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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.