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Chromium switches from WebKit to Blink – Developers weigh in

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Probably one of the greatest things to happen to the web in the past few years is the dominance of open source rendering engines, with Gecko and WebKit leading the charge and totally conforming to web standards. WebKit in particular is used in a lot of browsers, and is estimated to account for almost 50% of web users. So it’s come as a surprise today that Google and the Chromium team have announced that they are switching from WebKit to their own Blink rendering engine.

Blink is an open source project forked from WebKit, and in the short term the development team claim it will work better with the multi-threaded nature of Chrome and Chromium. WebKit apparently does not handle each separate tab being it’s own process in Chromium as well as Google would like.

While there’s no date for the implementation of Blink in stable versions of Chrome and Chromium, its imminent arrival has divided some of the developers we’ve talked to about. Sam Hampton-Smith, web designer and developer that writes for our sister magazine Web Designer, had this to say:

“This change isn’t going to mean too much to the average web developer in the short-term. Because Blink is a fork from Webkit, the rendering engine will presumably remain largely the same as for current Webkit implementations. From the looks of Google’s announcement, this change is more about improving the underlying architecture that allows them to isolate individual processes required to load and render pages, rather than the rendering engine itself. Of course, over time this is bound to change as Blink moves away from the original Webkit branch, so expect competition to hot up in the browser stakes, and be prepared to explicitly have to test separately in Blink and Webkit.”

An anonymous developer and open source advocate told us his fears regarding some developers concentrating too much on developing for WebKit, and now Blink, rather than the established web standards:

“What definitely will happen though, is you’ll get a new interpretation of the web standards in Blink, over time. Which means for a standard compliant web developer, yet another set of quirks to deal with.”

The Chromium team has laid out the objectives for Blink so far on their website, and say its mission is “to improve the open web through technical innovation and good citizenship”.

What do you think of the announcement?

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