300 million users strong, Opera moves to WebKit
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 7:45:00 AM
Today, we announced that Opera has reached 300 million active users. At the same time, we made the official announcement that Opera will move from Presto to WebKit as the engine at the core of the browser.
With this, Opera will be the first major browser to switch to a completely new rendering engine.
Presto is a great little engine. It's small, fast, flexible and standards compliant while at the same time handling real-world web sites. It has allowed us to port Opera to just about any platform you can imagine. And unlike what some people seem to believe, Presto was actually designed from the ground up with compatibility in mind. It was always a goal to be compatible with the real web while also supporting and promoting open standards.
That turns out to be a bit of a challenge when you are faced with a web that is not as open as one might have wanted. Add to that the fact that it is constantly changing and that you don't get site compatibility for free (which some browsers are fortunate enough to do), and it ends up taking up a lot of resources - resources that could have been spent on innovation and polish instead.
It's the right thing to do
Although I was skeptical at first when I started hearing about the switch, I am now fully convinced that it is the right thing to do. Not only will it free up significant engineering resources at Opera and allow us to do more innovation instead of constantly trying to adapt to the web, but our users should benefit from better site compatibility and more innovative features and polish.
This move allows us to focus even more on the actual user experience.
Contributing to a monoculture on the web?
Yes, monoculture is bad, but Opera was never really in a position to prevent it in the first place. Even with Opera as the dominant mobile browser and more than 300 million active Opera users in total across all platforms, web developers still designed just for WebKit.
If switching to WebKit allows us to accelerate our growth and become an important contributor to the project (we will contribute back to WebKit, and have already submitted our first patch (bug)), we may finally have a direct impact on the way web sites are coded. We want sites to be coded for open standards rather than specific browsers.
At the very least, there will be more competition in the browser space, and competition is always good news.
The web is competing with closed ecosystems
One should also keep in mind that while different browsers are competing with each other, the web is actually competing with native applications. The web may not be fully open, but it is far more open than the closed world of "apps". If moving to WebKit allows Opera to gain more power and strengthen the browser as an open application platform, it will benefit the now semi-open web in the competition against fully closed apps.
It is absolutely essential that the web not only survives, but continues to thrive. This is not the time to let closed, proprietary ecosystems win.
The right move at the right time
Opera moving to WebKit might come as a surprise to some of you, but others will realize that this is not the first time the company is being taken in a new direction.
WebKit has matured enough that it is actually possible to make the switch, and we can help it mature even further. In return, we get to spend more resources on a better user experience, and less on chasing an ever-changing web.
This move allows us to create a platform for future growth because it allows us to focus our resources on things that can actually differentiate Opera from the competition, and could help the web move in the right direction.Poll: What do you think about the switch?