Microsoft’s Edge browser has confirmed it will bring in a controversial change already being implemented in Google Chrome that could cause some ad blockers to break.
The change, dubbed “Manifest V3” is intended to improve security and privacy by protecting users of the Chromium browser engine that both Edge and Chrome are based on from malicious extensions. It does this through a revamp to the permissions system involving the webRequest API.
But it also means some privacy focused extensions such as ad blockers that use the webRequest API may not work. For this reason Manifest V3 has not been popular, and after Google faced criticism from privacy advocates for the change, other Chromium based browsers such as Opera, Brave and Vivaldi said they will not implement it.
However, Microsoft Edge confirmed this week that the changes are coming to its own browser in a blog, arguing that extensions such as ad blockers would still work.
“We believe that these changes will not compromise the capabilities of your extension or reduce the potential that the extension ecosystem has. These changes should reduce the time taken to review each submission, and improve certification turnaround time, thus reducing the overall cost of developing and maintaining extensions.
“We recognize the value of content blocking extensions and appreciate the role they play in honoring user’s choice by blocking advertisements and enhancing privacy by blocking cookies and we want developers to continue to offer these capabilities.”
Edge and Chrome v Firefox and others
So what does this mean for privacy-focused users who have switched to Edge from Chrome and why has Microsoft implemented this largely unpopular change?
“It’s likely that Microsoft wants to keep Chromium Edge consistent with the Chromium base,” says Sean Wright, Immersive Labs’ lead of application security, SME. “This would make it easier for them to maintain, rather than having to maintain their own separate instance.”
If you care about your privacy, Wright recommends a browser such as Brave. Because this is also Chromium based, many plugins that work on Chrome are compatible with Brave, he says.
And if you’re technically capable, Wright advises that you deal with adverts at the network level instead of having a browser plugin. “It is much more effective, and if you use something such as Pi-Hole, your entire network can benefit from it. There is also NextDNS which you can install using their mobile app, and this will tackle it at the DNS level,” he says.
It’s a shame, as Edge has been launching some pretty cool new features since the launch of its Chromium based browser at the start of this year. Microsoft’s Edge has also been touting its security credentials as a reason to switch from Chrome. However, if you want a truly privacy focused browser the best options are still Brave or Firefox.