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Good, bad, or ugly? Chromium forks WebKit to create Blink

Blink is the recently announced fork of the WebKit-rendering engine for Google Chrome, but is it good news for users and developers, or purely a business move?

The folks at the Google Chromium Projects have decided to fork the WebKit-rendering engine for Chrome and are now putting their energies toward the Blink open source browser rendering engine, with the mission, "To improve the open web through technical innovation and good citizenship."

The forked version, according to The Chromium Blog, is now a primary focus since Chromium has historically used a distinctive multi-process-architecture which is unlike WebKit-based browsers. It grew to become more complex, which resulted in stalling innovation and progress. The project is concentrated on simplifying the code base from what now stands at just over 4.5 million lines, and they hope to remove over 7,000 files which comprise seven build systems. The blog goes on to say that little will change for web developers in the short term, but with Blink, one has to ask what might be the implications for the long haul?

Blink is an open source community of supporters who value transparency and are open to anyone wanting to participate in the discussion, no matter the organization or affiliation. Several places for ongoing discussions include the Chromium Bug Tracker, Code Reviews, the #blink IRC channel on Freenode, and the Blink-Dev Group on Google Groups, which help to keep the momentum and development moving ahead.

The good

The chief motives behind the shift include a need to improve performance, speed, stability, and security of the web platform in Chrome, so this will be a good thing for growing population of Chrome browser users...eventually. With Chrome ahead of the pack in terms of worldwide web browser usage and hovering around 38% as of March 2013, it continues to show user growth while other browsers (IE 29.3%, Firefox 20.87%, and Opera 1.17%) have shown a steady decline, with the exception of Safari (8.5%).

Specifically, the project is concentrating on delivering a speedier DOM and JS engine, keeping the platform secure, refactoring for performance, and enabling a more powerful rendering and layout, including multi-threading. Combined with the project focus of speeding up development and improving overall performance benchmarks, the refocus bodes well for both developers and users alike.

The bad

With Apple having a large stake in the WebKit-rendering engine, it made good business sense for Chrome to distance itself and create a rendering engine of its own. But, what does that really mean for web standards? Like I mentioned above, don't expect any new web standards or Chrome innovations just yet; this may be more of a political move and business posturing for Google Chrome through the long haul. While the project maintains that it is an open source community, how many software developers outside of the current browser smokestacks are ready to dive into the realm of rendering engine code?

The ugly

The Blink Developer FAQ answers plenty of questions you might ask about the motives behind the move. However, to get the "read between the lines" explanation, you might want to take a look at Rob Isaac's cutting, yet comedic translation on selected portions of the frequent questions. Rob takes a witty approach to exposing what could be the real reason behind Blink, but only time will tell if Google's motivations are well intentioned.

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Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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