When Google introduced Manifest V3 in 2019, web extension developers were alarmed at the amount of functionality that would be taken away for features they provide users. Especially features like blocking trackers and providing secure connections. This new iteration of Google Chrome’s web extensions interface still has flaws that might be addressed through thoughtful consensus of the web extension developer community. However, two years and counting of discussion and conflict around Manifest V3 have ultimately exposed the problematic power Google holds over how millions of people experience the web. With the more recent announcement of the official transition to Manifest V3 and the deprecation of Manifest V2 in 2023, many privacy based web extensions will be mitigated in how they are able to protect users.
The security and privacy claims that Google has made about web extensions may or may not be addressed with Manifest V3. But the fact remains that the extensions that users have relied on for privacy will be heavily stunted if the current proposal moves forward. A move that was presented as user-focused, actually takes away the user’s power to block unwanted tracking for their security and privacy needs.
Large Influence, Little Challenge
First, a short history lesson. In 2015, Mozilla announced its move to adopt the webRequest API, already used by Chrome, in an effort to synchronize the landscape for web extension developers. Fast forwarding to the Manifest V3…