Google Officially Forking Webkit to be Google Blink
April 9, 2013
Google has announced it is moving forward with its own fork of WebKit called Blink. The new fork will power the Chromium and Chrome web browsers. Opera, which is tracking the Chromium build of WebKit, said, via employeeBruce Lawson’s blog, that it will be following Google’s fork and also using Blink. Google explained that it was forking because its multi-process browser architecture was different from other WebKit-using browsers and that the complexity and cost of supporting the multiple architectures was slowing it down in terms of development.
Among other changes Google will be making, it is moving to a “no prefix” model of web enhancements. Vendor prefixes have been used in browsers to denote experimental features for many years. Unfortunately, web developers have often used, and relied on, those prefixes. With Blink there will be no prefixes except those inherited from WebKit. Instead, developers will have to turn on experimental features on an about:flags page until the feature is suitable to be enabled by default. Google points out that Mozilla is moving towards a similar policy and that the W3C is exploring a similar idea.
Underlying Google’s choice is, according to Chrome developer Alex Russell, the maxim “going faster matters”. In a personal blog post, Russell explains that faster in this case is not just the performance of the code but the complexity and time taken to build it. Despite work done to accelerate build times and make the entire process of development faster, Russell says that the fork will allow Google’s coders to iterate Blink, Chrome and Chromium faster and that they already know the benefits of fast iteration with the Chrome code.
Google has already been working on Blink and the first Blink-based Chrome should arrive in Chrome 28; Chrome 26 has just been released as a stable version. Opera is using theChromium Content API to work with WebKit and should have a relatively easy job of migrating to Blink. Google says that in the short term, the Blink fork should have little impact for web developers. Once it is established though, Google obviously plans to increase the velocity of its web browser development.