Opera switches to WebKit to develop new mobile, desktop browsers

Opera Software will fight Apple and Google on their own turf after deciding to both adopt the page-rendering engine used in the Safari and Chrome browsers and phase out its own technology for both desktop and mobile versions of the Opera browser.

Presto is the rendering engine Opera browsers use to display webpages, and the Norwegian firm has developed it over the years. Opera said its browsers now have more than 300 million monthly users worldwide.

Presto will be dumped in favor of WebKit, the browser engine used by Apple in Safari on OSX and iOS, as well as by Google for Chrome on the desktop and Android. The transition will be gradual; first up will be Android and iOS versions of Opera because the company wants to claim a bigger piece of the pie in the smartphone market.

Hakon Wium Lie, Opera Software’s chief technology officer, said the shift to WebKit means more of the company’s resources can be dedicated to developing new features: "The WebKit engine is already very good, and we aim to take part in making it even better. It supports the standards we care about, and it has the performance we need.”

He added: “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."

The first demos of Opera browsers running on WebKit will be shown at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in less than two weeks. One of them, Opera’s chief technology officer said, will be a project codenamed Ice that was leaked in a video in mid-January. The browser won’t have buttons, but use gestures to control going back and forth through web pages and replace tabs with icons on a homepage.

Subscribe to the Best of TechHive Newsletter

Comments