Presto Chango: Opera Moves To WebKit Engine
February 13, 2013

Presto Chango: Opera Moves To WebKit Engine

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Alternative web browser Opera announced yesterday that they´ll be undergoing a bit of heart surgery, transferring from their existing rendering engine–Presto– to the widely popular WebKit.

The company also proudly claimed that there are now 300 million people using Opera these days, an impressive feat for the browser that many main stream users likely aren´t aware of.

Those common every day consumers who do use Opera will notice one huge difference in their surfing once the transition is complete: Compatibility. According to the Developer Relations team blog, mobile users will especially notice better compatibility when surfing.

They´ll also be the first to try the “new” Opera Mobile when the company demonstrates their latest edition at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month. The WebKit powered Opera will be available for desktops at an undetermined “later” time.

“When we first began, back in 1995, we had to roll our own rendering engine in order to compete against the Netscape and Internet Explorer to drive web standards, and thus the web forward,” writes Bruce Lawson on the company´s blog, explaining their decision to ditch their own engine and switch to the popular WebKit.

“The WebKit project now has the kind of standards support that we could only dream of when our work began. Instead of tying up resources duplicating what's already implemented in WebKit, we can focus on innovation to make a better browser,” he said.

Though they´re switching over to WebKit and V8, they don´t want users to forget about all the other great features they´ve built, such as Speed Dial and data compression for faster page loads. Opera claims to be building a best of both worlds browser by incorporating these features with the popular WebKit.

Initially developed at Apple, the WebKit engine now powers Google´s Chrome Browser as well as desktop and mobile versions of Apple´s Safari. Combined, these browsers are responsible for delivering a large percentage of web traffic.

This switch to WebKit looks to benefit Opera in two ways:

First, since the majority of web traffic is driven by WebKit browsers, developers often make sure their sites and services work well on these browsers first. Switching ensures that Opera users (all alleged 300 million of them) will be able to access more sites and more content instead of running into that “Your browser is not supported” warning.

Secondly, this switch to a more compatible engine could potentially bring in more users. It´s been suggested before that the bulk of Opera´s users are web developers who are only using the browser to check compatibility. At present, Opera is capturing a minuscule 1.19% of the browser market share.

In fact, according to StatCounter, Opera is capturing fewer users than the “other category” populated by browsers who aren´t even capturing enough attention to be given their own point on a graph.

In other words, a switch to WebKit not only makes a web developer´s job easier, it also stands to ensure Opera remains relevant going forward. The company is serious about WebKit, promising to work with the WebKit team to improve the engine and “enhance standards compliance” all across the web. They´ve also promised to continue improving their own services in order to build a better browser.

“So, this year, we're sending two Valentine cards:” writes Lawson as he closes the blog post. “Our usual one to the open, interoperable web, and one to WebKit too.”