Feeds

Opera joins Google/Apple in-crowd with shift to WebKit and Chromium

Only Redmond left drinking out of own browser plumbing

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Opera Software is throwing in with Apple, Google and open-sourcers by dumping its browser’s proprietary HTML rendering engine for WebKit and Chromium.

Opera is killing Presto in favour of the open-source WebKit 'ware used in Apple’s Safari and iOS plus Google’s Chrome, among other browsers and runtimes. New versions of Opera will also use Chromium, the open-source browser tech that forms the basis of Google’s Chrome.

Presto was Opera’s proprietary C++ rendering engine; WebKit is under GPL and Chromium is under a bevy of licenses including BSD, MIT and LGPL.

Opera promised a “gradual transition” to WebKit in up-coming versions of its browser on smart phones and computers.

This being open source there’s a trade-off, and in return for using WebKit and Chromium, Opera’s joining the communities working on the code to fix bugs and new features. Opera’s submitted its first patches, to improve multi-column layout.

Buying into WebKit and Chromium means Opera can cut its development costs and shift resources away from the pointless task of building and maintaining yet-another rendering engine and the basic plumbing that goes along with it.

Opera chief technology officer Håkon Wium Lie said in a statement:

"It makes more sense to have our experts working with the open source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium, rather than developing our own rendering engine further.”

It’s the epiphany developer-tools makers arrived at during the early-to-mid 2000s on Eclipse, an open-source tools and IDE project spun up by IBM. Eclipse provided a basic framework of menus, debuggers and plug-ins that meant IDE makers could cut costs by not having to build and maintain their own basic framework.

Also, as an open source and pluggable framework, Eclipse meant other IDE makers could tap and unlimited market of code improvements and plug-ins to their own vanilla tools at relatively little cost to their development and marketing.

The web in general on Wednesday welcomed the fact the brains of Opera will now work on WebKit and Chromium. Opera has carved out a strong and distinct niche in innovation: on mobile, highlighted in Opera’s announcement, the company’s worked out a unique way to smoothly stream content to devices in a way that overcomes network latency by using its own network of caching servers.

Some weren't thrilled, though: Anne van Kesteren, nowadays with Firefox-shop Mozilla but who once worked for Opera, called it:

“[A] sad day for my former team at Opera and for the web to lose a rendering engine.”

The problem with browsers is that while they all – even Microsoft - claims to be “standards compliant” they all implement the web’s standards in subtly different ways that force web devs to stretch and pull their apps to fit.

If you’re the world’s largest software company making IE you’re hard for devs to ignore, but if you’re Opera then it’s a different story. After almost 20 years Opera has succeeded in becoming an obsession only among those who love it. It’s irrelevant as a browser to everybody else – apart from oppressed citizens of the Stalinist state of Belarus, that is, where Opera is the number-one browser by market share.

Opera, subject of buy-out rumours by Facebook last year, has clearly had an epiphany for some reason and decided that 2013 is the time to finally get serious. The best way to do that is to attract devs building for iOS and for Android on mobile – still a relatively open field.

Opera’s decision is wise, then, but is by no means guaranteed to pay. The lesson for tools vendors on Eclipse was that Eclipse re-enforced IBM’s position as a dominant player in tools because it based its Rational suite on Eclipse, with a big gap between IBM and everybody else. The biggest competitor after IBM was Eclipse.

One consequence of Opera’s decision to join the Apple and Google in-crowd is that it’ll raise questions over Microsoft and IE. Microsoft is now the only browser maker still pouring money and time into a closed rendering engine that – in effect - simply helps the company keeps pace with everybody else.

Back when IE rendering engine was a standards basket case that could be justified but Microsoft now claims IE is standards compliant, meaning it makes less sense than ever before for Microsoft to keep building its own plumbing.

The question for Microsoft is: should it also use something already out there - such as Gecko, already used by Mozilla's Firefox - or WebKit. It was a topic last publicly addressed, vaguely, by Microsoft’s chief executive in 2008. Microsoft’s surely aware of the interest in WebKit and the competition this poses to IE, with the IE team posting this in 2012 as IE10 shipped.

But with shrinking market share for IE, it seems Microsoft will need to revisit the wisdom of adhering to the “not invented here” syndrome in the wake of Opera. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.