If you've noticed today that Chrome for desktop is blocking new tabs as if they were pop-up ads, you aren't alone. It seems Google may have rolled out a server-side experiment that, when combined with a handful of different extensions, results in the anomalous, over-aggressive behavior on the part of the browser. Reports are widespread, and for now, the only workarounds are to disable the extensions that can trigger the issue, or pass an additional parameter to disable the experiment when launching Chrome. However, Google has determined the cause so a fix could be coming soon.
— Artem Russakovskii (@ArtemR) January 10, 2019
Most desktop Chrome users probably won't be affected, and the associated server-side experiment may not have rolled out to everyone, but for those affected the issue can be quite aggravating. Opening links in a new window via a middle click, ctrl+click, ctrl+shift+click, and even just left-clicking links in certain circumstances, can cause Google to block new windows and full-screen videos as if they were pop-up advertisements. Thankfully, the problem only seems to occur in conjunction with using a handful of Chrome extensions.
Affected extensions include Ghostery, ImTranslator, DuckDuckGo, S3Translator, and Roboform Password Manager. Other extensions may also trigger the behavior, so if you run into the problem and you aren't using one of the extensions we've listed here, consider disabling others to see if that fixes it for you.There's also another fix, but it's a bit more complicated: adding "--disable-features=NativeCrxBindings" to the command line launch parameters for Chrome disables the associated experiment, which fixes the problem.
A Googler on the Chrome browser team claims to have pared down the cause of the issue, and with it being triggered by a server-side experiment, a more traditional fix could be coming at any time.
We've reached out to Google for comment, but had yet to receive one by the time of publication. For now, if you're among those affected, all you can do is try to disable extensions until it works or pass that extra parameter to your Chrome shortcut.
Fix is rolling out
A fix should be rolling out in the coming hours, according to both a response to a thread pertaining to the problem in the Help Forum, and the associated issue in the Chromium bug tracker. An update is not required, but you may need to restart Chrome once the fix is available to you before it will take effect.
If you're curious why that is, a detailed explanation is provided in the bug tracker item, but the short version is that restarting Chrome will re-fetch the list of active experiments/flags. Since a change disabling this experiment is rolling out now, that will result in the experiment being disabled on your client, restoring the impaired functionality.