Google has announced that Chrome will be moving to a new rendering engine called Blink. The new engine will be a fork of WebKit, and Google plans on molding it into something that’s a bit better suited to Chrome’s multi-process architecture.
The WebKit code has become increasingly complex in recent years, no doubt due to its immense popularity. That’s mostly a good thing, but it’s also led to some issues. The biggest, Google feels, is that it’s no longer possible to move forward as quickly as it would like to.
Back in 2010, “Release early, iterate often” was a kind of mantra for the Chromium team. Three years later, it’s clear that Google still believes that’s how software should be developed… and so it’s time for a browsing engine all its own.
Google estimates that the Blink codebase can immediately shed about 4.5 million lines of code in 7,000 files just by uprooting unneeded architectural bits from WebKit. That’ll not only make Blink a bit lighter, but also a bit easier to maintain going forward.
Simplicity and speed are the key. As Chrome races from release to release in six-week bursts, the slimmed-down code Blink code at its core will make Google’s life easier. That is, of course, once it adjusts to the separation from the incredibly talented developers who will continue to work on WebKit.
Google contributed plenty to WebKit over the past several years, but WebKit developers played a huge part in Chrome’s rise to success. Now, however, it’s time to move on. The future success of Google’s platforms is inextricably tied to its browser. It’s imperative, then, that Google gets to decide when it’s time to slam down the accelerator and when it’s time to pump the brakes (don’t expect that to happen all that often).
Like Mozilla did when Opera announced its move to WebKit, Google, too, notes that having one more browsing engine is a good thing for the web as a whole. Competition is a good thing, and Blink will help keep the pace of innovation on the web rapid.
WebKit will live on without Google, of course. Apple still needs an engine for Safari, after all, and there are countless other projects that depend on it. It could, however, prove tricky to avoid falling behind. Google wants to move forward at breakneck speeds and WebKit may not be able to keep up.
Even if Blink one day completely wipes WebKit from the Internet, there’s no reason to fear a browser engine monopoly. Mozilla and Samsung aren’t about to let that happen, and they’re going to make sure that Servo is a worthy competitor. Microsoft will probably still be developing Trident for IE, too.
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