Ad blockers or not – your choice matters

  • Vivaldi Team

    Recently, Google announced a change to Chromiums’s extensions system that would disable the API which makes it possible to block ads. Here’s what we think.

    Click here to see the full blog post

  • You should start your own extension store regardless of what chrome does. Chrome extension store sux. They're not sorted properly and no filters. Love to be able to sort be latest update, most popular, most download, A to Z, Z to A etc

  • nice, i'm glad vivaldi won't just accept whatever google throws at it.
    i'm pretty sure lots of people who use chrome will switch to other chromium browsers ( including vivaldi ) because of this.

  • It is not about ads, it is about massive amounts of data, malicious code and outright trackers.

    I can't see how a declarative net request can ever cover the the same, not even if the declarations could be changed by script. It is list based and such comes late every time.

    Limited extension store! Yay!
    Maybe with strictly enforced rules what is allowed and what not (minifying, pulling external resources unless strictly needed, ...) peer review of the source code? There are multiple ways to avoid malicious extensions in the store with minimal effort from your side i.e. without wasting too much valuable dev time. (quote from some famous person in the net "we are still a small team" 😉 )

  • It’s also possible the alternative API will eventually cover the use cases of the webRequest API.

    There is no point for Google to do this.
    So it is better to not rely on this possibility.

    When this happens, it will be possible to drop support of old, ported, API.
    But I guess that will never happen.

  • Thank you for this article; it's a bit of a breath of fresh air. My fingers are crossed.

  • Moderator

    Thanks for the article and clear position what Vivaldi will do to conquer a API block.

  • @archive1: I'm against that. Yes, the Chrome Web Store isn't great, but having an own Extension Store just for Vivaldi just creates further fragmentation for developers of extensions. Not only do they need to maintain their extensions for Chrome and Firefox, but now also Vivaldi. And while Vivaldi is my favorite browser, it also dosn't have a big market share. Meaning that most developers would most likely not care about Vivaldi. And then we'll just end up with an empty Extension Store for Vivaldi.

    On the other hand: If things with Ad Blockers really go bad and Google removes the API alltogether, having a limited Vivaldi Extensions Store just for Ad Blockers sounds like a good idea.

  • @HellbillyDeluxe, maybe it is possible to make both stores work together without conflicts?

  • The very reason I use adblocking with Vivaldi is the fact, that heavy sites, especially techsites like PC World at least for me load very slow and with a heavy burden because of the many ads there. It's mainly a problem with Vivaldi that it hardy copes with the traffic, I've noticed.
    I'm not totally positive on adblocking because as you say, it's a matter of generation of income on the net and thus a way to secure free content.
    I think, the way, the new Firefox is going by reducing only tracking is a way forward and somewhere in between hard content blocking and blocking nothing at all.

    Hope you guys will find a way to keep up your good work. But owning a rendering engine of your own would certainly be a better deal, but as I'm aware not realistic.

  • Moderator

    Recently, Google announced a change to Chromiums’s extensions system that would disable the API which makes it possible to block ads.

    This isn't strictly true. I agree the decision is a big and important one, so let's not mis- or under- represent it.

    The decision has only been made as part of a proposal to a future version of the extension system (right now we use v2, this would affect v3). As it is still in the planning phase users and developers can (and should) still discuss and shout about things that need changed. Extension developers in particular seem well placed to do this, but also Vivaldi given you maintain the chromium code base on your own product (but I get that you don't really have time to do this).

    The issue also doesn't remove the ability to block ads. It replaces it with another which could still be effective at blocking most ads in general. What it prevents is more dynamic blocking, which can be used to block ads more effectively but also let users choose which services (ads or not) load in pages - for example embedded content, large media, trackers. This is the big feature that would be lost. (you mentioned that ina small paragraph, but I think it's more important than blocking ads).

    The Web request api isn't being phased out entirely, only the blocking part is. the reasoning for that is (agree or disagree, this is Google speaking) a number of extensions use these incorrectly which led to inefficiency.

    If the API is removed altogether and no decent alternative is implemented, we might look into creating a limited extensions store.

    I'm not entirely sure how this will be of benefit if the API is removed?

  • @hellbillydeluxe: When chrome removes webRequest and Vivaldi keeps it, it is the only way to go - because the Extensions with old manifest will be removed from the chrome store. Apart from that: The Vivaldi store should be additional to the chrome store - and extensions that don't require the special functions don't need to maintained 3 times, because if done right, they need only some few changes to run everywhere - e.g. exchanging chrome.method by browser.method because the APIs are fairly identical.

  • Moderator

    @QuHno chrome.* and browser.* are fairly similar, but they are not identical. One uses a callback API and the other is promise based. So its not as simple as changing the name.

    Part of the discussion on v3 actually suggests that chrome should support both namespaces as Firefox does so that developers can choose which to implement. This would reduce the amount of work needed to port things around.

