Google and Mozilla test iPhone browsers not based on WebKit


Google claims Chrome for Mac is now faster than Safari
A major under-the-hood change might be coming to Chrome for iPhone.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Google is tinkering with a version of its Chrome web browser for iPhone that does not use the WebKit rendering engine. The same is true for Mozilla and the Firefox browser.

Releasing these is currently impossible because of Apple’s browser rules, but the iPhone-maker may be forced to drop that restriction soon.

Chrome and Firefox browsers for iPhone might get a new rendering engine

Safari, Chrome and Firefox each have fans, but many iPhone users might not realize that all three web browsers use the same rendering engine. This means their basic functionality is identical, with only secondary features to set them apart.

The similarity isn’t because Google and Mozilla prefer Apple’s WebKit to Blink or Gecko. They have no choice — an App Store rule states: “Apps that browse the web must use the appropriate WebKit framework and WebKit Javascript.”

That’s why it’s big news that Google’s Chromium developers are working on a version of Chrome based on the Blink rendering engine. As noticed by The Register, the project is “Experimental only, not a launch bug for a shippable product.”

And Mozilla is doing its own experiments with its rendering engine, again according to The Register.

Governments may loosen Apple’s grip on the App Store

The rule requiring all iPhone apps that access the web to use WebKit has been in place for many years. But it could be going away soon.

A recent report by the U.S. Commerce Department is very critical of the rule. It notes that because of the WebKit requirement for iPhone, “the browsers that users recognize elsewhere — on Android and on desktop computers — do not have the same functionality that they do on those other platforms.”

Governments around the world have already begun forcing changes on big tech companies. The EU required Apple drop the Lightning port from iPhone and allow sideloading third-party applications. Given the current regulatory environment, the days when WebKit is the only option may be numbered.

If so, Google apparently wants to be ready with a Blink-based version of its browser for iPhone. And Mozilla would surely soon have an updated version of Firefox, too.


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