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Google may break ad blockers with upcoming Chrome change

Google Chrome dominates the browser market.

Google Chrome dominates the browser market.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

A Google plan to improve the Chrome web browser has triggered an explosion of concern that it’ll also cripple extensions designed to block ads, improve privacy and protect against security problems.

Google’s proposed approach would torpedo ad blocker uBlock Origin, privacy and password manager Privowny, JavaScript software blocker NoScript and a malware blocker from F-Secure, according to their developers.

In a statement Wednesday, though, Google said it’s trying to improve Chrome while keeping all those extensions working.

“We want to make sure all fundamental use cases are still possible with these changes and are working with extension developers to make sure their extensions continue to work while optimizing the extensions platform and better protecting our users,” the company said in a statement.

The controversy shows the difficulties that arise from Chrome’s dominance 10 years after its debut. Google’s browser accounts for 62 percent of website usage today, according to analytics firm StatCounter. But if a Google change causes problems, then extension authors and website developers can be stuck with it unless they can get millions of people to change to a different browser like Mozilla Firefox or Apple Safari.

Chrome’s power also is amplified by the fact that other browsers, including Vivaldi, Opera, Brave and soon Microsoft Edge, use Chrome’s open-source foundation, called Chromium.

Extensions let you customize web browser behavior to do things like take screenshots, manage tabs, disable websites’ potentially risky JavaScript software and even replace photos of President Donald Trump with images of kittens. But ad blockers are a top extension use. Indeed, it was one of the uses Google specifically called for when it first revealed its Chrome extensions plan in 2008. uBlock Origin has been installed more than 10 million times, for example, according to Chrome Web Store statistics.

Chrome’s Manifest v3 destiny

Google revealed the change way back in October as part of a broader plan to improve Chrome extensions. Some developers are only now noticing the part that could hurt ad blockers, called Manifest v3.

Manifest v3 is designed to improve Chrome extensions’ performance, privacy and security. One part of that change, though, limits how extensions will be able to examine aspects of websites. The thorny limit affects how an extension can check if website elements originate from a list of hundreds of thousands of advertising sources. Google has proposed a limit of 30,000.

One extension designed to protect people who click on malicious links, Blockade.io, “will cease to function” under Google’s Manifest v3 plan, said Brandon Dixon, who maintains the extension. “There is a 30K rule limit imposed, which is not enough to handle our ruleset (~250K),” Dixon said in a Wednesday mailing list post.

Safari and Firefox have embraced variations of Chrome’s extensions technology, an approach that in principle makes life easier for extension authors trying to support multiple browsers. But Privowny’s Daniel Glazman lamented the fizzling of an effort to turn Google’s extensions technology into a web standard all browsers collectively develop and support.

The browser extension technology is “fully in the hands of Google, [which] can and will change it anytime based on its own interests only,” Glazman said in a blog post Wednesday.

Google probably will amend its extensions plan, though not its aspiration to improve performance and security, Chrome team member Devlin Cronin said in a mailing list response Wednesday.

“This design is still in a draft state, and will likely change,” Cronin said. “Our goal is not to break extensions.”

First published Jan. 23, 10:49 a.m. PT.
Updates, 10:58 a.m.:
Adds more Google comment; 11:29 a.m.: Includes further background.

‘Hello, humans’: Google’s Duplex could make Assistant the most lifelike AI yet.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET’s newsstand edition.

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Tv Shows

Suits: USA Network Series to End After Ninth and Final Season!

It’s the end of the line for Suits. 

USA Network has renewed the legal drama for a ninth and final season which is slated to enter production later this year. 

The biggest surprise is that the order is for just ten episodes, marking the lowest episode order yet for the series. 

Suits is midway through its eighth season, which resumes this evening. The series has survived the loss of leads like Gina Torres, Patrick Adams, and Meghan Markle, but all good things must come to an end. 

Suits Season 8 is currently averaging just over one million viewers, and a 0.26 rating in the 18-49 demo based on live + same day measures. 

Related: Suits Season 8 Episode 10 Review: Managing Partner

This is down over 20 percent year-to-year, but the show remains a viable option for the cabler. 

Suits creator, Aaron Korsh released the following statement when the end date was set:

Though I know it isn’t true, it seems like only yesterday USA Network took a chance on an unestablished writer’s very first hour long script. These days that’s a common thing, but 47 years ago when I first wrote the Untitled Korsh Project, nobody did it.

Nobody except the people at USA and [Universal Cable Productions]. First and foremost I would like to thank Alex Sepiol and Dennis Kim, without whom Suits would never have gotten made.

I also cannot thank Bill McGoldrick, Jeff Wachtel, Bonnie Hammer, Chris McCumber, Ted Chervin, Dave Bartis, Gene Klein, Doug Liman, Dawn Olmstead and everyone at the network and studio enough for their dedication and support throughout the years.

And to the exceptional writers, cast and crew — thank you for your passion and devotion, without which, Suits would be nothing. And last but never least, to the fans who have stuck with the Suits family through thick and thin, through can-openers and flashbacks — thank you for always speaking your mind.

Without you, I might start to think I’m getting the hang of this writing thing. And once that happens, nobody wins. I look forward to enraging and hopefully sometimes delighting you with the final episodes.

Related: Suits Spinoff Ordered to Series

Finally, to my wife Kate and my children Cooper and Lucy. Thank you for enduring countless late nights and times away, for me to get to live my dream. I love you. Love, Aaron. 

Even though Suits is coming to an end, we still have the Gina Torres-fronted Pearson. The spinoff focuses on Suits character Jessica Pearson as she takes on a new role in Chicago and finds herself in the murky waters of Chicago politics. 

The show entered production last fall, but it’s currently unclear when it will hit the air, and if any of the Suits cast will be making a permanent move to the spinoff. 

Okay, Suits Fanatics!

What are your thoughts on this news?

Hit the comments below. 

Remember you can watch Suits online right here via TV Fanatic. Get caught up right now. 

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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