Opera goes WebKit: It's all about performance

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.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

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.

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