Google forks WebKit, announces new Blink rendering engine

Google forks WebKit, announces new Blink rendering engine

Google has announced that they're forking the Apple-led open source WebKit to create their own, new Blink HTML rendering engine. According to the Chromium blog:

Chromium [the open source version of Chrome] uses a different multi-process architecture than other WebKit-based browsers, and supporting multiple architectures over the years has led to increasing complexity for both the WebKit and Chromium projects. This has slowed down the collective pace of innovation - so today, we are introducing Blink, a new open source rendering engine based on WebKit.

The impetus seems to be this: by forking WebKit into Blink, Google believes they can iterate and deploy changes faster than if they stay within the bigger, more complex WebKit system. In essence, they're taking a page out of Apple playbook and assuming control of their core technologies.

How this plays out for end users -- whether the pace of innovation increases more than any slowdown resulting from less compatibility -- remains to be seen. Ironically, Apple likely forked KHTML/Safari to make WebKit, in part, for similar reasons. They wanted a light codebase that didn't suffer from the overhead of the existing Mozilla userbase.

Also interesting: the Mozilla/Samsung Servo announcement, a new, lightweight, security-first rendering engine that'll come to Android, also hit today. Sucker punch and overhead right at WebKit all in one day. Probably not a coincidence. Also, Samsung using Servo, not Blink... That might be the most interesting -- and most telling -- part of today's machinations: is it a platform play?

So how do you feel about the move? Better for the web, worse for the web, or net neutral for the web? (No pun intended.) Insert your best "begun these browser wars have"

For more on the history of WebKit, see our Debug podcast interview with Don Melton, former head of the Safari team at Apple.

Source: Chromium blog

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Google forks WebKit, announces new Blink rendering engine


So if I'm reading this right..they are taking complete control over Chrome and beefed up Chrome on Android. This technology will soon hit the iOS App Store with a Chrome iOS update? If so, I welcome the change.

So they're going to fork up chrome? Are they telling WebKit to fork off? Is this right? (sorry, had to)

Cyclic behaviours. Everyone was separate and the battle was how much better one strategy was over another. Then one day they come together, not because there was a winner but to "collaborate" but there is no ability to set yourself apart so eventually you separate again. The cycle, like the world will keep going round and round.

This is forking crazy! Well if it make innovation easier than go for it. Don't fork around, put your own destiny in your hands.

I just want a fast, lightweight browser that doesn't track my every move. I have been migrating from Firefox because of the former, and Chrome because of the latter (IE is OK, but nothing special IMHO). Looking forward to Opera getting Webkit, but I'll bet this news takes some starch out of their britches. Hopefully, they don't re-evaluate and push their updates back further.

Forks? Who writes this sh!t?

The only thing that's been worse then Apple lately are these stupid "news" sites about them. You suck iMore and iMore every day iMore. iMore app deleted…

It is good for both parties, because Chrome's WebKit + its own Process Isolation works very differently to WebKit2.
But what Google did was a PR Stunt that mentions how many files and Line of code could be deleted once they move off WebKit, in a mind game that tricks you into thinking Webkit is full of bloat. In reality is all those code were because Chrome were so different to Webkit the community had to design and develop WebKit2 themselves.