Google splits with Apple on WebKit, launches Blink browser project

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is launching Blink, an open-source rendering engine spinning out of WebKit, the engine powering browsers including the company's own Chrome as well as archrival Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Safari.

Google and Apple have collaborated on WebKit for years, each contributing to the same open-source codebase. With the decision to fork WebKit into Blink, that cooperation will end: Moving forward, Google and Apple will each work separately to introduce new browser features and enhancements.

According to Google, the Blink fork is designed to accelerate the pace of innovation. The Chromium browser project leverages a different multi-process architecture from other WebKit-based browsers, and supporting multiple architectures has become increasingly problematic.

"This was not an easy decision," said Google software engineer Adam Barth. "We know that the introduction of a new rendering engine can have significant implications for the Web. Nevertheless, we believe that having multiple rendering engines--similar to having multiple browsers--will spur innovation and over time improve the health of the entire open Web ecosystem."

CNet reports that Blink and WebKit will be identical in the short term, but will quickly diverge as Google begins making internal architectural improvements and simplifying the codebase. "Over time they'll evolve in different directions, which will make it harder to share code," said Alex Komoroske, product manager for Google's Open Web Platform team. "It'll be increasingly difficult to share a straightforward patch."

Google vowed it will work closely with other browser vendors throughout the transition from WebKit to Blink. Opera Software, which earlier this year scrapped its Presto rendering engine in favor of WebKit, has already confirmed it will contribute to Blink. "Its architecture allows for greater speed--something that Opera and Google have long focused on," said Opera Web evangelist Bruce Lawson. "When browsers are fast and interoperable, using the Web as a platform becomes more competitive against native app development."

Other companies leveraging the WebKit engine, including BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Samsung Electronics, have not yet revealed whether they will contribute to Blink's development.

Google introduced Chrome in 2008 and expanded the browser to its Android mobile operating system and Apple's iOS last year. Chrome for mobile touts many of the same features as its desktop counterpart, and it enables users to port bookmarks and saved tabs from PCs to smartphones and tablets.

For more:
- read this Chromium Blog entry
- read this CNet article
- read this InfoWorld article

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