I just read Daring Fireball's short so-called « analysis » of the Opera switch to WebKit. Even I perfectly know that guy is almost only an Apple PR guy, I'm again surprised by his limited ability to analyse a situation. The only question that is worth it is the following one: whatever is the strategic rationale that led to that choice, it's obvious Opera had the choice between open-sourcing Presto to build a larger community around it and ditching it in favor of an already open-sourced rendering engine. So why did they choose the latter?

And in terms of WebKit better than Presto, well, Opera has always been a better player with respect to standards than Apple. As many people have already said, a test failing in Presto was often the sign the test was wrong or the spec had a problem, given their extreme adherence to specifications.

So as usual, you can avoid reading Daring Fireball. No hyperlink from here. Nothing to see there.


1. On Thursday 14 February 2013, 20:56 by Guillaume

He's been an endless source of fun for Fake Steve Jobs. I just loved it:

2. On Friday 15 February 2013, 17:01 by tom jones

"So why did they choose the latter?"

i don't understand how many people miss this, it's explained right in the Opera press release: they wanted to release Opera for iOS (a market of 500M iDevices).

they *could never* release (presto) Opera for iOS, any more than Mozilla can release (gecko) Firefox for iOS or Google can release (V8+WebGL+IndexedDB+WebRTC+++) Chrome for iOS.

open-sourcing Presto, or even getting a $1B grant to develop it to be "better" wouldn't help with that.

also, there is a secondary reason that is also cited in the press release: most (mobile) sites are tested/optimized for webkit. a "better" Presto doesn't help with this either..

3. On Friday 15 February 2013, 22:23 by Jonny Axelsson

Because of the "no hyperlink" I had to google myself. Surely you mean http://daringfireball.net/2003/02/o... (Not so much to see there either, but still it was nostalgic.)

An open-sourced Opera, for all its advantages, and these days there would be more, would not solve the minority player problem. Opere has done well in mobile markets not controlled by a single browser-platform provider, but the space for phones not iOS, Android, or Windows is diminishing. Of these, interestingly enough, Windows may be the most open platform.

Actually there is where, standards-wise, the Opera crossover may hurt the most. There were only two major browser vendors (or independent applications) that were not company platform fronts, Opera and Mozilla. Opera is still no platform front, but it is no longer independent, and I believe this will effectively sideline them. In this regard we are not going from four to three, but from two to one.

4. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 04:06 by Abhi Beckert

I've been using Opera as my primary browser (on a Linux workstation, programming in PHP/JavaScript as my day job) for the last three weeks. Prior to that, I have been running various WebKit based browsers on a Mac ever since the day they released their first fork of khtml, and before that I was using various Gecko browsers since some time in the 90's.

I can easily see why they decided to switch to WebKit away from Presto: it is a better rendering engine. Why continue to develop your own rendering engine, when you could instead contribute to an open source one that is even better?

I suppose it would be nice if they open sourced Presto too, but even if they did that I still think their best bet would be to abandon it and switch to WebKit.

5. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 04:21 by jack

The whole "I'm not going to link to him" is childish and makes you look small. He's either worth linking to or not, you can either show how he's wrong, or not.

Just a warning, he's usually right. Will you link to him then?

6. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 04:55 by Keith

What he was talking about was http://daringfireball.net/linked/20... Gruber's response here http://daringfireball.net/linked/20...

I think this was a good move for Opera.

7. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 05:45 by sptiger

Actually he's talking about this:


And honestly I can't figure out what flew up his rear-end about it.

8. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 05:56 by Comrade

<i>Robert O’Callahan from Mozilla sees this as a “sad day for the web”, but I think it’s more like a sad day for Mozilla. The simple truth is that WebKit is a better engine than Opera’s own Presto, and this move should make Opera’s browsers — particularly the mobile ones — better.</i<

That's the sum total. Which part is about Apple?

9. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 06:25 by johnnydfred

Oh, John, yer just jealous cause he writes so good ;-)

10. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 07:05 by An_dz

@Abhi Beckert
Webkit is not better than Presto, nor Presto is better than Webkit. Webkit only has "more standards included". Presto is a super fast engine with great compliance with the W3C standards.

If Apple don't want to let others use their own engines then boycott. The King of France once demanded stuff and people cut his head off. If one demands doesn't mean we must obey, that's liberty and our ancestors fought for it.

11. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 08:58 by geir

" Even I perfectly know that guy is almost only an Apple PR guy"... From there I couldn´t take you seriously. Gecko is losing ground and the question is why. Why not do write-up or "analysis" of that ?

12. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 09:50 by Andre Richards

Tell you what, dude. When you can get a handle on the basics like punctuation, grammar and avoiding sentence splices (and that's to say nothing of trying to dress up an embarrassingly obvious ad hominem attack with very newsy sounding wording) then--and only then--will you be allowed to dump on John Gruber. In the meantime, go back to the little kid's table and behave yourself.

<Daniel> maybe your forgot I'm not a native english speaker ? tell us a bit about your own non-english skills ? what a childish comment to rant about the form instead of the contents... </Daniel>

13. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 09:51 by lith

Oh, that dangling furball guy? Haven't been to his site in a while.
Pro Tip: Don't give that twat any attention. He'll have his followers spam your comments section now.

14. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 09:54 by Ian

Thanks for the laugh.

@An_dz Please explain how Apple can stop anyone using "their" engine? You do understand what Open Source means, right?
If Opera wanted to use WebKit for their own purposes they could fork it. No permission required.

15. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 10:00 by Ian


@An_dz My apologies, I missed the (important!) word "own" from your statement, which renders my response a nonsense.

The basic thrust of your comment, however, is still misplaced. A boycott by developers (I presume?) will only hurt those developers. Apple has worked hard to create an ecosystem that users like. If you choose to leave that ecosystem, users will not follow you, they'll just buy from someone else.

16. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 10:19 by Simon
<Daniel> insults and xenophobia forbidden here - comment deleted </Daniel>
17. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 10:23 by Hendrik

Instaed of wining on Gruber you could add some lineheight to your post. As a chairman of the CSS working group you should be able to figure it out...

<Daniel> two things : first this was a personal post; when my posts are with my co-chairman's hat on, it's mentioned. Second, you're partly right about one thing: I wrote my post in the light of 20 years of careful observation of standards-compliance by browsers and activity in standardization groups. </Daniel>

18. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 11:13 by Mr. Nosuch

Your refusal to link is petulant, especially since you have clearly chosen to read Gruber yourself. I read this and see someone saying "I will think for you, reader, I know better than you do."

For someone who supports the web, and understands things like respecting your audience, and the link as foundation of this, it speaks poorly and undermines your position.

Regardless of your feelings on Gruber, show some consideration to your audience.

<Daniel> I stopped reading Gruber's blog when I decided it was clear the opinions expressed there were pro-Apple even if the evidences were against it. Even in the case of an action harming the openess of the web or even of the computer industry in general, Gruber supports it if it comes from Apple. I call that a fanboy's web site. You're free to have a different opinion and think whatever you want of mine. I'm free to write whatever I want here, and have you still show some consideration to that freedom. Ultimately, Hixie's law: don't want to read? Don't. </Daniel>

19. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 11:21 by Pissadointing
<Daniel> insults forbidden here - comment deleted </Daniel>
20. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 11:36 by chris

I'm not sure what you are trying to accomplish here. So you jump down John Gruber's throat for a single line he wrote (his - indeed - debatable claim that one rendering engine is better than the other), and additionally engage in numerous (!) ad-hominem attacks on him because you seem to disagree with a decision that was made by someone else. A decision that, unfortunately, at least seems to indicate that those who did decide, tend to agree with Gruber's (still unsubstantiated) claim that webKit is better than Presto. Wouldn't it have been more sensible to engage the decision makers at Opera? Personally, I find your assertions that Presto is 'better' than any other engine in the article to be too thin to justify the attacks. Even if you were right, you would have to establish that fact. But by going ad hominem I think you pretty much sank your own boat. *Nothing* justifies those in a professional debate. IMHO, of course.


21. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 12:51 by Abhi Beckert

Anyone who thinks Presto is better than WebKit is delusional.

I never said anything about non-standard features. Yes there have been things added to WebKit which are not standards compliant, but I don't use any of them.

I think WebKit is a better engine because it's faster, it's more reliable, and it has better standards compliance (for example, yesterday I wanted to use a 15 byte SVG (with data-uri's) as a background image/texture for a div (cool!). Background images are a standard, data uri's are a standard, putting a background image on a div is a standard, but it doesn't work in Presto.

