What should we make of Blink, Google’s new rendering engine?



Google has announced that it’s moving from the WebKit rendering engine to its own, named Blink, for Chromium (and thus all Google products based on WebKit).

What is Blink?

Blink is a rendering engine based on WebKit. For now, it will be very similar to what WebKit is, but as it develops over time, I’m sure we will see a number of differences.

One good thing to notice — as outlined in the Developer FAQ on Blink — is that Google won’t be adding any new prefixes, like -blink-border-radius etc.

Instead, it’s chosen the same approach as Mozilla, to instead have developers enable new experimental features in about:flags in Google Chrome. It will, however, support already implemented WebKit prefixes.

What it means

It means we’re getting a new rendering engine, thus contributing to the needed diversity I talked about in “The WebKit culture & web rendering engine diversity“.

It’s a fairly logical move to me, and as I previously outlined, the various options and differences in WebKit are much bigger than most people seem to think.

Google is a business. It aims to be as streamlined and flexible as possible, and this is its way of doing that. I don’t have a problem with that, and I hope it leads to more healthy competition in the web browser rendering engine space.

It also means that all those people saying that WebKit was good for everything when Opera switched to it, defending it as the only rendering engine that mattered were, well, not entirely correct…

I also hope, and believe, there will be fewer voices suggesting that Internet Explorer and Firefox switch to WebKit as well, and understand that different companies have differences approaches.

Finally, it will change the mindset of many web developers who have put an equal sign between WebKit and Web, and especially the mobile web as that. This is good.

WebKit != Web != Mobile Web

but rather

[All rendering engines] == Web == Mobile Web

What does this mean for WebKit’s future?

I think this is by far the most interesting implication.

It’s a big shift for WebKit development, with Google currently having the top number of reviewers. Apple will also need to evaluate its role in WebKit, and what time and efforts it will put in, or any potential changes it has to make.

I also wonder if the result could be that Safari will fall behind other web browsers with far less contributors?

I think, long-term, it will definitely affect iOS and the web browsing experience in general, and I also wonder if other parties using WebKit now will consider Blink. And where contributor loyalty will be.

This article by Robert Nyman originally appeared on Robert’s talk and is republished with permission.

Image: Ruth L (via Flickr).



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