Webkit everywhere

Mar 19, 2008

Mozilla Foundation's Gecko used to be "the" choice for embedding a HTML renderer into any application. Having the very popular Firefox web browser as its main success case, the Gecko engine seems to provide quite efficient web content rendering times. However, what the KDE project started as their own web content rendering engine (KHTML and friends) was transformed by Apple into Webkit, the engine used in their Safari web browser.

After porting Safari (and also Webkit, consequently) to Windows, it is pretty clear that the engine released by Apple is actually extremely portable. Additionally, Alp Toker just showed in Bossa Conference 2008 that Webkit's performance is excellent, while also keeping a small memory footprint.

Web 2.0-ready

Toker stressed the point of asynchronous operation support, that must be available in future mobile devices. It is really a requirement, because users should be able to close (or lose) their connections at any time and keep working on the web apps they were using, eventually re-syncing when connection is restablished.

Webkit can play HTML5 videos without any proprietary plug-ins, with GStreamer. Also, it can reverse the current concept of GUIs with small web portions, into full GUIs designed with HTML5 forms. These GUIs would look exactly like the graphics toolkit used, as Alp showed in his speak at the event, with "perfectly native widget styling".

Webkit is still under heavy development – which isn't all bad news. It has been experiencing a lot of "project-wide refactoring", which is currently encouraged, according to the developer. Among its not-so-usual ports are OpenMoko – quite a recurring word in this edition of Bossa Conference – and, tentatively, the OLPC and the iLiad e-paper.

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