Thursday, 4 April 2013

Blink

I blogged last time the browser engine count changed, so I think to be fair I should blog about this one too.

I think this is good news for the Web. When we lost an engine, that was bad for engine diversity and the open Web. Now we're gaining one, and that's good for engine diversity and the open Web. It's not a direct reverse of the Opera situation though. Compared to Presto, Blink will have much more market share, and therefore a bigger impact. On the other hand, Blink is a promise to deliver a different engine over time, not a new engine right now, and even in the long term one presumes it will share a lot of code with Webkit --- especially if people port code between the two projects. So it contributes less diversity than Presto did.

One immediate benefit for the open Web is that today it's difficult for mobile Web developers to advocate "just coding to Webkit" as the way forward.

One issue we'll need to figure out in standards groups is when a Webkit implementation and a Blink implementation of a feature count as two independent implementations to allow a spec to proceed to REC. It's tough; even if the implementations are developed independently, the shared context (both code and architecture) will make the implementations less independent than they should be. We may need to address this on a case-by-case basis.

I am a bit worried about how this will impact Apple's support for the open Web. Safari has lagged behind other browsers in various ways, but they were also dragged along by Google to some extent in supporting new features whether they cared or not. Now they're falling completely off that train and we'll see a true test of whether Apple is willing to step up their investment to keep up with the progress of the open Web. Apple has obvious incentives to hobble Web apps on iOS, so I worry.

Of lesser importance, this is probably good for Mozilla. Even if it means Chrome moves faster, the fracturing of the Webkit community benefits us. It's not something to gloat over though.

Back to work!

Update One other thought occurred to me: now, a company adopting Webkit has to choose between a fork dominated by Apple and a fork dominated by Google. That's going to be less appealing than when Apple and Google were providing some counterweight to each other.

11 comments:

  1. Another way to look at it is the Web lost a unpopular proprietary rendering engine and gained a new widely popular open source rendering engine.

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    Replies
    1. However this battle isn't about propietary or Open, Free or everything else. It's about standards.

      Delete
    2. True, but from a historical perspective multiple interoperable software platform implementations is a mostly unrealized concept. With the Web being the only one without one a single dominant implementation. Even then it's not so interoperable that sites don't have to serve up different pages to each browser.

      We're kind of fortunate Google's engineers were able to convince management to let them do this.

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  2. I'm not too concerned about the independent implementation issue. I'm sure everyone will make the appropriate noises about maximising compatibility and sharing code, but if you look at the list of things Google wants to do in Blink[1], it's clear there's a *lot* of pent-up engineering energy waiting to be unleashed, and it's likely to result in a browser that looks very different 12 months down the line.

    Re. Apple, they've been dragged along by Google, but they've also retarded Google's progress somewhat, as Google haven't been able to pursue the kinds of things listed on that linked page. Now though, Google have the ability to improve Android's web capability as freely and quickly as they want. The upshot is that Apple now faces a real competitive threat in the mobile web. If websites and webapps start working faster and better on Android phones and tablets than on iOS, then they will need to invest in Safari to even things up.

    [1] http://www.chromium.org/blink/developer-faq#TOC-What-sorts-of-things-should-I-expect-from-Chrome-

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  3. The goals for blink has lots of multithreading and parallelizing work.
    Perhaps they are taking hints from Servo ?

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  5. The goals for blink has lots of multithreading and parallelizing work.
    Perhaps they are taking hints from Servo ?

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