Opera, Until Now a Holdout, Dumps Presto and Standardizes on WebKit

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 13, 2013

Today, Opera has announced that its browser has reached 300 million active users, but perhaps the biggest news is that the browser will be dropping the longstanding Presto rendering engine and moving to WebKit.This means that the number of browsing rendering engines to take seriously moves down to only three players, and WebKit--already legendary in the open source world--gets even more momentum and community involvement.

Opera's announcement included a roundabout reference to how lack of openness on the web is behind Presto being dropped:

"Presto is a great little engine...And unlike what some people seem to believe, Presto was actually designed from the ground up with compatibility in mind. It was always a goal to be compatible with the real web while also supporting and promoting open standards. That turns out to be a bit of a challenge when you are faced with a web that is not as open as one might have wanted. Add to that the fact that it is constantly changing and that you don't get site compatibility for free (which some browsers are fortunate enough to do), and it ends up taking up a lot of resources - resources that could have been spent on innovation and polish instead."

Some fans of Opera may complain that the browser is now opting into the monoculture, but the fact is that WebKit is a proven, truly great rendering engine. Most importantly for those of us who use WebKit-based browsers, Opera's community will help drive improvements in WebKit, as noted in today's announcement:

"If switching to WebKit allows us to accelerate our growth and become an important contributor to the project (we will contribute back to WebKit, and have already submitted our first patch (bug)), we may finally have a direct impact on the way web sites are coded. We want sites to be coded for open standards rather than specific browsers. At the very least, there will be more competition in the browser space, and competition is always good news."

Amen. It's very likely that improving WebKit and standardizing it can help grow Opera's user base. It has always been a popular browser and is responsbile for many innovations in browsing.