Opera moves to the WebKit rendering engine

The move causes observers to worry about the diminishing diversity of Web rendering engines

Creating some consternation in the Web development community, Opera Software is switching from a home-built rendering engine to the more widely used open-source WebKit, now employed in the Apple Safari and Google Chrome browsers.

"It makes more sense to have our experts working with the open source communities ... rather than developing our own rendering engine further," said Opera Chief Technology Officer Håkon Wium Lie in a statement. The company also plans to use portions of Google's Chromium experimental Web browser project.

Rendering engines, also called layout engines, are an essential component of browsers. They render the source code provided to the browser as a finished Web page. WebKit started as KDE Software's KHTML, the open-source rendering engine for the Konqueror browser and file manager.

Although never as widely used as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, the Opera browser now has 300 million monthly users, the company recently announced. First developed as a browser that required relatively minimal computer resources, Opera today is perhaps most widely found in Android and Apple iOS devices, as well as in other phones and Internet-connected consumer electronic devices.

Not everyone is pleased with the move from Opera's previous rendering engine, Presto. "The big loss for the Web is a further decrease in the diversity of browser engines, especially on mobile devices," wrote Mozilla developer Robert O'Callahan in a blog post. He noted that there are now only two other rendering engines in widespread use other than WebKit, namely Microsoft's Trident and Mozilla's Gecko.

An Opera employee who posts online under the name "Haavard" downplayed concerns of an emerging layout-engine monoculture, however. "While different browsers are competing with each other, the Web is actually competing with native applications," he wrote in a blog post that announced the release. "The Web may not be fully open, but it is far more open than the closed world of [apps]. If moving to WebKit allows Opera to gain more power and strengthen the browser as an open application platform, it will benefit the now semi-open Web in the competition against fully closed apps."

Opera plans to redirect its layout-engine developers to contribute to WebKit. They have already started making improvements in the way multicolumn layouts can be rendered.

"Not only will [switching to WebKit] free up significant engineering resources at Opera and allow us to do more innovation instead of constantly trying to adapt to the Web, but our users should benefit from better site compatibility and more innovative features and polish," Haavard wrote.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags application developmentWeb services developmentapplicationsopera softwarebrowserssoftware

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?