Blinking ‘eck

Yesterday Google announced that their browser; Chrome, will soon be using a new rendering engine, known as Blink. Previously Chrome has used the Webkit rendering engine, of which Blink is a development of that is being tailored more towards what Google feels a rendering engine should be.

Opera have also announced they will also be using Blink. Recently they announced they would move to Webkit but adopt the Chromium package and as it’s this package that is moving to Blink so too is Opera.

Rendering what?

Often we talk about the different browsers when it comes to web development as each browser can have its own quirks as to how it interprets the code of a website. But really it’s not so much the browser as the rendering engine the browser adopts. The rendering engine is a part of the browser that contains all the rules for how a browser should interpret HTML and CSS. Though different browsers can have a few differences it’s more likely you’ll see bigger differences between rendering engines.

So prior to Opera’s move to Webkit we had the following major rendering engines:

  • Webkit – Safari & Chrome
  • Gecko – Firefox
  • Presto – Opera
  • Trident – Internet Explorer

When Opera announced that it would move from Presto to Webkit it did seem that the reduced number of differing rendering engines would stifle innovation and competition and have us heading towards a Webkit monoculture. If this happened development would undoubtedly slow due to Webkit not having to keep pace with the development of its competitors.

With the introduction of Blink we go some way to redressing the balance. Though early versions of Blink will be pretty similar to Webkit over time the two may become more distinct and Google will be putting its weight behind advancing web technologies through Blink.

Vendor Prefixes

One of the most noticeable differences that Blink brings us is the killing off of vendor prefixes. Though old –webkit prefixes will be supported in Blink until the properties are finalised no new properties will be available via vendor prefixes.

To be honest vendor prefixes have been abused and misused by both browsers and developers so removing these may just be exactly what needed to happen. Firefox announced the same change recently too.

Developers will still be able to test new advancements by tweaking the settings in their own browser but they can’t then force everyone else to do that. So this means that we will soon be returning to a world without vendor prefixes and having to wait until browsers adopt a finalised specification which as far as I understand will be primarily slowed down by the politics in the W3C.

Overall the introduction of Blink does seem a positive development in the browser market. Proof, however, is a few years off. It’ll only by looking back in a couple of years that we will be able to see the impact Blink has on the web.

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