Ever since Opera showcased a version of its mobile browser running on WebKit, codenamed Ice, I knew that the software company was considering switching to WebKit and ditching its own rendering engine in the process. It was not really clear if the company would go through with it or not. Today's press release confirms that Opera Software has decided to make a gradual transition to WebKit for "most of its upcoming versions of browsers for smartphones and computers".
What this means is that Opera browsers in the near future will use WebKit, the same engine that is powering Google Chrome, for its browser instead of the company's own Presto engine.
At first glance it looks like the right decision. Instead of having to spend development resources on a custom rendering engine, Opera Software can use and contribute to WebKit instead. Opera will give up some if its independence on the other hand and it is not clear how this will play out in the coming years.
What's almost certain though is that Opera will see a big performance and compatibility jump when the WebKit transition has been completed.
What we do not know yet, and what Opera did not reveal to me when I asked a company representative, is if the move to WebKit will impact the browser's functionality in any way. Will Opera provide its user base with the same set of features like before, or will it have to cut some features simply because they are not supported by WebKit?
Opera will introduce a preview version for Android running on WebKit on the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month.
I for one am more interested in how this will play out for the desktop version of the Opera browser, especially if interface changes are made and if functionality will be removed in the process.
Here is a video of Opera Ice:
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