In a surprising move, Google has decided to fork WebKit and create its own rendering engine called Blink. Since its inception, Google’s Chrome browser has been powered by the WebKit rendering engine, which itself was forked by Apple from KHTML in 2001. For the past five years, Google has been collaborating with Apple and numerous other Webkit users to develop and maintain the Webkit ecosystem. However, going forward, Google will be developing its own rendering engine that will be based on Webkit, but will gradually diverge over time.
The decision was apparently prompted by the growing complexities of remaining within the Webkit ecosystem. “Chromium uses a different multi-process architecture than other WebKit-based browsers, and supporting multiple architectures over the years has led to increasing complexity for both the WebKit and Chromium projects”, explained Adam Barth, a Software Engineer at Google. By making this change, Google expects to be able to remove 7 build systems and delete more than 7,000 files — comprising more than 4.5 million lines of code — right off the bat.
The core focus of Blink will be speed and simplicity. Google is also promising to strive for an open and inter-operable web by discouraging vendor prefixes and encouraging cross-browser compliant feature additions. Blink’s mission statement is “to improve the open web through technical innovation and good citizenship”.