While the exact date or timing has yet to be announced, Google has confirmed that it intends to go ahead with changes in its Chrome browser that disable the ability for browser extensions to block ads, though it seems to exempt enterprise customers. The reasons are highly technical but the short explaination is that Google plans to eliminate the ability to block ads before the browser loads them, which is what most ad-blocking extensions use.
You could argue that the reason for this is clear; Google makes billions of dollars as the world's largest advertising platform. It makes little sense for them to simultaneously produce a free product that thwarts that very business model.
This move demonstrates that Google is, at best, conflicted when it comes to the best interests of its users. At worst, the company is showing its true colors by essentially saying "we want you to use our services not because we want to make your life better, but because we really want to make money showing you ads.
Look, ads aren't inherently bad. Ads support great content creation on sites across the internet, including on this one. But if you're like me, you'd rather be able to decide for yourself.
The good news is there are plenty of alternatives that are far more secure and also have the benefit of being a lot faster to use than Chrome. Here are five of the most popular non-Google browsers available:
Apple's Safari browser is already the second-most used browser, and it's a great alternative--especially for Mac users. In addition to allowing ad-blocking extensions, Safari has built in privacy features like "Intelligent Tracking Prevention," which is a fancy way of saying it blocks sites from accessing the cookies that are used by advertisers to display targeted ads based on your website activity.
Safari also makes it more difficult for sites to take advantage of device fingerprinting, which is an alternative way of tracking what you do online by using information about your device. Finally, you can set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine, which won't keep track of your search history.
Firefox offers privacy and ad-blocking features similar to Safari, while also offering a wide range of extensions and plugins to extend its functionality. In fact, Firefox offers a lot of control over privacy settings, though you have to actually go in and configure them, they aren't enabled by default.
Firefox is also far more efficient than Chrome, meaning that the web-browsing experience is less taxing on your system and uses less power overall. Firefox is available on both Windows and MacOS.
Unlike Firefox, Brave is privacy-focused from the start. In fact, it blocks ads and trackers by default, and also protects against browser fingerprinting. The framework is based on Chromium, the same foundation as Chrome, but Brave gets rid of all the extra bloat that exists only to invade your privacy.
It's almost as universally compatible as Chrome, and implements extensions in the same way, making it familiar to most ex-Chrome users. Brave also has an innovative feature called Brave Rewards which can be used to compensate content creators you love, and the company says that over 10,000 sites participate.
If you want a browser that can be customized to your every whim, check out Vivaldi. In addition to tracking protection and ad-blocking, Vivaldi lets you configure just about every aspect of the browser including themes and even where to stash the address bar.
Vivaldi also has some interesting features that are super useful, even if they take a while to get used to. Tab stacking and split screen make it easy for power-users to keep multiple windows organized and you can even put tabs into hibernation to save resources on your computer when you aren't using them.
If privacy and security truly are your most important consideration, Tor pretty much the standard. It's a free, open-source browser from the Tor Project, which states that it's mission is "To advance human rights and freedoms by creating and deploying free and open source anonymity and privacy technologies, supporting their unrestricted availability and use, and furthering their scientific and popular understanding"
Seems pretty lofty to me, but if you need complete anonymity online, Tor is the way to go.
Ad-blockers that should still work with Chrome.
If you still really want to stick with Chrome and are wondering what your ad-blocking options are, there are a few extensions that should still work. AdBlock Plus, for example, doesn't use the affected technology, though it's less effective than the extentions like Ghostery and uBlock Origin, but it's better than nothing.
A Google spokesperson wrote, "Chrome supports the use and development of ad blockers. We're actively working with the developer community to get feedback and iterate on the design of a privacy-preserving content filtering system that limits the amount of sensitive browser data shared with third parties."
So Google isn't technically shutting down all ad-blockers, and they want to be clear that they support their development. For example, paid enterprise customers will be able to deploy their own ad-blocking extensions. That said, they are still moving forward with their plans which will render most popular ad-blockers ineffective.
Update: This post has been edited to include comment from a Google spokesperson.