Is it Time for Microsoft to Adopt WebKit for Internet Explorer?
In the Web browser world, WebKit is a force to be reckoned with. It began life as a couple of KDE libraries (KHTML and KJS), but was then forked and further developed by a bevvy of companies including Apple, Nokia, Google and RIM. While KHTML's initial focus was to support the popular Linux Web browser Konquerer, the fork, which then became known as WebKit, was cross-platform - Mac, Linux, Windows and even mobile. Suffice to say, WebKit has proven to be one of the most successful software forks ever created.
Today, WebKit is used by a great number of browsers, with Google Chrome and Apple Safari leading the pack. Other browsers backed by the Web engine include those bundled with BlackBerry devices, the PlayStation 3 and Android. Even Steam's built-in browser relies on WebKit. Suffice to say, it's popular. So why doesn't Microsoft hurry up and adopt it?
This is an interesting question posed by a Slashdot reader, and it's one I've given some thought to before. UI and aesthetics aside, I have never found Internet Explorer to give me the experience I've been looking for. Often, I'll hit pages where fonts don't look right or certain functionality doesn't work as intended - a stark contrast to the occasions where IE is the only browser that seems to work for any task.
In reality, though, IE's Trident engine isn't lacking in any real way - at least, as far as this non-developer can tell. It doesn't seem to get too bad of a rap around the Interwebs, but rather, most of the hate I see has to do with the browser itself - how counter-intuitive or lackluster it is. Pettier complaints have to do with a lack of extension support. So why then, is there a focus on what engine the browser uses? Mobile, of course. It always comes back to mobile.
On mobile, both Chrome and Safari stick with WebKit, and it seems to be well-received there. Ironically, I've always found the Gecko-backed Firefox to be a far better and faster mobile browser, but I'm sure many people could counter that as well.
But there remains an important factor to all of this. If Microsoft were to adopt WebKit, it'd automatically reduce competition in the market - and that's never a good thing where virtually any product is concerned. Competition keeps developers active and open-minded to better solutions. In this way, it's kind of nice to see Microsoft sticking to its guns, and for that reason, I hope it continues to do so. Even if I have no interest in the browser myself.