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One Less Browser Engine: Opera Switches to WebKit

by Abel Avram on Feb 13, 2013 |

Opera will release new versions of their browser for mobile and desktop based on WebKit. They are also going to integrate Chromium.

Opera has announced their intention to gradually switch the rendering engine from Presto to WebKit for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers during 2013 when new versions are to be released. The move will strengthen WebKit in its competition with Microsoft Trident and Firefox Gecko, leaving the world with fewer browser engines choices and making the life of countless developers a little bit easier by having less platforms to test for.

It was not disclosed what will happen with Carakan, Opera’s JavaScript engine, but chances are they will use Google V8 because they have embraced Chromium, having started committing code, according to Håkon Wium Lie, CTO of Opera Software:

It makes more sense to have our experts working with the open source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium, rather than developing our own rendering engine further. Opera will contribute to the WebKit and Chromium projects, and we have already submitted our first set of patches: to improve multi-column layout.

Rumors about Opera’s move were spread a month ago when an anonymous published a video from a Opera staff meeting, having Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera, demoing Opera ICE, a new Android browser based on WebKit. Boilesen acknowledges indirectly that Opera has lost the battle on smartphones and tablets and needs to take drastic actions:

We need to focus on getting strong products out on iOS and Android. These are the two leading platforms we will focus on… They are the ones phones are being sold for.

Opera will continue providing Opera Mini although “it is not a fully-fledged offering like Chrome or Safari. There are too many sites it doesn't work with”, said Boilesen, because "Mini is super important … It needs to be a platform where we create users and then migrate those users over to our smartphone products."

The announcement comes in the context of Opera reaching 300 M users across all devices, many of them coming from feature phones having Opera Mobile or Mini preinstalled by the manufacturer or carrier.

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