Blink to power Google Chrome and Opera

Google is forking Webkit to create Blink, a new rendering engine to power Google Chrome, it will also be adopted by Opera too.

Initially, when I heard this news I was less than thrilled. My immediate reaction was that it would make our jobs, as web designers and developers, harder as we’d be more likely to come up against inconsistencies/bugs in the way that web browsers render our work.

Currently, given that Safari and Google Chrome both utilised the Webkit rendering engine we could, with reasonable confidence, assume that something that worked in Google Chrome would do likewise in Safari. Although, I might add, this is not always the case and testing is essential - not least because Safari has it’s own JavaScript engine.

After having watched the "Blink Questions Answered" video and doing some further reading about the move, I have completely changed my opinion. I’m now quite excited by the Blink project. It seems the move has been taken somewhat reluctantly by Google as they and Webkit are diverging to take different paths to solve similar problems. This divergence has been brought about in part by the fact that Chrome uses a multi-process architecture, which differs to many other Webkit-based browsers. This architectural difference has led to increasing complexity in both Chrome and Webkit and has stifled the pace of progress for both projects. In addition, as Webkit serves many devices/platforms, it’s become difficult for Google to make large scale architectural changes where they feel the biggest performance gains lie.

Now to come back to my initial reaction, is this bad for web design in terms of browser consistency/bugs? Well, as Opera is retiring its rendering engine Presto in favour of using Blink going forward, in some ways the balance is restored as we’ve gained Blink but lost Presto.

So in conclusion, Blink is exciting for the web because it will allow Google to make large scale architectural changes which it wouldn’t otherwise be able to do using Webkit, hopefully with the benefit of sizeable performance gains. This is going to make the web an even more compelling platform for web applications and will help to drive innovation forward at even greater speed.

Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that Firefox have announced a collaboration with Samsung to build a new experimental rendering engine called Servo. So in the words of Bruce Lawson, "diversity on the Web has never looked healthier".

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Michael Walsh by Michael Walsh