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Web development /

What the hell is WebKit anyway? An all-purpose guide

By Robert Nyman on 15 February, 2013

Additional reporting by Rob Hawkes

When Opera announced that it would be moving its various browsers over to WebKit, the global tech press seemed to rejoice without really knowing what it meant. We would like to, in a factual manner, break down what the possible outcomes of having a majority of web browsers based on WebKit are, for web browser vendors and developers alike.

Let’s start with some common questions:

  • What does WebKit actually mean?
  • The term ‘WebKit’ has been thrown around a lot recently – for good reason – but what is it exactly?


WebKit is an open source web browser engine. WebKit is also the name of the Mac OS X system framework version of the engine that’s used by Safari, Dashboard, Mail, and many other OS X applications. WebKit’s HTML and JavaScript code began as a branch of the KHTML and KJS libraries from KDE.

Which basically means that WebKit is the browser engine behind Safari, which we already knew. In addition, Apple uses the Nitro JavaScript engine within Safari alongside WebKit.

What’s interesting about WebKit is that it now stretches way beyond Apple. WebKit is also at the core of Google Chrome:

Chromium uses the WebKit rendering engine. Instead of building Chromium-specific implementations, we prefer to

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