Changes that Google is introducing with its new rendering engine Blink for Chrome will begin to trickle out on all platforms except iOS by around June — and developers won't notice anything, according to Google.
Chrome web platform project manager Alex Komoroske and Blink engineers Darin Fisher and Eric Seidel answered developers' questions about Google's move to Blink yesterday in a panel discussion with Google Chrome developer relations manager, Paul Irish.
Komoroske said that at the beginning there won't be much difference between Blink and WebKit, the web rendering engine that Blink is based on, and which Google and Apple had collaborated on until now.
Today's developer version of Chrome, Canary (version 28), is already using Blink, but as Komorske notes, since Blink is built on the same code base, not much will change — at least in the beginning.
"From the very beginning, there's really nothing that different from WebKit. It's over time that they will evolve in different directions. So technically, today's Canary is using Blink, but in reality there will be no difference for developers," said Komorske.
Blink will be the engine for Chrome on all platforms beyond version 28, which includes Chrome on Android but not iOS. Chrome on iOS will use Apple's UIWebView, which is based on Apple's WebKit. The current stable release of Chrome for desktops and Android is version 26.
The arrival of Blink does however mean companies that use WebKit, such as BlackBerry, Opera, Amazon and Nokia, will eventually need to choose which engine to build with, as CNET's Stephen Shankland noted.
For a slightly more cynical and humorous take on what Blink means for Google, Apple and others like Opera, New Zealand-based technical analyst and consultant Rob Isaac has posted a "plain English" Blink FAQ alternative to Google's.
One of the technical reasons Google cites for the move to Blink is Chrome's multi-process layer. Apple wanted to integrate that layer with WebKit2 when it was introduced in 2010, but Google knocked it back due to the work it would require. Instead Google concentrated efforts on WebCore, the rendering library where HTML is parsed, the Document Object Model (DOM) Model is constructed, and where CSS is used to render the DOM into web pages, according to Fisher.
"We had launched Chrome. We had developed a system that was very coupled into Chrome's system, its way of doing stuff — it leveraged libraries that WebKit didn't use and so for us we viewed that opportunity to work with Apple as quite exciting to us, but we saw that as a mountain of work... We just didn't see a path forward that allowed us to contribute that code to WebKit," explained Fisher.
"Going forward there are some significant changes that we want to make that we feel will affect the shape of WebCore in ways that the WebCore project and WebKit might not be ready to receive. And so we don't want to add on constraints and so that's what leads us to where we are today."