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Top Firefox OS bloke flames Opera for WebKit surrender

Why we'll never switch from Gecko, says Mozilla CTO

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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.

JavaScript inventor Eich, who recently assumed development of Firefox OS for mobile, ruled out replacing Mozilla's Gecko with WebKit. Aside from the complexity, cost and delay in making such an architectural switch, Eich claimed the web is a safer and healthier place with diversity at its heart.

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". ®

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