Software Development

The great browser shake-up of 2013

In a jam-packed 24 hours, Google announces it is forking WebKit, and Samsung teams up with Mozilla to develop a new engine.

Just when you thought you knew what was happening in browser-land and were bracing for the upcoming WebKit hegemony — the browser outlook for web developers has changed drastically in the past day.

The biggest change, and the one that will likely be seen on a day-to-day basis first, is Google's announcement that is forking the WebKit engine that it currently uses for Chrome, and creating a new engine, initially based on WebKit, called Blink.

Google said that the split was a result of Chrome's different architecture compared to other WebKit based browsers, and the opportunity to implement its own performance improvements.

Justin Schuh, security engineer at Google, said that Google had been holding back on updates due to WebKit's design and the WebKit project's focus on WebKit2.

Opera has also announced that it, too, will be moving over from WebKit to Blink.

Thankfully, Blink will not have support for vendor prefixes beyond legacy -webkit prefixes.

Google has said that Blink is not "just a ruse" to get Dart or Native Client into the rendering engine.

Over at Mozilla yesterday, Mozilla's CTO Brendan Eich announced that the project was teaming up with Samsung to develop a new browser engine to take advantage of multicore architectures. The new engine is dubbed Servo, with Eich saying that it would be a rebuild from the ground-up to take advantage of massively parallel hardware. Servo is developed in Mozilla's Rust language.

Samsung comes into the Servo picture by porting Servo and Rust to Android and ARM architectures.

The adventurous who wish to try out either project can find the source at the Servo and Rust repositories.

What should web developers do in the face of these new rendering engines? The same thing they should have been doing all along: Writing browser-agnostic code that works across multiple platforms.

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8 comments
Gisabun
Gisabun

I guess that means many, many, many, many security flaws to come on top of what they already have issues with.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

at the consumer side rendering for smartphones and tablets than a regular PC. It will be interesting to see how it goes and what it does. To me the biggest issue is that developers have to add significant amounts of code to a webpage to make it render in a way suitable to a smartphone and tablet as well as a regular PC. I recently went to a website where it looked horrid on my 24 inch screen. On asking the webmaster I found out it was optimised for smartphones and smaller tablets as that's where they see the bulk of their clients accessing from. They were happy to ahve a nice smartphone rednition, even if it meant a very clunk look on a pc. Needless to say I ended up looking more closely at the stocks sold by their opposition as they had shown they were prepared to write of a whole group of clients in favour of a one group. Thus they showed they weren't all that interested in my business.

just.a.guy
just.a.guy

It seems that we are back into the browser wars again. We keep letting the browser developers lead. An alternative would be to have a common language that runs in a VM. And then have a VM for all of the browsers that are supported. This might make the web-site agnostic to the browser. The site chooses which VM to download based upon the browser that is being used. This reduces site maintenance, and makes the site more stable. The developer codes the site based upon the independent VM. Maybe this is a bad idea? Don't know.

Slayer_
Slayer_

So far Mozilla has managed to screw up the engine over and over with each new release. Now they are dumping the whole thing and starting over? How bad will this end up being? And we lose all the extensions?

lastchip
lastchip

[i]"What should web developers do in the face of these new rendering engines? The same thing they should have been doing all along: Writing browser-agnostic code that works across multiple platforms."[/i] Forgive me, but that is such a naive statement that it's almost beyond belief. The abomination that is IE, coupled with varying degrees of html5 support, precludes any such ambitions. Couple that with multiple screen sizes, flaky responsive design elements and mobiles, it becomes an impossible task not to compromise somewhere on one or more platforms. I spend more time writing elegant fall-back code, than developing the site itself. The quicker W3C initiates rigid standards that [i]everyone adheres to[/i], the better. But I'm not holding my breath. I suspect I'll be dead before it happens. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many organisations with their own agendas.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Popups for example, even those javascript ones, are super annoying. Slow loading images that don't have a fixed size in the HTML. So the page resizes over and over as images load. Actually, just look at TR, it has the worst design for desktop and mobile, and the mobile page is even more awful than the desktop page. TR stands as an example of what not to do.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

That would add layers of additional complexity. Really the best bet would be to install multiple browsers and if a site renders improperly you just try the next one. I feel sorry for web developers. They are the ones that get impacted the most. Bill

Slayer_
Slayer_

You just right click, and change the renderer of the webpage you are on. Nice and simple.

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