The rise of WebKit browsers, and the fear of IE6-style stagnation

Now that Opera has announced they'll be switching from their Presto HTML rendering engine to WebKit, the open source engine rendering engine Apple forked from KHTML, there's been some concern that having such a dominant technology could one again lead to the type of browser stagnation we suffered under Microsoft and Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). Indeed, Safari on iOS and OS X, Google's Chrome, Palm's webOS, BlackBerry's Torch, and others have all based themselves on WebKit. Writing on Hypercritical, however, John Siracusa thinks the parallel doesn't hold:

I haven’t forgotten the past. A single, crappy web browser coming to dominate the market would be just as terrible today as it was in the dark days of IE6. But WebKit is not a browser. Like Linux, it’s an enabling technology. Like Linux, it’s free, open-source, and therefore beyond the control of any single entity.

I think Siracusa's exactly right. IE was a proprietary app with an ActiveX lock-in. WebKit has become infrastructure surfaced in many apps. Too many, too smart companies all have stake in WebKit and driving it forward. It's open source, but can be strongly opinionated by platform.

It's the best of both browser worlds.

And if you hate it, you still have Microsoft's Trident and Mozilla's Gecko to keep you company, or as long as they can keep up.

Source: Hypercritical