Chrome Blink: Browser Wars enter the next phase

Google Blin

Google has announced that they are forking the WebKit rendering engine into a project called Blink. I believe it is a strategic move as the battle for web supremacy enters a new phase.

There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions on what exactly what is going on and why. Whether this is good or bad and how it will affect the web and web development. I see this as a good and a bad thing. In the short term not much will change. In the long term I see increased competition for those who can keep up and and irrelevance for those who can’t.

Balance restored

We once again have four major rendering engines. When Opera abandoned Presto my heart hung heavy for the future of competition between browsers. The move to create Blink not only restores this balance but pushes it forward. Google is going to increase the speed of development with Blink. What was a sprint to features, with six week launch cycles, will turn into an insane race. Mozilla, Microsoft, and WebKit take notice, pick up the pace. The real winners in the long term will be you and I. We will have lots of fast, high-quality, browsers to choose from.

Blink is a direct fork of WebKit. So for now not much will change. Both code bases are as close to each other as they will ever be. As development progresses, and ever more changes are folded into Blink, the differences will grow ever more apparent. Blink and WebKit share a lot of the same developers and updates should be committed to both projects for the foreseeable future. It will probably be a long time before you notice the differences, but it is bound to happen.

WebKit will stop seeing the benefit of Google’s contributions. Apple, WebKit’s core corporate sponsor, will have to increase resources in WebKit to keep up with Google’s improvements to Blink. I can only imagine the hill is even higher than it appears, as Google plans to dramatically speed up the pace of developing Blink.

Who suffers?

My concern, and I think you’ll agree, is this could result in WebKit lagging in adding features, fixing bugs, and increasing speed. Without Google’s contributions the WebKit community will have to increase the development time working on improvements. I’m not sure if they want to do that. Or can do that. If WebKit suffers then Mobile Safari suffers, and with it iPhone and iPad users. Millions of people will be subject to a growing gulf of inequality in browser quality.

Chrome kicked everybody’s ass in the most recent round of the Browser Wars. And Blink is the first salvo in the next round of the conflict. By forking WebKit they afford themselves more control which will result in faster development, increasing speed and features. Moving Chrome further ahead the pack of web browsers, and moving Google to a greater position of power.

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