The same web application has bug in Presto where if you switch from one contenteditable <span> to another contenteditable <span>, the :focus CSS rules fail to apply to the second field (but the insertion point does move). Once again, works perfectly in WebKit. Once again, this is a standard feature in all browsers, just WebKit does it without bugs.

That's two Presto specific bugs in one afternoon of work, and just the tip of the iceberg.

I like the Opera browser more than any other Linux browser of all the ones I tried. Maybe when they release a version based on WebKit, I will use it on iOS and Mac OS X as well (on iOS I use safari but don't like it, and on OS X I primarily use a custom WebKit browser I wrote myself, with a user interface inspired by Uzbl).

22. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 13:06 by somethingmissing

This is what happens when people who are naive about ethics and not bothered to learn any more about it, to sharpen their moral senses, end up building their lives around an ethical movement when they should stick to what they're good at (eg programming) and leave ethics to those who care enough about it to learn more, to school themselves. This sort of nonsense is depressingly common in the open source movement. Let me be clear, ethics is like programming in that some people are better informed or better trained or even more skilled at it than others. You, sir, are at around primary school level.

<Daniel> ROFL </Daniel>

23. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 13:07 by Dead dingo's donger
<Daniel> insults and xenophobia forbidden here - comment deleted </Daniel>
24. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 16:11 by Zathras

Wait, I thought Webkit's development was now in the hands of Google. Why the attitude towards Apple? They did way more for an open source project than they had to, and it's winning the "war" because apparently somebody likes it.

As for Gruber, calling him a PR man for Apple pretty much proves someone's reading comprehension is slipping, or somebody's mad because their pet wasn't being praised enough. For someone in such a vaunted position at W3C, it's kind of surprising to read such a poorly thought out personal attack.

<Daniel> read what I said about him in another comment. And **again*, this was a personal note, and you should not be linking it to my activity at W3C </Daniel>

25. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 16:47 by KenC

"by his limited ability to analyse a situation."

How ironic!

26. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 17:54 by huh?

"Even I perfectly know"? If you're going to slam Gruber for being 'an Apple PR guy', then don't open yourself to criticism with a sentence like that, or your non-message falls apart pretty quickly.

27. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 21:01 by Daniel

If his comments don't interest you then why did you write a blog post about it?

28. On Saturday 16 February 2013, 23:33 by Jamie

I don't see anywhere that DF claimed to be an "analysis" of this news, but OK, rather than just leaving an open question on your blog, let's analyze!

First, it's not necessarily possible to just "open source" something. There are likely proprietary third-party libraries used in Presto, so you either end up with something that is illegal to distribute, or that won't even compile -- or you spend a lot of manpower redoing that work to be compatible with the new license. You also have to scour the codebase for things that are internal or private. You have to write documentation so people outside of Opera can know how to build it. (In a perfect world, these are easy, but nobody really believes that Opera has a million lines of perfect code, do they?)

So even ignoring any strategic issues, it's almost certainly a lot more work for Opera to open-source Presto than to switch their web browser to Webkit. They'd be taking a big productivity hit today, but would there be a strategic payoff for them down the road?

I don't see one. Netscape did exactly what you suggest with their browser, back in early 1998. Even after all of the above work to make it possible for people to download the source code and compile it, it still took them over 2 and a half more years to release Netscape 6. It was poorly received, and there were a couple more releases, but none got any traction. The gap was big enough for Microsoft to push a few releases of IE through, essentially ending the first browser war: Netscape dropped from 60% to 20% market share in the time from going open-source to finally releasing Netscape 6.

Is anything different this time to make it easier? I think it would actually be much harder for Opera today. In 1998, there was no modern open-source web browser (KHTML didn't exist yet), so Gecko got a lot of developers basically for free. It was also the browser most developers were already using, anyway. Today there are two open-source browser engines, both very mature, and very few people use Opera (1-2% market share). Who exactly is in the set of people who would hack on an open-source Presto today?

The only case in which Opera would benefit from spending the resources necessary to open-source Presto is the case where a community of developers forms around it, but I see no reason to believe that would happen.

29. On Sunday 17 February 2013, 02:33 by It's a shame you're a dcikhdea
<Daniel> insults and xenophobia forbidden here - comment deleted </Daniel>
30. On Sunday 17 February 2013, 03:00 by transeunt

Surely this is the inevitable, if not desirable outcome of standards compliance, that we've all pushed for so long; as engine capabilities converge, it's pretty hard to justify going it alone, when so many are contributing to WebKit… the engine is moving down the stack.

