Opera: Presto! It’s now WebKit
If you’ve been paying attention, it’s not really that big or news. About a month ago a video was leaked showing Opera using WebKit (the video has since been pulled from YouTube). Within the last three weeks two of the Opera folks I follow on Twitter are suddenly no longer Opera folks (Tiffany Brown, Patrick Lauke). Heck, even Opera’s founder sold off some shares yesterday. If you paid attention, you knew something was up.
All of that aside, what does this really mean?
I feel most web developers already ignored Opera. For those developers they can continue to be lazy and ignore Opera.
The short term impact on users will be minimal. Users will upgrade, users will surf, users may notice some sites work or look a little better.
For users trapped on old Android devices with the Android stock browser (that never seems to upgrade), this could result in a better experience — assuming these users know about and download the Chromium-powered Opera.
Opera has an impressive place in the mobile world, being at the top of the pile globally. Opera’s participation in the standards process has been valuable, partly because its rendering engine has been used to help move the process forward thanks to early implementations, differences in implementations, and arguments over implementations.
While the standards evangelists at Opera may do a great job of contributing back to Chromium, Google may be the block from those changes being committed. Even when changes get to Chromium, there is no guarantee that they’ll make it back into WebKit, which might involve getting past Apple. Only if those changes get into WebKit do they stand a chance of making it Apple’s Safari.
From the co-chairman of the W3C CSS Working Group, Daniel Glazman:
For the CSS Working Group, that’s an earthquake. One less testing environment, one less opportunity to discover bugs and issues. Let me summarize the new situation of the main contributors to the CSS Working Group:
- Microsoft: Trident
- Apple: WebKit
- Google: WebKit
- Opera: WebKit
- Adobe: WebKit and their own Adobe Digital Editions rendering engine found in many ebook readers
- Mozilla: Gecko
- Disruptive Innovations: Gecko
- HP: has delivered WebKit-based products in the past but is pretty browser-agnostic IMO
- Rakuten: ADE and probably WebKit
- Kozea: WeasyPrint
- Qihoo 360 Technology Co: both Trident and WebKit
- other Members of the Group: I don’t know
Suddenly I feel like the US political term
lead from behind is apt.
Some other reactions from the Twitters:
It’s becoming clear that WebKit:browsers::MS Word:word processors.— Eric A. Meyer (@meyerweb) February 13, 2013
And all other engines perished to make way for the best, most popular one.It was called IE6 and the year was 2000…Remind you of something?— Lea Verou (@LeaVerou) February 13, 2013
…to the news about Presto
- Opera Ice: New browser for Android and iPhone coming February uses WebKit (video), January 18, 2013 from Pocket-lint.
- WebKit is not a cure-all, February 1, 2013 from Tiffany Brown, formerly with developer relations at Opera.
- 300 million users and move to WebKit, February 13, 2013 from Opera itself.
- And Then There Were Three, February 13, 2013 from Robert O’Callahan.
- Strange day for the Open Web, February 13, 2012 from Daniel Glazou.
- Jake Archibald gives his take over at Google+, February 13, 2013.
- Opera switching to WebKit: thoughts and guesses, February 13, 2013 from Peter-Paul Koch.
- The WebKit Culture & Web Rendering Engine Diversity, February 13, 2013 from Robert Nyman.
- I will miss the “Douglas Crockford of browsers” February 13, 2013 from Christian Heilmann.
- One less browser engine, February 13, 2012 from Tristan Nitot.
- Opera and WebKit: a personal perspective, February 13, 2013 from Bruce Lawson (from Opera, the guy who wrote the announcement I link to at the start).
- Hey Presto, Opera switches to WebKit, February 13, 2012 from Ars Technica.
- Devs respond to Opera WebKit switch, February 13, 2013 from .net Magazine.
- Presto Change-o, February 13, 2013 from Eric Meyer.
- Bruce Lawson on Opera’s Move to WebKit, February 13, 2013 from A List Apart.
- Hey -o-, let’s go!, February 13,2013 from David Storey.
- Another chapter of a long goodbye? February 14, 2013 from Charles McCathie Nevile.
- WebKit: An Objective View, February 14, 2013 from Robert Nyman and Rob Hawkes.
- A few folks have asked me what I think of the news…, February 15, 2013 from John Lilly.
…to older bits
- Browser Makers Caving to Vendor Prefix Misuse on this blog, Feb. 9, 2012.
- CALL FOR ACTION: THE OPEN WEB NEEDS YOU *NOW*, February 9, 2012 from Daniel Glazou.
- Reading List – Vendor prefixes, mobile, monoculture by Bruce Lawson, Feb. 13, 2012.
- The iPhone monoculture by Peter-Paul Koch, Feb. 20, 2012.
- Developers focus on the iPhone too much at .net Magazine, Feb. 21, 2012.
- Report on the activity of companies in the WebKit project, February 6, 2013.
- Don’t Blame Opera, Blame Devs on this blog, April 27, 2012.
…And evidence that lazy developers can keep on keeping-on (from almost a year ago):
I don’t include the -o- prefix because I don’t test in Opera because it accounts for 0.3% of our visitors. Not because I’m lazy or inept.— Stephanie Hobson (@stephaniehobson) April 26, 2012
Update, February 14, 2013
Since I posted this, some folks have asked just what Opera did that was so useful? This quote from David Storey’s post outlines some of it pretty well:
Moving from HTML to CSS based layouts? Opera was perhaps the first to have a useable CSS engine. Håkon (father of CSS, and Opera CTO) often says it was the reason he started to believe a browser could be made in Norway, not just the USA, and joined Opera. AJAX? Opera reverse engineered this from MS’ ActiveX based approach and were the spec editors through Anne van Kesteren. HTML5? Started at Opera with Ian Hickson and others. Responsive web design? Media Queries came from Opera, and were implemented for years before showing up in other browsers. What about native video on the Web? Opera again.
The IE6 quote is disingenuous, WebKit is a rendering engine not a browser. It dominated because Windows XP dominated, just as WebKit dominates mobile on the back of Apple & Google's success in that market.
Further to that it's open source and not ultimately controlled by a single vendor, there are already vendor specific forks.
How can anyone seriously suggest Opera's minuscule market share was encouraging competition and innovation at this point? I expect to see Opera-on-WebKit innovating faster and having a far greater impact than Opera-on-Presto ever has.
My feeling on Lea's tweet is that Trident once had ~90% market share and stagnated, and now WebKit is climbing in its market share — the difference being that there are multiple wrappers around WebKit, not just one as IE was to Trident. It's a stretch for a metaphor, yes.
I also fear devs will see a WebKit engine and not care that there are divergent forks, further confusing the issue.
To your last point, I agree. And I hope it pans out.
I think there's another issue that's slightly more problematic – I was mulling a blog post yesterday "testing times" that I'll never get around to writing – it's that as browsers get more standards compliant the positive feedback from testing decreases. I think this may be Opera's problem of recent, if you don't find problems when you test the pressure *to* test decreases.
And I can see that being an ongoing problem, with all browsers, as standards support gets better and deadlines loom, the temptation to cut back on testing that generates little or no return on the time invested will be great.
I have fallen prey to what you describe. I have pushed things out before all my browser testing was done and then caught problems after launch. On the one hand, I caught them and learned a lesson, on the other hand I was complacent because I expected the browser to just work.