Google has announced that it will be forking WebKit, and developing its own rendering engine called Blink. Less than a couple of months ago, Opera Software had announced that it would be dumping its own rendering engine (Presto), in favor of Google’s Chromium flavor of WebKit. So, where does this surprising development leave Opera?
As it turns out, Opera was well aware of Google’s plans, and in fact, Blink might have positively influenced Opera’s decision to adopt Chromium’s rendering engine. “We’ve known about these plans for a while and had a good dialogue with Google engineering about them”, Opera’s Lars Erik Bolstad confirmed to Digi.no. Bruce Lawson, another Opera employee, was also optimistic about Google’s new rendering engine. “Blink has a lot of promise for the Web”, Lawson wrote in a blog post. “Its architecture allows for greater speed – something that Opera and Google have long focused on. When browsers are fast and interoperable, using the web as a platform becomes more competitive against native app development.”
Blink solves one of the frequently cited downsides of Opera’s decision to abandon Presto – loss of diversity. With Blink powered Chrome builds expected to be in the wild rather soon, we will again end up with four major rendering engines – WebKit, Trident, Blink, and Gecko. Breaking the shackles of WebKit will also mean that Blink will be able to iterate faster, sport a smaller and faster codebase, and become more secure.
One thing that Google’s announcement makes amply clear is that Blink will be optimized for Chrome’s multi-process architecture. This is curious because, Opera had experimented with multi-process architecture on BSD more than a decade ago, and abandoned the one process per tab model due to resource overhead. Opera’s adoption of Blink seems to indicate that the Norwegian browser maker has changed its mind and will be following in Chrome’s footsteps soon.