It’s been a busy few weeks in the world of web browsers… and there’s been some major changes in the browser landscape too! So here’s our take on what’s been happening..
- Internet Explorer – IE11 coming later this year? / IE10 available for Windows 7 / Farewell IE8
- Firefox – v20 now available… and a new rendering engine on the horizon?
- Chrome – v26 out now… and ANOTHER new rendering engine on the horizon?!
- Opera – 12.15 now available… and a change in rendering engine to.. WebKit? no wait.. Blink?
- Safari – What will all these rendering engine changes to other browsers mean for Safari?
Microsoft are busy working on their next update for Windows 8, currently billed as being “Windows 8.1”, and expected to be available in the latter half of this year. Windows 8.1 will almost be a kind of “service pack” for Windows 8, but will also contain a number of improvements and updates to apps & software. Perhaps the most exciting updating coming with Windows 8.1 will be Internet Explorer 11. Yes, that’s right, no sooner is IE10 out of the door, but Microsoft are following it up with IE11 in a relatively short space of time (well, for them anyway!). We think this is great to see from Microsoft, as in the past updates to their flagship browser have been few and far between. Compare that with Mozilla’s current release cycle for Firefox, who are churning out a new version of Firefox every 6 weeks!
MIDAS will be supported in IE11 when it becomes available, however, it is unknown whether IE11 itself will be “exclusive” to Windows 8.1, or whether, like IE10, it will also be made available for Windows 7 users as well.
…and yes, you did read that right – Internet Explorer 10 is available for Windows 7 right now! (and has been for over a month). If you’re a Windows 7 and Internet Explorer user, we strongly recommend that you update to IE10 get the best out of MIDAS.
Finally, if you’re still an Internet Explorer 8 user please read our “Saying farewell to Internet Explorer 8” post and upgrade your browser… as we won’t be supporting MIDAS in IE8 indefinitely!
MIDAS is currently supported in Internet Explorer 8+ (v10+ recommended)
Mozilla’s rapid release cycle means that we’re now up to Firefox version 20! In a tweet yesterday, the Firefox team claim that with their latest version of Firefox “you can get the web up to 7 times faster than older versions”.
Mozilla also announced last week that they were collaborating with Samsung on a new rendering engine, named “Servo”. A “rendering engine” is essentially what converts raw web page code into what you actually see on your browser screen. Mozilla’s long standing rendering engine has been “Gecko”, but according to Mozilla, “Servo is a research project to develop a new web browser engine. Our goal is to create an architecture that takes advantage of parallelism at many levels, both on the CPU and GPU, while eliminating common sources of bugs and security vulnerabilities associated with incorrect memory management and data races. With Servo, we aim to take the kinds of fluid, richer multimedia experiences expected in today’s smart phone and tablet applications to the next level on tomorrow’s web and tomorrow’s hardware.”
“Servo” is still in its early days and according to Mozilla, “It’s too early to say how [Servo] will be adopted going forward. No decision has been made as to whether Servo will replace Gecko. Gecko remains the ‘productised’ web engine for Mozilla.”
So it may be that Servo ends up being a rendering engine for Mozilla’s smart phone/tablet browsers, and Gecko remains for desktop Firefox editions (which could get confusing!), or more likely in time, Mozilla will standardize their rendering engine across all platforms.
MIDAS is currently supported in Firefox 4+ (v20+ recommended)
The current version of Google’s Chrome browser is v26. Ever since its first release – which was only 4 years ago! – Chrome has always used the WebKit rendering engine, which until then had most notably been used in Apple’s Safari web browser. Chrome’s subsequent input into the WebKit project has really driven WebKit development forward in the last four years, to the point that WebKit is arguably the most standards-compliant of all the rendering engines currently used by the major browsers.
However, Google recently announced that they would be developing a new rendering engine for Chrome, called “Blink”, which is expected to make it into builds of Chrome within just 10 weeks! Unlike Mozilla’s “Servo” engine, which is being built from the ground up, Blink is heavily based on the WebKit project.
Google have released a Blink Q&A video if you’re interested in learning more about this new rendering engine and its implementation
MIDAS is currently supported in Chrome 9+ (v26+ recommended)
Opera are having a bit of a turbulent time of late, and in some respects appear to be loosing a sense of focus and direction!
Opera was first released in late 1994, making it the longest running browser that’s still in active development and current use today.
Apart from its longevity, what also makes Opera unique is their own “Presto” rendering engine.
Now, you may remember that back in January, we reported that Opera were making a switch from Presto to WebKit at least for their mobile browser offerings. Then in February, it was confirmed that Opera would drop Presto for their entire range on browsers (not just mobile).
This was a move that surprised a lot of analysts, and received a mixed response from Opera’s loyal user base.
Whilst it would have been sad to see a very mature rendering engine being put out to pasture, it would have meant that with Google and Opera both contributing to WebKit (along with Safari), it would not only provide more continuity between browsing experiences on the three browsers, but also with three major organizations contributing to the development of WebKit, it would have become very powerful and certainly have Mozilla and Internet Explorer (who don’t use WebKit) quaking in their boots!
…but this was before Google announced Blink… and shortly afterwards, Opera changed their minds and decided to also jump on the Blink band-wagon, after having gone all out and confirming they were moving to WebKit!!
So it’s a little confusing at the moment as to the direction that Opera are going to be going down! ..but as things stand at the moment, here are the list of rendering engines that the five major browsers are using/will be using in the near future:
|Browser||Current Rending Engine||Future Rendering Engine|
MIDAS is currently supported in Opera 9+ (v12+ recommended)
As you’ll know from our previous Web Browser Roundups – it’s been pretty quiet on the Safari development front in recent months, with not much happening!
Safari’s rendering engine is WebKit, and last month it looked like both Google and Opera would begin contributing code to the WebKit project (in fact, Opera even began contributing code to WebKit). This was before Google announced it was moving away from WebKit in favor of a new rendering engine, Blink, and then Opera followed suit and announced it was also teaming up with Google for the new Blink rendering engine.
So what will this mean for WebKit and the browser that will soon be the sole user and primary contributor to the WebKit project, Safari? Well, it remains to be seen! WebKit was successfully developed without Google’s input in the days before Chrome, so it may well survive without Google’s input in the future, but with Google and Opera pooling resources into Blink, and Firefox potentially introducing a new rendering engine too, the WebKit team (and Safari) are going to be facing a tough challenge to keep up!
MIDAS is currently supported in Safari 4+ (v5+ recommended)