PPK: “There is no WebKit on Mobile”

I have previously addressed the misguided wishes for a single standardized mobile browser engine. It all boils down to this: Monoculture on the Web is bad, period.

It turns out that even those who work towards a new Web monoculture will have a hard time achieving that. PPK recently tested several browsers based on WebKit, and concluded that "there is no WebKit on mobile". …

He writes:

Much as I hate to disagree with them, I feel honour-bound to point out that there is no “WebKit on Mobile.” There’s iPhone WebKit, Android WebKit, S60 WebKit (at least two versions each), Bolt, Iris, Ozone, and Palm Pre, and I don’t doubt that I’ve overlooked a few minor WebKits along the way.

What seems to be happening in practice is that the various companies that are using WebKit as the basis for their browsers are creating numerous different forks, with wildly different results. And what other choice do they have, as long as Apple remains the dominant WebKit contributor, and the development is often controlled by Apple's needs and release schedules?

So you end up with different browser engines, all based on WebKit, but with all those companies investing in WebKit browsers having to invest a lot of money into creating and maintaining their own forks. Suddenly there are a lot of browser vendors out there!

Maybe they will solve this problem in the future. Apple's control over WebKit could be on the downturn, and different browser vendors could come together to create the "WebKit dream" where everyone is in sync, and forks are unheard of.

However, I doubt that will happen any time soon.

And if it does, my point still stands: Monoculture on the Web is bad!

And for now, monoculture certainly seems like it's a long way off.

Thankfully.

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7 thoughts on “PPK: “There is no WebKit on Mobile”

  1. I would say that having more than one version (or, rather, an old version) of a browser engine is a bad thing. If people are using an old version of a browser engine, no matter if it is Presto, Gecko, Trident, or WebKit, it still hinders the progress of the web. Every browser on phones need to be updated to the latest version, just as on desktop.I want to see a handful good and standards compliant browser engines, I don't want to see a handful versions of each browser engine.Mozilla and Opera are in a position to deliver browser engines to other companies that want to build their own browser experience, and make sure that they can use the latest version. Mozilla is not their yet where they can deliver the same version of the browser engine at the same time to desktop and mobile.Doing the same thing for WebKit is certainly a business opportunity, but it is hard to fill that role when you do not control and pay the main contributors.

  2. Althrough web monoculture is bad thing (as we seen already happend once with stalled development of IE), many (if not most) web and application developers pray every day for the single unifirm web platform. Yes, they damn browsers and specifications bugs and inconsistencies, and pray for the better.All browser vendors should hold implementing new specs for some time and work on fixing bugs and inconsistencies in spec implementations to have a solid base for the future.

  3. Lawrence Curtis writes:no i agree, i just think sometimes it's best to stick with what you have, i don't think choice is a bad thing, driving css3 forward in your trunk is all very well and good but if you have old forks such as adobe air they find it difficult to keep up with the pace that something like webkit grows at.i know the opera team and the webkit team were in battle with things like acid3 to get 100% first and it's good that opera were there to push the webkit guys and vice versa, my problem is that when you have a browser with 1% of the market share then its hard to warrant spending time on testing and working on it.so all the webkit forks are bad, i remember when webkit itself forked from the konqeuror codebase i thought this was the worst thing to ever happen!my problem though is when you don't need an alternative it seems silly to focus energy on creating one, that's the great thing about the wii, there's only one browser and one experience and it works well! somebody like the BBC wouldn't develop iPlayer for the wii if there were 15 different browser types because it would be hard for them to warrant the spend

  4. Lawrence Curtis writes:no, i'm saying the opera being the only platform on the wii makes it easier and more cost effective to develop for.if there were lots then it wouldn't happen 🙂

  5. Originally posted by anonymous:

    my problem is that when you have a browser with 1% of the market share then its hard to warrant spending time on testing and working on it

    Why are you whining about that here? This is not about Opera. It's about the fact that Webkit is forked and there will never be just one browser engine, even if they are all based on webkit!Also, Opera does NOT have 1% market share. It has up to 50% market share on the desktop in some countries.Also, it has nearly 30% market share on mobile phones!

    my problem though is when you don't need an alternative it seems silly to focus energy on creating one, that's the great thing about the wii, there's only one browser and one experience and it works well!

    So the Wii browser should only be able to browse Wii-specific sites? That's insane!

  6. You seem to be missing the point of web browsers. If you want to design just for the Wii, design for something else. The web browser on the Wii is supposed to view any site, not just sites designed for it.

  7. Anonymous writes:It is all very nice to say that since Safari is a decent browser today let it be given complete monopoly and others should stop work on their browsers. In the near or far away future ,when and if Safari refuses to advance the web *cough* IE *cough* , you'll regret it that the browser manufacturer with a small userbase that you disliked wasn't allowed to continue and there is nothing you could do about the situation.The easier option is to have standards and let people code according to the standards than according to the browser so that if one browser stops development others can carry forward.

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