Opera adopting WebKit is one of the best pieces of news I’ve heard in a while.
WebKit has been an exceptional HTML rendering engine, and as a web professional it’s been a delight to work with. But is it all good news? What about competition?
All of This Has Happened Before & Will Happen Again
I like to think that Safari, Chrome and Opera are different flavors of WebKit where each browser vendor can innovate on a solid foundation. This is a parallel to what Linux has done since it’s inception in 1991. There are countless numbers of Linux distributions with their own package managers, interfaces and specialties filling their own niches. There’s nothing stopping you from writing an application to run on every distribution. I haven’t heard any complaints about the number of operating systems using the Linux kernel.
So it is with the Browser, providing better tools for developers and other users with their plugins, web stores and just plain-old-browsing experience.
Developers, Developers, Developers
With WebKit being used in three of the major browsers, this makes this a huge win for different types of developers.
WebKit will now have more and more developers working on the core. Improving performance, catching bugs and improving security. Everyone wins. Browser developers can focus on implementing new features either in the HTML5 spec or in each individual’s browser.
Web Developers and Designers
By not having to worry as much about rendering issues from browser to browser, this frees web developer's and designer's time they have normally been wasting squashing inconsistencies. Now with this newly found time they can add a more solid and polished experience to sites, resulting in improved productivity.
Really, once you’ve got a well-oiled rendering engine there's little improvement you can make to rendering the basics.
I think this will become true of photorealism in games. We’ll hit a point where we’ve innovated to near perfection in rendering, which leaves a surplus of time for developers to think of more amazing gameplay mechanics.
I think Opera using WebKit will not hinder innovation, but push it forward. This is the very best of what Open Source does. It allows innovation to rapidly occur naturally and benefiting all. Instead of hiding your secret source, it’s out there to be collaborated on. It’ll be improved faster than any single entity could ever do on their own.
Now, if only Microsoft did the same…