Google has launched a new rendering engine called Blink as a fork of the ever-popular WebKit (reports wish-he-was-a-geek Jake O’Neill). Once again Google and Apple are diverging with this key strategic development in the battle for the web. This is serious geek territory and I’ll do my best to navigate it for you.
A rendering engine is what web browsers (i.e. Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer) use to display content. Up until very recently, WebKit was the dominant engine used by Chrome and Safari (Google and Apple). Unfortunately it wasn’t standardised and the different browsers used it in different ways.
Another problem it caused arose from its dominance. As it supported the main mobile browsers (Android and iPhone according to StatCounter) and the number one desktop browser (Chrome), web developers were not coding sites for other rendering engines and some browsers were struggling to display the offending websites. This problem is actually a benefit to Apple and Google as more websites wish to be on the dominant operating platform.
WebKit is owned by Apple but the majority of recent contributions were from Google. Now Google has created a new rendering engine, Blink. At the moment Blink is almost indistinguishable to WebKit and they share a lot of functionality, but as time moves on Blink is likely to develop away from the Apple product.
Google claims it is aiding innovation by creating standardisation with Blink – something WebKit didn’t have. The new rendering engine will support Chrome, Android and Opera, and is likely to quickly become the dominant choice for web developers. Blink can be seen as an aggressive move against Apple (though this is arguable), and speculation over the latter’s ability to plug the holes Google’s departure has left in WebKit is ongoing.
While web developers should test sites across browsers, many are guilty of sticking to the one they are working in and as such the sites functionality is not universal. It can be argued that with Google’s new engine, and superior web capabilities, more developers will be creating Blink-only sites which will be detrimental to both the site owner and end user.
While this is not currently the case, the politics of this strategic move are in the limelight and if it does go ahead then Google will have a significant victory over Apple and will practically own the internet. Which, to be fair, it sort of does already.