Under the new specification, the blocking version of the Web Request API has been removed and will be replaced with an API called Declarative Net Request:
Every Googler working on Chrome that I know always says that they try to keep the Chrome team isolated, because of all the regulatory etc risks this could involve. I still wonder how much pressure gets down from higher-ups to the team when it comes to the changes like this.
This change is baffling and it’s been a really interesting process to watch. I’ve always wondered inside of Google or any company which dedicated a non-trivial number of employees to projects which are largely open-sourced or whose development happens “in the open”, how does that firewall work? Presumably management wants some sort of justification for the salary involved in keeping these many engineers on the books.
Do Googlers working on Chrome need to come up with roadmaps that ultimately provide benefit to Google? I would assume you have to demonstrate some sort of increased value to Alphabet outside of just “we make a pretty great web browser”. Like it’s unlikely the Chrome marketshare is going to grow too much more, I would guess someone inside of Google would like that investment of years and millions of dollars to have some sort of ROI.
My wild guess is that the point of declarative adblocking is to upload everyone’s ad blocker lists to Google so they can perform comprehensive statistics across everyone’s ad blocking lists.
Note that there was already some concrete ROI to Google: they stopped getting employee workstations popped by malware so freaking often. The IE/Flash era was nasty.
That’s just a wild guess, and nothing more.
I think one thing that Chrome doesn’t do, which it would if it weren’t tied to an ad company, is Reader Mode - to get rid of the insanity of video and pop-in ads on news and fan-wiki sites these days.
Chrome has a clear dollar benefit to Google. Users who use Chrome are funneled into Google Search and other Google products.
The value of controlling the layer that serves Google Search is enormous in dollar terms. Google pays Apple something like $10 billion a year to keep Google the default search engine on iOS, which commands a large share in wealthy markets. (MacOS too, but Chrome dominates here as well.) Google was also funding Firefox to the tune of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to keep Google the default. When Firefox’s share shrank, Google was able to reduce its payments. On the other hand, it doesn’t have to pay for access to Android and Windows users.
There’s enormous strategic value in controlling the layers below your cash cow, so the rug doesn’t get pulled underneath. Microsoft is aggressively promoting Edge and reverting users’ choices of other browsers back - just to wrestle marketshare for Bing and their own ecosystem of products. This may translate to material reduction in Chrome use and therefore Google revenues.
This is also why Chromebooks are important. If Google can control the desktop ecosystem as well, no more pesky Microsoft interference.
So, Chrome pays for itself many times over because it holds up the Google product ecosystem.
In recent years, Chrome has also supported Google’s push into enterprise. Orgs can set policies for how their employees’ browser is setup, and Google makes that easier. This just adds value to working with Google.
I understand why Chrome as a product makes sense for Google. I’m saying as an open-source project, looking at the maintainers of Chrome, it appears the majority are employed by Google. How does that work in terms of pressure inside of Google to ship something that the community might not support or want? Presumably if I were a VP inside of Google I could contact one of these maintainers and be like “it’s critical to your future at Google that we ship X feature, community feedback be damned, they can fork it if they care”.
The way to think of the Chrome project is that it’s a Google project that happens to have code readable by the world. So the Google roadmap is followed, with some input from the rest of the world. The maintainers just become employees that work in the open. The benefits of openness are wider buy-in (most notably from Microsoft Edge and the Electron ecoystem), and more eyes (to find security flaws). I don’t think the public is putting in huge features. If large features are being incorporated, they’re likely done by companies employing engineers full-time.
In this world, an employee has as much to say as any other employee - largely following the high-level roadmap, while providing feedback. At the face of it, that ManifestV3 improves privacy/security is plausible to an employee.
I just think too many people were switching to Firefox, as I intend to do, eventually.
I wish this were true but I haven’t really seen any evidence.
If people are still using a web browser created by a monopolistic advertising company in 2022 it’s unlikely they can do anything short of setting the whole thing on fire to get anyone to switch away.