google-chrome-logoGoogle is taking its ball and going home, forking the open-source WebKit browser rendering engine that Chrome and Safari currently use and that Opera recently said it would start using.


Google says that using WebKit is slowing down innovation, because “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.”

The solution is Blink, Chromium’s new rendering engine. It’s a fork of WebKit that will use largely the same codebase, minus a significant amount of no-longer-needed code: 7,000 files and 4.5 million lines of code. That will make the codebase slimmer — obviously — as well as more stable, more secure, and less buggy, according to Google.

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WebKit emerged from the KHTML browser when Apple took KHTML code as the basis for its Safari browser in 2001, and it currently powers the vast majority of web browser share. Forking the codebase will fracture the browser rendering space between WebKit, Gecko (which powers Firefox), Trident (Microsoft’s rendering engine), and now, of course, Blink.

That’s a concern for web developers who have to build websites that render properly in all browsers, but Google says that won’t be a problem:

“In the short term, Blink will bring little change for web developers,” Google engineer Adam Barth wrote.

The question, of course, is the long term.

Interestingly, Opera has very swiftly said that it would use the new Google fork of WebKit for the new Opera rendering engine.

(Oh, and if you’re wondering what the dongle joke is about, here’s the answer.)