Thursday, February 14, 2013

Opera to use Webkit engine

Update: Brendan Eich made an interesting post about the fighting the monoculture and the web needs diversity. But I feel Gecko needs to innovate faster to remain useful to the web. Servo is coming too late and platform acceleration is moving slowly. NPAPI/PPAPI is too slow etc. etc.

The news that Opera will be abandoning its Presto engine and moving to Webkit isn’t so much about shock, but is more disappointment for me. I have been a user of Opera for at least a decade now. Although I use Chrome and Firefox for a many things, Opera has remained installed and upgraded because every new release has something innovative in it.

Presto is a nice, lightweight rendering engine, where even with 50+ tabs open, the browser continues to work smooth. Pages scroll fine and they all the tabs open up quickly when you restart the browser. I have a habit of keeping tabs open for pages that I need to go to. Bookmarks don’t just cut it for me. An open tab to me is a reminder of what needs to be done. With Chrome, Firefox or Safari, staying with many tabs is a pain. Crashes are common with those browsers and the system memory usage is somewhat exponential. I don’t know how much of that can be attributed the the layout engine, but Opera does handle it with ease. All Opera users know this and they probably feel a disappointed that future versions of Opera might not be the same.

In some sense everyone agrees to the dominant Webkit position. More so as the world moves to mobile devices, Webkit is the standard layout engine from iPhone, Android to Blackberry. What differentiates the 300 million Opera users to continue using it will be interesting to watch. I’m probably not upgrading Opera to the next release, but if I really wanted to use something I’ve grown up with, they say IE10 also grew up!!