won’t be able to protect you from every advert that might appear on a page.

To add fuel to the fire, in this week’s update, Google did state that these restrictions wouldn’t apply to “enterprise” users – ostensibly, users with Google business accounts – who are logged into Chrome.

The news hasn’t exactly been a hit with developers of ad-blockers. In its update, Google promised that it had taken note, stating:

“We are planning to raise these values, but we won’t have updated numbers until we can run performance tests to find a good upper bound that will work across all supported devices.”

It’s also worth noting that this issue isn’t restricted to Chrome. The change will affect all browsers that are based on Google’s Chromium, including Brave, Vivaldi, and soon, Microsoft Edge. Opera, however, is an exception – despite being built around Chromium, it will continue to offer full ad-blocking (read on below for more).

Google Chrome Built-in Ad-Block

You might be thinking “but wait, doesn’t Chrome have it’s own built-in ad blocker?” Well yes, it does (at least for US, Canada and European users, it goes worldwide this July). The difference is that Chrome’s built-in ad blocker doesn’t actually block ads, at least, not all of them.

Google’s approach has been to block adverts that are intrusive to the experience. These are listed by the Better Ads Standards and are defined as:

Desktop:

  • Pop-up Ads
  • Auto-playing Video Ads with Sound
  • Prestitial Ads with Countdown
  • Large Sticky Ads

Mobile:

  • Pop-up Ads
  • Prestitial Ads
  • Ad Density Higher than 30%
  • Flashing Animated Ads
  • Auto-playing Video Ads with Sound
  • Prestitial Ads with Countdown
  • Full-screen Scrollover Ads
  • Large Sticky Ads

While we acknowledge that the above are probably the worst of the worst, and there is a special place in hell reserved for whoever designed them, Google’s ad-blocker removes user choice. Adverts that aren’t deemed ‘intrusive’ get to slip through.

Not everyone wants to block adverts simply because they’re annoying – sometimes, we simply don’t want to be bombarded with companies shilling their products. Others prefer not to have targeted ads pop up on their browsers.

Opera and the Best Chrome Alternatives

Of course, Google doesn’t own every corner of the internet (although it might seem like it sometimes). There are browsers you can use that will allow you to reclaim your good old-fashioned ad-blocking. So if you’re fed up with getting bombarded with commercials (including the Google-owned YouTube’s new trend of two adverts before starting the video), we’d suggest giving Opera a go.

Opera, it should be noted, runs on Google’s Chromium platform. However, as Opera’s ad-blocker is baked in, and not an extension, it’s unaffected by these recent changes. This means that using Opera, you can visit web pages distraction-free.

Similarly, Brave has also commented that its own built-in ad-blocker will remain unchanged despite Google’s stance, as have Vivaldi, who stated:

“The good news is that whatever restrictions Google adds, at the end of the day – we can remove them. Our mission will always be to ensure that you have the choice.” – Vivaldi

It’s worth noting that adverts do have a place on the web. Some companies rely on the revenue generated from on-page adverts to stay afloat. If there are any sites that you are particularly fond of, it’s worth whitelisting them in the ad-blocker settings.

Read our review of Opera to learn more about its ad blocking and VPN features.

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Jack is the Content Manager for Tech.co. He has been writing about a broad variety of technology subjects for over a decade, both in print and online, including laptops and tablets, gaming, and tech scams. As well as years of experience reviewing the latest tech devices, Jack has also conducted investigative research into a number of tech-related issues, including privacy and fraud.