This post originally appeared on my blog on April 4, 2013.
It’s old news by this Thursday morning, but in case you had not heard, Google is forking WebKit to make its own rendering engine, Blink. Opera will be using the Blink fork of WebKit as its rendering engine.
A combination of people who are far smarter, far more well connected, and in timezones that allow them to write about this sooner, along with all the Twitter chatter, has already hashed out the major details. As such, I will link to them below. I would be a terrible blogger if I didn’t offer my opinion, however.
I will format this the way I did when I provided my in-depth analysis of Opera’s move to WebKit (away from Presto) less than two months ago.
So what does this really mean?
Any developer who is complaining that this means there is another browser/engine against which they will need to test has been doing it wrong.
Web developers should always test against different browsers, regardless of their engine. In particular, WebKit has so many nuanced implementations that not independently testing against each browser that uses WebKit belies either a lack of understanding of how WebKit is implemented or laziness.
If you aren’t sure what is different between each WebKit implementation (Chrome, Safari, Android browser, Opera, etc.), I encourage you to read my post “WebKit Will and Won’t Be the New IE,” where I provide a high-level overview of these variances.
At this point it doesn’t mean a whole lot.
Google will argue this is better for users. Apple will argue that Google took its ball and left. Opera won’t be arguing. None of that impacts users because we have mostly done a good job of promoting standards-based development. I again refer you to “WebKit Will and Won’t Be the New IE” for how poor testing can impact users, but that’s not a function of the engines.
That’s just speculation on my part.
For a specification to become a W3C recommendation, there must be
two 100% complete and fully interoperable implementations, which basically means two browsers need to support it. When Opera announced the shuttering of Presto, that left Trident (Internet Explorer), Gecko (Mozilla), and WebKit (Safari and Chrome) as the remaining engines (of measurable size). Essentially, two out of the three of them had to agree to implement a feature.
With Blink, provided the W3C recognizes it as a stand-alone engine, there is now one more engine back in the mix, essentially returning the count to where it was in February before Presto’s wind-down (to be fair to Presto, it’s expected to exist in the wild until 2020, but with no new feature development).
I am hoping that this is a good thing for standards.
Blink won’t be using vendor prefixes (even though it will have inherited some), so I consider that a step in the right direction. While I think this matters to developers, I think it matters even more to standards.
From Peter-Paul Koch:
Chrome 28 will be the first stable release to use Blink; earlier versions will use WebKit. Opera and Yandex will start using Blink whenever they start using Chromium 28.
First some bits from The Twitters:
Let’s bring back the Netscape engine and call it Spacer! RT @codepo8: After blink Microsoft might bring out a new engine called marquee
— Adrian Roselli (@aardrian) April 4, 2013
And *this* is how you fork a repo.
— Sylvain Galineau (@sgalineau) April 3, 2013
Can the new Blink logo be >_<?
— Mike Taylor (@miketaylr) April 3, 2013
And now to the related links:
- Blink: A rendering engine for the Chromium project, April 3, 2013.
- Developer FAQ, The Chromium Projects.
- Hello Blink, from Bruce Lawson (who clearly hates Morrissey doesn’t care for most of Morrissey’s solo work).
- Hello, Blink! from Paul Lewis
- Discussion on Hacker News about how Google controls WebKit.
- Well, err, that solves the WebKit monoculture problem, from Jake Archibald.
- Google Announces Blink, Its Own Rendering Engine For WebKit. at Read Write
- Blink from Robert O’Callahan.
- Discussion on Hacker News started from Apple’s perspective.
- Google going its own way, forking WebKit rendering engine at ars technica.
- Just One WebKit from James Socol.
- Why What You’re Reading About Blink Is Probably Wrong from Alex Russel.
- Blink. Chrome’s new rendering engine from Eric Bidelman.
- [webkit-dev] Cleaning House thread at the WebKit mailing list in the wake of the Blink news, along with the announcement on the list.
- A Short Translation from Bullshit to English of Selected Portions of the Google Chrome Blink Developer FAQ from Rob Isaac.
- Blink from Peter-Paul Koch.
- Another first by Opera! from WebKit Memes.
- Thoughts on Blink from Krzysztof Kowalczyk.
- Welcoming Blink, Chromium’s new open source rendering engine from Peter Beverloo.
There’s this one from 2010 by Haavard Moen that I thought worth highlighting: “Dear Google: Please fork WebKit.”
A video Q&A from Google Developers about Blink (time markers available on the Chromium blog).