Laying out the future
Browser wars to be shaken up by Blink and Servo
Google is to fork the WebKit rendering engine, it was announced yesterday. The new fork will be called Blink, and will be used by both Chrome and Opera in a major shake-up to the browser market.
WebKit is the open-source technology used to interpret HTML and CSS, currently used by Chrome, Safari and the stock Android browser. Originally a fork of KHTML, it was developed in secret by Apple for their flagship Safari browser, and later open-sourced in 2005. According to StatCounter, WebKit now powers over 45% of the global browser market.
When Google Chrome adopts Blink, it should make little short-term difference to the way it displayed web pages. However, web developers may be relieved to hear that Blink will phase out the practice of CSS vendor prefixes, which seen by many as inconvenient and harmful to web standards.
Blink will also be adopted by Opera, who just two months ago announced a switch from their own Presto engine to Chrome’s branch of WebKit. The company said at the time that it would allow a greater focus on the niche browser’s UI, although some commenters expressed fears that it might lead to a browser “monoculture”.
Chrome (and, soon, Opera) uses a different multi-process architecture to most other WebKit-based browsers, and this complexity has “slowed down the collective pace of innovation”, said Google engineer Adam Barth.
Mozilla serves up a new engine
Just a few hours before the unveiling of Blink, Mozilla announced that Samsung will be helping it port its own experimental “Next-Generation” browser engine, Servo, to Android. Servo is written in Rust and is designed “to take advantage of tomorrow’s faster, multi-core, heterogeneous computing architectures”.
Blink’s emergence is far from the end for WebKit, which still powers Safari on OS X and every iOS device. Now that Chrome support is no longer necessary, discussion on the WebKit mailing list has already turned to the subject of streamlining its codebase.
Fork image by Cookieater2009.