Google has been using the open source Webkit rendering engine to power its Chrome web browser and Chrome OS operating system since day one. But that’s about to change.
The company has announced plans to develop its own rendering engine called Blink. It’s based on Webkit, but as development continues, it will likely start to look more and more different from the software it’s forked from.
Google says the split is necessary because Chrome uses a different multi-process architecture than other web browsers based on Webkit. By splitting off and developing a new rendering engine, Google developers hope to be able to pick up the pace of their own work without holding back the Webkit project.
Initially Blink will be used for Chromium, the open source version of Chrome. Eventually it’s expected to make it into the stable versions of Chrome and Chrome OS used by millions of people (well, the Chrome web browser anyway, it’s not clear how many Chrome OS users are out there).
Like Webkit, Blink is an open source project and will accept code contributions from developers outside of Google.
Webkit will continue to power competing browsers including Safari, Konqueror, and Dolphin.
Opera also recently announced that it would be dropping its own Presto rendering engine and moving to Webkit.
Update: Actually, what Opera announced was that it was moving to Chromium. And that means that since Google is switching to Blink, Opera is too.
Google promises to continue emphasizing support for web standards and interoperability, so while Blink will diverge from Webkit, hopefully users won’t find themselves visiting websites that aren’t compatible with Chrome the day Google decides to flip the switch from Webkit to Blink.
CNET has a roundup of opinions from some Google staffers who seem pretty happy with the move, since it will enable faster development, stronger security, and other improvements.