Top Firefox OS bloke flames Opera for WebKit surrender
Why we'll never switch from Gecko, says Mozilla CTO
A top bod at Firefox-maker Mozilla has ruled out replacing its web browser's brains with WebKit - and lamented Opera’s surrender to the web engine favoured by Apple and Google.
Opera revealed last week that it will eventually dump its own web browser's engine Presto after 18 years for the one-two-punch of WebKit - the open-source web-page layout display engine that’s the basis of Apple’s Safari browser and Google Chrome.
A day after the Presto announcement, Mozilla's chief technology officer Brendan Eich said he was “sad” the world had lost “one of the few remaining web platforms”, and invited downcast Opera developers to join the effort behind Mozilla's Gecko browser engine.
“Take heart and persevere. It is sad to lose one of the few remaining independent web platforms, Presto,” Eich wrote on his blog. “I hope that Opera will keep fighting its good fight within WebKit. Opera fans are always welcome in Mozilla’s community, at all levels of contribution (standards, hacking, engagement).”
This has reopened the debate on the rise of WebKit, and whether Mozilla and even Microsoft should finally give up going it alone and succumb to the fork of KDE's KHTML project.
He said: “Monoculture remains a problem that we must fight. The web needs multiple implementations of its evolving standards to keep them interoperable.” His lengthy essay continued:
Mozilla is not Opera. If we were a more conventional business, without enough desktop browser-marketshare, we would probably have to do what Opera has done. But we’re not just a business, and our desktop share seems to be holding or possibly rising — due in part to the short-term wins we have been able to build on Gecko.
Eich reckoned the future is for more web engines, rather than fewer, and he ticks off those who naively assume that demanding all browsers use the same engine will make the world a better place. Such people, he contends, “may have not lived under monopoly rule in the past”.
In short, Opera and those pushing Mozilla towards WebKit are wrong, according to Eich, who envisioned the need for “a new cleanish-slate open-source web engine project” to motivate programmers into contributing and also to “avoid depending on an engine that an incredibly well-funded and lock-in-prone competitor dominates, namely WebKit". ®
What are people doing to their Firefox installs? All I ever hear people say about Firefox these days is that it's full of memory leaks, hogs loads of RAM, is really slow and crashes all the time.
I've not run into any of those problems and I use FF heavily on a daily basis for web development. I'm loaded up with lots of plugins too.
Re: WebKit alone
The first problem with this is that different renderers interpret the standards differently. Case in point: IE5-7 CSS Box Model. They fail the Acid 2 rendering tests. If there is a single renderer, there is no motivation to fix any issues ("our interpretation is correct"). Having multiple renderers helps keep each other sane w.r.t. the standards.
The second problem is that different renderers implement different parts of the standard at different times. Case in point: MathML and SVG. Mozilla have had MathML implemented for a long time, same with SVG. WebKit is only just adding support for MathML. IE has only added cut-down SVG as of IE9 and a more complete version as of IE10. If there was a single renderer, there would be no incentive to implement the other specs (how long has Microsoft dragged their heels on SVG support).
The third problem is that having a single renderer, there will be less sway for others to push for standards as they do not have an implementation to base it on. Especially if the single implementation is pushing their own version.
Also, think about things like eBook readers or text-to-speech/assistive technology programs reading web content. Those have different requirements which may be counter to what the single renderer provides, which that renderer will be reluctant to provide as they go against their goals (think of things like SSML support and the CSS Speech module).
Re: WebKit alone
The web has broken bits because dumb arse developers use non-standard features in public facing sites.