Opera goes WebKit: It's all about performance

Opera goes WebKit: It's all about performance

Summary: Opera decides to end development of its own JavaScript and rendering engines, and instead adopts open-source alternatives. This will give the browser a much-needed performance boost.

TOPICS: Browser

In a surprise move, browser maker Opera has decided to shift its 300 million users over to an open-source WebKit rendering engine, and the V8 JavaScript engine. It's pretty clear why the company is making the shift -- performance.

Opera's performance has been lacking lately, as demonstrated by my regular browser benchmarks features. In almost all the tests I carried out, the performance of the Opera browser fell far behind that of Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. This has consistently been the case for an extended period of time.

Here are some of the results from my most recent becnhmark tests. 

It's pretty clear that while Opera has tried -- and in many ways, succeeded -- in making its browser faster, it has failed to keep up with the likes of Chrome and Firefox.

By dumping its own Presto rendering engine for the WebKit rendering engine, currently used in the Safari and Chrome browsers and the Caraken JavaScript engine for the V8 engine used in Chrome, Opera will see a huge and immediate performance boost. This could move it from the bottom of the pack all the way to the top -- assuming that it implements the engines correctly.

"Instead of tying up resources duplicating what's already implemented in WebKit," explains Opera evangelist Bruce Lawson, "we can focus on innovation to make a better browser. Opera innovations such as tabbed browsing, Speed Dial and data-saving compression that speeds up page-loading, have been widely copied and have improved the web experience for all."

In other words, why waste time reinventing the wheel when an excellent wheel already exists?

I agree. It makes perfect sense for Opera to adopt WebKit and V8. It will mean that consumers will see better performance and compatibility, while for developers it means having fewer Web engines to cater for.

It's a win-win situation.

Topic: Browser

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  • Nice, Opera

    Now a single WebKit vulnerability can bring down how many different web browsers (or should I say web browser shells)?
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Why should people be happy about this?

    I'm just wondering.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • What is Opera

      The reason people use Opera is because they like the way it works. They don't care how it works in the background as long as it works, and works fast.
      Webkit works, fast. And it doesn't restrict what Opera can do. So Opera can develop faster and innovate better.
      There is a major benefit to Webkit too. Opera have a lot of in-house browser knowledge which is now going to be fed back into the Webkit community.
      • And it works the way it does

        because of everything about it.

        Have fun trying to run this new Opera on lesser equipment.
        Michael Alan Goff
        • Chrome 24 and Safari 5.1.7

          are both much faster than MSIE 6, 7, or 8 in an overall sense on XP SP3 running on an Athlon 850 with a paltry 384 MB of RAM and a GeForce 4200ti graphics card.

          Also, I keep that old machine around for games that don't seem to run right on faster machines.
          • (continued)

            I'm willing to bet that WebKit Opera will be faster than Presto Opera on this machine as well.
      • That may be a possibility

        but I seriously doubt that that the scenario you posit will ever come to pass. The developers of WebKit will likely believe that they, having the current speedster know best, and why listen to those who switched because they couldn't cut the mustard.

        I am an Opera fan, so don't let that comment bring any ire, I'm simply thinking as they most likely will.

        I see this as a lose-lose situation. Opera users have gotten screwed on the entire run of revision 12, and now, those who've been reporting bugs, and expecting results, know that they've been laughed at for quite some time, as they tried to make the browser better.

        The web loses just the same as when Microsoft Internet Exploder had a 90+% share of the market - less choice, and more chance that things not expressly done to web standard will be given a pass, simply because most will code for WebKit compatibility.

        Opera is showing that they are switching rather than maintain the good fight - not exactly what the loyal fans are looking for.

        But then we [loyal fans] got nothing from the dev team on this transition, which serves to alienate many, as it is not the way one treats the loyal. Having to learn that the change was taking place from a reader of another blog, where the announcement was made about a month ago, is not giving the best service to those loyally testing, reporting, and carefully watching the progress of the latest builds.

        Another thing not mentioned is that Opera has had a 64 bit build, which is not mirrored in the development of Chromium. We are [64 bit users], I'm thinking, going to be out in the cold for at least a good while on that.
  • open source kills jobs

    open source kills jobs and helps spreads virii.

    It usually good to have different rendering engines instead having forks of one type.

    Yes Web Browser shells. Seems web browsers don't do much these days other then look nice, and they rely upon open source. Kind of a joke and bad for innovation.

    With regards to open source killing jobs, I have lot a few programming jobs already to open source :(
    • Open Source doesn't kill jobs

      it simple relocates them to somewhere else.
      Michael Alan Goff
    • Re: open source kills jobs

      Ask a guy named Ned Ludd how well that worked as a philosophy of life.
  • I guess

    History repeats itself.
  • May or may not be for performance...

    Safari is based on webkit, and it routinely scores last in your example tests.
    I've been using Opera for some 16 years or so, and I'm not enthusiastic about
    this move. Part of what made Opera "Opera" is the Presto engine. The ONLY
    real reason I can see for this move is to try and gain market share in the mobile
    space, specifically with iPad/iPhone. Desktop users that have switched to a
    webkit based browser have already switched, to Google's Chrome.
    But, who knows, maybe I'm wrong...again.
    • That's because Safari on Windows

      is horrible.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Re: That's because Safari on Windows is horrible.

        EVERYTHING on Windows is horrible. Take a perfectly good cross-plarform app, port it to Windows, and it turns horrible.
        • Not really.

          I don't have too many issues with iTunes, but Safari feels slow against Chrome, like Apple has decided to quit developing it.
  • I doubt this had anything to do with performance

    Webkit sucks in. Safari. I bet this was because lots of sites use non standard webkit CSS and opera was tired of fighting it. And being able to lay off a bunch of people will allow them to circle the drain for a few more revolutions before they are gone for good.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Webkit doesn't suck for performance

      Apple just can't code for crap on Windows.

      Michael Alan Goff
      • Actually...

        Safari in Mac is about 3x slower than Chrome. And far more crash-prone.
    • You may be partly right...

      I have argued that the current crop of developers are different than those who produced the run of revision 10 and revision 11 Opera browsers. Revision level 12 has been fraught with many show-stopping bugs, whereas previous versions were relatively free of any large malfunctions.

      There has been much regression between minor revisions, and it has seemed as though there was either an older team finally burning out, or a group of junior programmers let loose on the revisions of major version 12.

      The amount of communication on the developer blog has not ever been copious, but since the revision 12 releases, there has been little to none, and when huge bugs were stopping many from using the latest revisions, instead of a set of fixes being pushed out, the loyal got nothing - no new fixes, no communication as to why there were no new fixes, or that the problems were at least being acknowledged.

      Not the same behavior, and not the behavior of professionals, in my estimation.
  • Opera getting a free ride....

    Google used all the available open source software and pirated designs to line its pocket with cash, Opera could learn a few things from that...