  • I feel quite passionately about this. I could cope with context-driven advertising that wasn't too intrusive. I think that's the model DuckDuckGo uses, and context-driven ads were the norm up until maybe 10 years ago. What I object to primarily, is profiling and tracking, and that's what I block. It just so happens that tracker-blocking also gets rid of nearly all ads. My goal wasn't to remove ads completely, but it's a nice side effect. If ad networks and website admins want to get their ads through to me, they simply need to stop being utter b****rds.

    If one browses a motorcycle forum, it doesn't take a genius to realise that suitable ads would include Shoei helmets or Castrol oil. Nobody needs know anything about me or execute any complex script code to show a relevant advert. Simply the site I'm visiting is information enough. Targeted advertising doesn't even work: For instance, I'm followed around on Facebook by adverts trying to get me to go and view a certain performance car in the nearest showroom. I already own one of the first examples to be imported to Europe. Spending money on targeting and profiling just increases costs for the producers of the goods and services being advertised, which then must get passed on to the customer - when they finally do buy something. It's a lose-lose situation.

    Finally, with the proliferation of malware that gets distributed by ad networks, it's safest just to block the lot until they clean their act up. It's my hardware, I'll decide what code runs on it. I also pay for my internet bandwidth, I'll decide what I download. I resent paying to download malware and see an annoyance.

    Then there's the fact that, like most people, I don't even click ads. If I do see an ad and I find it annoying enough, the net effect is that I end up being put off that product so I don't even buy it in a store. Online ads don't tend to influence me in store either. I won't go into the details here, other than to say it's a particular trait of personality type and what makes me tick.

    If a site has to rely on ads for funding, it's a little worrying. I'm one of those few people who would happily (and often does) pay to have ad-free versions of things and support sites and software worth supporting. Back in the day, Opera used to have an ad banner built-in, with a premium ad-free version available. I had a premium version because it was an outstanding piece of software, and was worth it.

    Whilst some people aren't bothered by ads, or want to support the sites that display them (I do too), the current advertising model is both broken and offensive. It's rotten to the core. If I can't support a site by whitelisting non-intrusive, context-based ads, or by donating/subscribing, I just don't bother with it. If a site makes me disable my adblocker to work, it's definitely not worth visiting and I go elsewhere.

    I'm not against ads, I'm just against the most common forms of targeting/delivery these days. I think for all of these reasons it's important that users have the freedom to dissent and resist. The freedom to block whatever they so choose. If I don't want to see something, I can close my eyes. Holding them open won't make me suddenly like what I see and go out to buy it. If Google decide to deprecate the APIs that allow for adblocking, I hope people will not be so entrenched and locked-in that they are unable to ditch them for something else. I also hope that the developers at Vivaldi will assign the highest priority to the mitigation its effects - for instance, restoring the API or providing their own mechanism.

  • @hellbillydeluxe: Opera Browser have their own extension store and Opera allows Chrome extension to also work on their browser. Vivaldi could do something similar. That way extension dev don't need to support Vivaldi if they don't want to, they just need to work on Chrome and it will work in Vivaldi

  • Oh, and I forgot to mention @HealingCross 's great points - Mozilla block tracking in Firefox, with a choice of the degree of strictness. I quite like that approach as it ensures that context-based, non-targeted ads are still allowed through. Then there's also the very important issue that ad and tracking scripts are very heavy. My netbook is unusable without an ad/tracking-blocker, because of the sheer weight of certain pages. Adding to that, I pay per MB of data when using my phone, so I'd rack up an enormous phone bill if I didn't block rubbish on that too.

    I'd love it if you could have your own rendering engine, like in the Presto days, but I'm aware the sheer effort involved would probably be prohibitive by now.

    I ran two web sites for just over a decade, and I still don't really care how or if website admins can generate income or provide free content. If it seems "free", it isn't! If they can fund their site with donations, subscriptions, or non-personalised ads, I'm all for it. Otherwise, let them die because they can't be worth visiting anyway. Better to have a few quality things on the web, than lots of free cr*p.

  • I might be being stupidly naive here, but would it be possible to allow Firefox extensions to be used in Vivaldi?

  • Ambassador

    The only problem with having a limited extensions store would be the lack of interest from devs.
    Vivaldi is still small. Sure, that change could bring users to it, but still.

  • @algy whilst I haven't looked at the code for either Chromium or anything Gecko in years, Firefox's move to Webextensions a few years ago makes this seem tantalisingly possible. I know it's all of a sudden much easier to port extensions from Chrome to Firefox, but I've only ever worked on Firefox's old extension format, which is completely different - so I've little idea of the developer effort that might be involved. All I can say is, from the very little I know, it's a very logical suggestion and not beyond the realms of possibility.

    Interestingly, there used to be an extension for Firefox that allowed one to run Chrome extensions within it. I forget the name. Also, there are a few Firefox extensions that are direct ports from the Chromium-based extension format to the Firefox Webextension format (e.g. "Keyboard Privacy"). I therefore don't see why it should be more difficult to port extensions in the opposite direction, i.e. from the Gecko-world back to the Webkit-world. Now wouldn't that be a fantastic feature in Vivaldi!

  • Google is the new Microsoft.

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