By Zachary Blackwell
Elm Staff Writer
With the internet being a pillar of today’s society, a myriad of web browsers have been introduced and constantly revised. Users enjoy surfing the web through programs like Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome.
A staple of the features that internet browsers offer is ad blocking software, whether by means of a browser extension or an ad blocker built in to the browser itself. Ad blocking software has allowed millions of users to avoid intrusive online advertisements, as well as stop online firms from tracking their data usage.
This software is in jeopardy though. The helpful services of ad blockers, as well as other browser extensions, may not survive potential changes that Google desires to make to its web browser, Chrome.
Google wants to update the browser so that its security and privacy is enhanced through its extension APIs, or Application Programming Interface. More specifically, the change is “designed to prevent hacker-controlled Chrome extensions from ever interfering with the browser’s internet traffic,” according to PCMag.
For example, last year, a Chrome extension from Mega.nz, a cloud storage provider, was used to steal passwords. The update would make the Chrome browser more efficient, according to Google, and the optimizations provided would come with added security benefits. However, the update would also come with the side effect of limiting the capabilities of other extensions, including popular ad blocking software like uBlock Origin, Ghostery, Adblock Plus, AdGuard, and more.
It’s important to note that the proposed changes to Chrome are not final.
“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,” Google said in an email to PCMag. Regardless, the creators of ad blocking software are concerned that their software would break after Google’s proposed update. Raymond Hill, head developer of uBlock Origin, has said that uBlock would “no longer be able to exist” if Google’s changes went through.
It’s clear that Google has good intentions with what it plans to do with Chrome. Google wants to refine Chrome’s software so that they can make sure they are providing the best experience for its users as they possibly can. On paper, what Google promises to do is reassuring for its future. Google is making Chrome faster, safer, and much more efficient than it has been in the past.
Updating Chrome is also necessary for Google to continue to compete with other companies. The proposals that Chrome may end up following will make Google’s service more reliable than other browsers, and may in turn convince more and more people to install Chrome and give it a whirl. Google ultimately wants to give its userbase the best experience surfing the internet, and this update may do that if it is implemented.
However, despite the proposal’s features, which make Chrome better than ever in the eyes of Google, it may not immediately translate to a better experience for its users, especially those users who value the customization that Chrome currently offers with its web extensions. In an online atmosphere with increasing amounts of advertisements, removing the ability for users to control or block intrusive ads would discourage some users from selecting Chrome as their web browser.
As someone who values the ability to block annoying and persistent advertisements, I know that it would discourage me from continuing to support Chrome if I couldn’t always block ads with an extension. However, it’s also comforting to know that Google has its own ad blocking capabilities built into its browser. Google’s reasoning for this proposal does not seem harmful or malicious, and in the worst-case scenario, it’s still possible to switch the web browser I use.
It will be important for Google to consider the concerns and viewpoints of web extension developers and users before deciding to go through with any proposed changes. This way, regardless of what they decide to do, Chrome users will still believe Google is being honest and transparent with them. Maintaining the trust of the consumers that use its product will ensure that the use of Chrome remains prominent.