Web browser engine swaps abound, so do enterprise complications

Web browser engine swaps abound, so do enterprise complications

Summary: With Google eyeing a Webkit split and Mozilla experimenting on a new browser engine, it may become tough for businesses to keep up with the code changes.


Google is forking the Webkit browser technologies by creating Blink. The Webkit separation from Apple is now complete. Meanwhile, Mozilla and Samsung are also collaborating on a new browser engine.


So long, standard browser underpinnings. Hello, potential developer headaches. For businesses, it's possible that it will be difficult to keep up with the various code changes among the major browsers. When most of the browser players were based on Webkit, developing once for multiple outlets wasn't a complete pipe dream.

In the name of innovation, that "develop once, run everywhere" dream just got trickier. Google software engineer Adam Barth said the following about Blink:

Chromium uses a different multi-process architecture than other WebKit-based browsers, and supporting multiple architectures over the years has led to increasing complexity for both the WebKit and Chromium projects. This has slowed down the collective pace of innovation — so today, we are introducing Blink, a new open source rendering engine based on WebKit.

This was not an easy decision. We know that the introduction of a new rendering engine can have significant implications for the Web. Nevertheless, we believe that having multiple rendering engines — similar to having multiple browsers — will spur innovation and over time improve the health of the entire open web ecosystem.

On Wednesday, Mozilla noted the following about its next-gen browser engine in partnership with Samsung:

Servo is an attempt to rebuild the Web browser from the ground up on modern hardware, rethinking old assumptions along the way. This means addressing the causes of security vulnerabilities while designing a platform that can fully utilize the performance of tomorrow’s massively parallel hardware to enable new and richer experiences on the Web. To those ends, Servo is written in Rust, a new, safe systems language developed by Mozilla along with a growing community of enthusiasts.

The target here is the post-PC era. ARM and mobile are in. PC thinking is out. Webkit got too bloated. CNET's Stephen Shankland has a good analysis of the ins and outs of Google's Blink decision and Prng has a comical BS detector on the Blink FAQ.

More: Blink! Google forks WebKit | The real reason why Google forked WebKit

Initially, developers and businesses won't notice much difference between Webkit and other engines. Over time, there will be many changes. Those changes mean that developing Web applications for multiple browsers is going to get tricky. Some of those Web applications are going to be mission critical.

The fallout may go something like this:

  1. Enterprises may decide to simply stick with Internet Explorer as the default browser choice. The problem is that enterprise applications are having a tough time keeping up. Without F12 and IE 9 mode, many of my internal corporate apps won't work on the latest browser code from Microsoft.
  2. Many companies also support Mozilla's Firefox, which could ultimately see fallout from its own browser engine quest as well as the Webkit/Blink split.
  3. Toss in Google's Chrome, also supported in businesses, and you could have three corporate browsers that disagree on rendering.
  4. Further complicating matters will be the bring your own device and application movement. Companies have to support the top three browsers.

Previously, Web browser battles didn't matter much to companies. But along came software as a service and dependence on the cloud. Enterprises need browsers as well as compatibility.

Google could be right: Blink's Webkit split is good for innovation. But rest assured, headaches will certainly follow.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser, Cloud, Google, Open Source

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • All the webkit browsers were incompatible with W3C standards and even each

    other so no there was not a pipedream going on here to begin with. Right now it sucks to only have IE10 pages rendering properly. Maybe these new efforts by google and opera and Mozilla and Samsung will finally bring html5/css3 standards compliance to these browsers and then we'll have a pipedream. Minus safari of course which apple is fine to keep letting have massive security holes and completely non compliant rendering just because they don't care.
    Johnny Vegas
  • Keep up with code changes?

    Web browser use a single standard set of languages (HTML, CSS, Javascript) which Mozilla, Google and Samsung will continue to fully support at an ever improving rate. I do not understand why any enterprise would be trying to re-code the backend of a browser. The front-end that should be used which will change very little. Unless you are writing a lot, and I do mean a lot of extension and plug-ins why does it matter what code base they use? The reason most business use other browser is Internet Explorer lack of compatibility with Html5. This is not an issue with these kinds of changes because both teams push compatibility with web standards.
  • Potential developer headaches?!?

    That's funny. The idea that HTML is some kind of "standard" has long been a joke. Even simple HTML stuff produces different and unpredictable results in different browsers. HTML and Javascript have been overpromising to non-developers while underdelivering to actual developers since day one. Lately, even the suits at Microsoft succumbed to the pressure to jump on this bandwagon with their torpedoing of the superior Silverlight in favor of promoting vastly inferior HTML/Javascript as a way to produce Windows 8 apps.
    Sir Name
  • Nobody uses Google/Mozilla in Enterprise.

    It would be great if all browser providers follow standards.
    • nobody?

      You are funny.

      -- sent from google chrome.
  • Monoculture != standards

    Any developer that's worth his weight in salt creates sites that render properly in both Webkit and Gecko, not to mention Presto and recent versions of Trident. There's absolutely no reason that these same developers can't accommodate one more standards-based rendering engine.

    Write to the standards, not to the implementations. Period.