Google Drops WebKit Rendering For Chrome, Opts For Blink

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Google is dropping its involvement with the WebKit rendering engine to focus on its own open source alternative

Google has revealed its Chrome web browser is dropping the use of the WebKit rendering engine in favour of its own open source alternative.

To this end, Google revealed the introduction of Blink, which it described as a new open source rendering engine based on WebKit, the widely-used layout engine that allows web browsers to render web pages.

Bye-bye WebKit

Google made the announcement in an official blog posting on the Chromium project. The project includes Chromium and Chromium OS, the open-source projects behind the Chrome web browser and the Chrome operating system.

googlechromeGoogle wants its own rendering engine for Chrome, because it feels WebKit has become too complex to continue use with its web browser.

“Chromium 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,” software engineer Adam Barth explained. “This has slowed down the collective pace of innovation – so today, we are introducing Blink, a new open source rendering engine based on WebKit.”

“This was not an easy decision. We know that the introduction of a new rendering engine can have significant implications for the web. Nevertheless, we believe that having multiple rendering engines – similar to having multiple browsers – will spur innovation and over time improve the health of the entire open web ecosystem.”

A rendering engine for those not in the know is the key software component of the web browser that takes content (such as HTML, XML, image files, etc.), as well as formatting information (CSS, XSL, etc.) and displays the formatted content on the screen.

Google said it is making this move because it wants to improve the overall architectural efficiency of the Chrome browser, and make it leaner, faster and more stable.

Efficiency drive

To this end Google intends to trim the excess code used by other WebKit-based browsers but which is not needed in the Chrome codebase. According to Barth, Google anticipates that it will be able to remove seven build systems and delete more than 7,000 files – comprising more than 4.5 million lines.

“Throughout this transition, we’ll collaborate closely with other browser vendors to move the web forward and preserve the compatibility that made it a successful ecosystem,” added Barth. “In that spirit, we’ve set strong guidelines for new features that emphasise standards, interoperability, conformance testing and transparency.”

Google is not alone in making changes to the technology that powers its web browser. Back in February, Opera Software revealed plans to abandon its own Presto rendering engine in favour of Cromium on desktops, and WebKit on mobile devices. It is going to use Google Blink too, it was reported this week.

The moves are particularly noteworthy, as WebKit is still the rendering engine used by Apple for its Safari web browser, amongst others.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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