On Rendering Engine Consolidation…

Today, Opera made a surprising (to many) announcement that they are replacing their rendering engine with WebKit and their JavaScript engine with V8.

The response to this news by developers has been largely mixed, although those opposed seem to be much more vocal about it on G+ and Twitter.  Perhaps that’s just my impression.

I must admit I’m a bit puzzled by the naysayers.  The basis of their argument is that this move is bad for competition and bad for innovation.  I don’t see it that way at all.  In fact, I would be happy if Microsoft and Mozilla followed Opera’s lead.

I don’t understand the arguments made by people who are making grand assumptions that if the entire industry consolidated around a single rendering engine and a single JS engine, then competition and innovation would be stifled. What about differentiating your product in other ways? What about contributing your great ideas to the open source engines you are basing your product on?

Perhaps the underlying message is that if Mozilla and MS also used webkit and v8, people would stop using those browsers. I don’t believe that for a second, nor should you.

The larger issue, as I see it, is if consolidation were to happen, could these companies play well together and contribute to the common good? Perhaps I’m delusional, but I’ve seen it work before, and I think it’s working very well right now with Google and Apple contributing roughly equally to the WebKit core.

What we really should be concentrating on is making sure that all basic innovations, like WebGL, are available in all browsers. We need to obviate the need for a site like caniuse.com (with apologies to them). Developers unite!

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