Opera ditches its own browser engine in favor of WebKit

Opera browser webkit engine

Opera Software’s Bruce Lawson has taken to the company’s developer website to announce a some big news: Opera is switching over to the WebKit engine, the same one used by Google Chrome and Safari. The overhauled Opera browser will also be bolting on the same V8 JavaScript engine that Chrome utilizes. Opera’s first WebKit browser will be a mobile app that’s slated for unveiling at MWC 2013 in Barcelona, and the desktop apps will be transitioned later.

Up until now, Opera has relied on its own in-house rendering and JavaScript engines. Presto and Kraken had come a long way in recent releases and kept Opera nipping at the heels of the leaders in the browser race. It also meant that Opera frequently had to implement site-specific fixes in order to allow its users to be able to properly browse some of the most popular sites on the web. WebKit is much more widely used — and thanks to the popularity of Chrome and Safari (and mobile WebKit browsers), Opera’s incompatibility issues will be a distant memory after the switch.

With the move to WebKit, Lawson believes Opera will be able to refocus its efforts on the interface and Opera’s user-facing features like Speed Dial, the extension system, Turbo compression, and Opera’s synchronization component, Link. The company also fully intends to be an active contributor to both the WebKit and Chromium projects.

Lawson took the time to inform Opera extension developers that the engine switch won’t ruin their hard work. The company is already actively developing a conversion tool that will help existing extensions play nice with the WebKit engine in the new Opera browser.

When the transition is complete and all of Opera’s users have upgraded, there will be 300 million more WebKit users in the world, as Lawson also announced that the browser had crossed that milestone recently.