While announcing that Opera now has 300 million monthly users on phones, tablets, TVs and desktop computers, the company also announced that it will be migrating to the WebKit HTML/CSS rendering engine for most of its new releases on Android smartphones, iOS, and on desktop computers.
WebKit is the clever bit of software which works-out how to display web pages with all the right fonts, colors and positions. Modern web pages can be quite complex with lots of sophisticated HTML and CSS which together produce the rich media Internet to which we are so accustomed. The project was started back in 2001 when an Apple engineer started porting a Linux HTML rendering engine (called KHTML) to OS X. KHTML was open source and as such the resulting WebKit engine is also open source. Today WebKit is the backbone behind several popular browsers including Safari and Google Chrome.
Following the spirit of open source development, Opera plan to help make WebKit even better than it already is. Håkon Wium Lie, the company’s CTO, has said that it makes more sense for Opera’s engineers to work with the open source community to further improve WebKit rather than further developing its own rendering engine. To that end Opera will contribute source code to WebKit and has already submitted its first set of patches to improve multi-column layout.
Opera has been experimenting with WebKit for a while now and last month a video was leaked onto the Internet showing a WebKit development project know as ICE. Wium Lie said that rather than point the finger at who leaked the video, the company was pleased by the attention the new browser received It plans to provide more information about ICE and other R&D projects in the future.
During the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Opera will be revealing more about its WebKit plans along with more information about its new browser on Android and its Opera Web Pass operator offering.