I've long had 'arms length' affection for Opera, but never been able to make it my default. Where possible I've tried to support Presto in dev, but the harsh reality is that it was often very hard to justify (much beyond -o prefixes.)

I can understand Mozilla's response to losing an independent ally (WebM vs MP4 etc.), and the testbed for standards, but the reality is that WebKit has the momentum over Presto.

One can hope Opera's excellent commitment to standards will improve WebKit, and they'll continue to advocate their values. Unlike other browser shells, they'll continue to influence the engine, and can add unique features, that *may* be up streamed… still, it is hard to see the long term role of independent browser vendors, with FirefoxOS seemingly a nod in the same direction.

Picking up SkyFire shows where they think value can still be added, and it's hard not to see that mainly in the context of iOS, but also the TV & embedded spaces.

Finally, I've got to say the reaction from some Mozilla and W3C members have been somewhat disappointing; Gecko & Trident appear to still be strong players. The state of standards compliance today is a testament to the huge efforts Mozilla & W3C folk, but WebKit has also made a genuine & significant contribution to that end.

31. On Sunday 17 February 2013, 03:20 by tmsmqwx

Very childish. If you're going to cite someone and critique them, then you should provide a link. Let your readers determine for themselves whether reading your subject's comments is a waste of time or not.

Also, maybe no one told you, but there exists a thing called reverse psychology. The best thing you can do to get someone read is to tell folks not to.

32. On Sunday 17 February 2013, 04:50 by ZinkDifferent

I don't think Monsieur Gazman is a very smart writer - or, at the very least, that he allows his personal bitterness over having his pet project sidelined to influence his "analysis" -- which translates into "not very smart writing"

Opera has always been a fringe player, albeit a self-important one, with a pretense at standard-compliance. Their decision was simply motivated by wanting access to the far larger pool of hardware restricted to WebKit - iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch.

WebKit got where it is today, ie being on every mobile platform, by simply providing a better, faster, standards-compliant and extensible framework, making it open-source, and supporting it heavily.

Switching to WebKit is a no-brainer for Opera. The toughest part about this decision was picking how they wanted their crow prepared.

<Daniel> hilarious ! Thank you ! </Daniel>

33. On Sunday 17 February 2013, 05:37 by Leif Halvard Silli

Opera’s switch is of course principally sad …

But one good thing with this — and this doesn’t sound so nice, perhaps, is that we won’t hear Opera spokespersons complain anymore, about how their browser is ignored be developers … (Also becasuse, as Robert pointed out, Opera is not really a small browser vendor: http://robert.ocallahan.org/2013/02... )

I of course understand and agree with many of the principal things — it is bad that a browser engine with impact is going away. And think of of all the standards Opera implements … ! JavScript, XML, HTML, CSS — and various flavours of them all.

At the same time, isn’t that just crocodile tears? And haven’t I seen in my twitter feed, former Opera employees telling how they don’t use Opera so much anymore, especially not the desktop version? And doesn’t that reflect my own behavior as well?

From users’ perspective, if a “thing” is very different from other similar “things”, then this has to be perceived as a good thing by the users, or else they won’t see the point. And I think Opera has a few features were it deviates more than users expect.

I used to think that Opera was more standard adhering than other browsers. And of course, it has its pluses. But if you make Web pages, then you discover that Opera has bugs as well. And the less impact a buggy browser has, the less is it fun to cater for those bugs.

Fortunatly for Opera, Opera is more than its rendering engine. Opera is for instance Opera Turbo. And other extras. Opera has always tried to be more than the rendering engine.

So, in a way, from users point of view, perhaps Opera will become more *usefully* diverse — with features that users actually wants, now that it moves to Webkit? Now that the engine development can be lifted out, they can concentrate on adding more of other things. For instance, Opera has bad accessibility story. Take the Mac, where Firefox is starting to get VoiceOver support. But for Opera? VoiceOver once worked not so bad with Opera. But those days are gone. With the Webkit engine at its core, that could be much simpler.

So, this is just a personal view from a citizen of Oslo. I post this comment from iCab — who once sported its own browser engine.

34. On Sunday 17 February 2013, 06:47 by Jamie

Why is this supposed to be about Apple? Webkit originated in the Linux world, is also supported by Google and a bunch of other companies, and, go figure, now Opera.

Perhaps economics applies.

I do want other engines to be there. I just don't know what the model is supposed to be to support them.