Google Chrome for Symbian S60

March 15, 2018
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Aurich Lawson (with apologies to Bill Watterson)

Google announced today that it is forking the WebKit rendering engine on which its Chrome browser is based. The company is naming its new engine "Blink."

The WebKit project was started by Apple in 2001, itself a fork of a rendering engine called KHTML. The project includes a core rendering engine for handling HTML and CSS (WebCore), a JavaScript engine (JavaScriptCore), and a high-level API for embedding it into browsers (WebKit).

Though known widely as "WebKit, " Google Chrome has used only WebCore since its launch in late 2008. Apple's Safari originally used the WebKit wrapper and now uses its successor, WebKit2. Many other browsers use varying amounts of the WebKit project, including the Symbian S60 browser, the BlackBerry browser, the webOS browser, and the Android browser.

Until now, Google has rigorously tracked the WebKit project, both integrating patches made by other WebKit developers and pushing its own changes made during the course of Chrome's development back upstream.

Linus Upson, vice president of Engineering at Google, and Alex Komoroske, product manager on the Open Web Platform team, told us that the costs of sharing code now outweighed the advantages. There is considerable complexity in WebCore that is there to support WebKit2 features that Google does not want or use.

For example, WebKit2 has its own multiprocess model for creating individual processes for each browser tab. For Chrome, Google developed its own multiprocess system. Similarly, WebKit2 has a sandboxing model to isolate each process. Google has a separate system for Chrome.

By forking WebCore to create Blink, Google claims that all WebKit users will be able to innovate more quickly. Google can remove infrastructure that exists only to support WebKit2's features, with the company claiming that in one fell swoop it can discard 7, 000 files and 4.5 million of lines of code that exist only to support WebKit2's architecture. In turn, this removes the ongoing cost of supporting this infrastructure.

Conversely, the WebKit project no longer needs to worry about making changes that might break WebCore for the way Chrome uses it.

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