Apple’s growing role in WebKit development and what it means for Flash

Fri, Aug 28, 2009

Analysis, Featured, News

The WebKit engine has become the de-facto standard for mobile browsers, something which takes on broader implications in light of Apple’s unparalleled involvement and contribution to the WebKit open-source project.

In addition to Apple, a number of other companies such as Nokia and Google are heavily involved with WebKit development, but with approximately 30 webkit developers currently working for Apple, the folks at Cupertino may not be driving the boat, but they’re at least holding the map.  In comparison, 19 WebKit developers currently work for Google while 8 work for Torch Mobile (a company which incidentally was just purchased by RIM).

“More pertinently, Apple employs far more of the WebKit reviewers than anyone else,” writes Matt Asay of CNET, “which gives it much more control. Most of the other participants are committers, which are important but not equal in control to reviewers.”

And now things get downright silly.

Ever take a look at the WebKit icon?  Yeah, me either, but it apparently looks like this.

Wow, that certainly looks awful familiar, but where have I seen that icon before.  On snap!  It’s actually sitting my dock right now.  And it’s called Safari.

So yeah, they’re basically the same.

But wait, there’s more!

Can you guess what official blog of the WebKit Open Source Project is called?

Why, Surfin’ Safari, of course.  To be fair, it has a much better ring than Surfin’ Chrome.

Positioning HTML 5 for the future

And things got even more Apple-centric yesterday when Apple WebKit manager Maciej Stachowiak was appointed as one of the co-chairs for the HTML Working group division of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Electronista comments on what impact this may have down the road:

The position potentially gives Apple a stronger voice in future development of web technology. Safari was one of the first browsers to integrate HTML 5 technology, despite the lack of support from the vast majority of current websites. The company also added HTML 5 support to the recent iPhone firmware v3.0 update.

Things get even more juicy when discussing HTML 5’s potential to do away with Flash and Silverlight, two technologies Apple will never put on the iPhone no matter how much people complain.  Equivalent multimedia functionality based on HTML 5 standards would serve keep users happy, and more importantly, would prevent a situation whereby Apple had to rely on the proprietary technology of other companies such as Microsoft and Adobe in products like the iPhone.

Finalized HTML 5 standards, though, won’t be finalized anytime in the near future, so Flash isn’t going anywhere just yet.  But per usual, Apple is taking a look at a broader roadmap, and is making moves accordingly.  Chess moves, ya’ll.  Chess moves.


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Zack Says:

    This is a superficial and shallow look at the history of Apple and Webkit.

    Is it surprising that the WebKit uses an Apple icon, given that the WebKit project started when Apple forked the KHTML codebase?

  2. ex2bot Says:

    Apple hired one of the principle (or the principle) KHTML developers, whatzizname. Google it. It’s the guy who does Surfin’ Safari.


  3. dave Says:

    Yeah, Apple doesn’t have a ‘growing’ role in WebKit. If anything, other companies are joining webkit development, reducing Apple’s overall percentage of the project. Maybe if the title were changed to something like “webkit’s growing role in the Mobile Internet and what it means for Flash” or “Apple’s growing role in the Mobile Internet and what it means for Flash”.

    And WebKit has excellent hooks in it to aid in supporting Flash and other plugins. So the title is completely misleading. Particularly since the article text just talks about how HTML5 support may impact the use of Flash.

  4. James Katt Says:

    WebKit and HTML5 will kill off Flash.

    Just watch.

    The most important use for flash is Flash Video. But HTML5 and CSS with animation allows MP4 video without having to use Flash.

    Once HTML with video becomes more common place, it will take on a life of its own and make Flash less useful and needed.

  5. Dazza Says:

    @ex2bot I think you are referring to Dave Hyatt, co-creator of Firefox amongst other things. AFAIK he wasn’t a KHTML developer prior to working at Apple. Dave has a lot of involvement in the latest web standards process.

  6. skidoknet Says:

    I’ve learned how to be a better person for sure. The desire to grow community is a strong motivator to staying ethical and honest at every turn. 🙂

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