Google Forking WebKit To Create New Rendering Engine

Google announced last night that it’s going to stop using WebKit — the rendering engine currently used by the likes of Safari and Chrome to display web pages — in favour of its own solution, which will be called Blink.

That is, admittedly, super-nerdy news, but it’s important. Google claims that WebKit has been slowing down the way it develops its web browser. That’s mainly because of the way Chrome uses different methods to display web pages compared to other browsers — each tab in Chrome is a separate process — and WebKit doesn’t quite fit the mould. That means you can expect to see Google’s Chrome get better, quicker in the future. Google explains:

This was not an easy decision. We know that the introduction of a new rendering engine can have significant implications for the web. Nevertheless, we believe that having multiple rendering engines-similar to having multiple browsers-will spur innovation and over time improve the health of the entire open web ecosystem.

What it actually means for the rest of the internet is unclear. WebKit is certainly the dominant rendering engine for the mobile web, thanks in the most part to its use in Safari, which dominates mobile browsing. That means that, since Blink is a fork of WebKit and not a reinvention of the wheel, developers likely won’t have to do much to support the change. At least, in the first instance.

Elsewhere, Opera has announced that it’s joining Google in the shift, explaining that “the new engine that will power Opera’s browsers”. It could also be good news for Microsoft and Mozilla: currently, many mobile websites cater entirely for WebKit, and this shift might be enough to convince developers to shift to a more inclusive regime in the future. As for Apple, the major user of WebKit — well, it seems unlikely it will bother it at all.

Of course, it’s going to be a while before this has any major impact on the internet we all use. Blink’s still being developed, and will be first appear in Chromium before it eventually makes its way into Chrome. [Google via The Verge]

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