This story might get confusing, so I’m going to start at the beginning. Webkit is an open browser standard that Google already uses in its chrome browser. When I say open, I mean it. Apple help to create webkit from other Web browser standards. It uses webkit throughout Safari and the Mac OS to render web pages. They also use it for Safari on iOS, since the desktop and mobile version are very closely related. What that means is, if you develop to a webkit standard, you’re going to be in pretty good shape no matter what device it is seen on. Then comes the confusing part.
Google now has three major products using a web browser in it. They all have some webkit code in them.
- Chrome – The desktop web browser
- Android Web Browser
- Chrome OS
Notice anything? Two products with Chrome in the title, one without. The Android browser has been off in its own little world with its own development team and everything. So this move to opening up to the webkit community is really a first step to bring the Android browser back into the “Chrome” fold. What I see here is Google attempting to do what Apple has done for years with iOS and Mac OS, in terms of web browsing. One standard to rule them all, then it’s much easier to work with across all the various devices.
Now to be clear, it’s not like Google is starting from scratch on this browser. It’s more like they are saying they are going to share what they are doing on the Android side to make sure everyone knows what is going on. Here are the quotes from the post to the webkit mailing list:
Over time, the Android Browser has come to share more and more code with Chrome (both WebKit and Chromium).We’re fully committed to maintaining this new flavor of the Chromium port of WebKit.....
So when I read this story this morning, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Google has always been pounding away at the idea that Android as an operating system is “open” . Meaning that the code is open source and anyone can mess with it. Very cool in a lot of ways. But there are large parts of the code that are controlled by Google. Like the Android web browser. Now I’m not an open source expert but there are some things that I would think would be better if they were open source, like the source code to the most important feature (arguably) on any smart phone: the web browser.
So what does this mean to us Apple fans out there? Not much really, just the fact that the basis for all the web browser rendering on its biggest competitor was originally started and is now being maintained with the help of Apple.