Google Forks The WebKit Engine To Blink


Yesterday, Google announced on the Chromium blog that they will be forking the excellent WebKit rendering engine to a new version dubbed Blink.

For those that don’t know, a rendering engine is a piece of software with the job of processing a web pages code and rendering the result on a computing device’s screen. So, if you right click on this page and select ‘View Source’ you will be able to see the code that your web browsers engine uses to convert it into a human readable format; the RefuGeeks website.

Why are Google forking WebKit?

Well, there are a number of browsers that use the WebKit engine, but Google and Apple’s Safari browser are about the biggest. The WebKit engine is open source and both Google & Apple heavily contribute to the code. However, over time WebKit has become bloated and too hard for Google to manage, so the plan is to fork WebKit into Blink and streamline it for improved performance and stability. The Chromium team elaborate on this within their blog announcement saying…

“The bulk of the initial work will focus on internal architectural improvements and a simplification of the codebase. For example, we anticipate that we’ll be able to remove 7 build systems and delete more than 7,000 files—comprising more than 4.5 million lines—right off the bat. Over the long term a healthier codebase leads to more stability and fewer bugs.”

Why such a random name?

The name Blink is a reference to the generally hated, and now extinct <blink> tag of early HTML that made text blink off and on. It follows the pattern of Google naming projects after what it deems relics from the past: Chrome is designed to minimize user-interface “chrome” that surrounds web pages; the Chromebook Pixel’s high-resolution screen is designed to make pixels disappear; and Blink is designed to do away with browser engine irritations.

Obviously this isn’t the greatest news for Apple, as they will be losing one of the main contributors to the WebKit engine that Safari uses. However, Opera evangelist, Bruce Lawson has confirmed on his blog that the Opera browser will be moving from WebKit to Blink, and will obviously become a contributor to the open source project. Since Opera moved from their Presto engine to the Chromium WebKit version quite some time ago, this move does make sense for them.

All-in-all this is a double-edged sword for internet browsers everywhere, as it will give both users and developers more choice. However, it does mean that there could be certain fragmentation and possibly compatibility issues when Blink is introduced. Ever had the “this page needs Internet Explorer to display correctly” message when surfing the web? Well, that’s down to your browsers engine, so further fragmentation may cause more of these errors to become apparent – let’s hope not though.

What do you guys think? Are Google doing the right thing here, or should they continue to contribute to and develop an the established WebKit engine? Why not tell us your thoughts in the comments section below…

Google Forks The WebKit Engine To Blink
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