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Mozilla responds to Opera WebKit move

Mozilla CTO and co-founder Brendan Eich has responded to Opera’s decision to transition to WebKit.

In a blog post entitled Why Mozilla Matters, Eich outlined a number of reasons why Mozilla remains an important player. Thereby, possibly quashing any suggestions Firefox would ditch Gecko in favour of WebKit.

With Opera focusing resources on features while remaining committed to web standards through improving WebKit, speculation had been rife regarding what this could mean for the remaining major non-WebKit players, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.

Designer Aral Balkan argued on Twitter that a WebKit-only approach wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and said, “If you want the web to compete on apps (not saying it has to, but if you do), you need a common rendering engine."

However, Eich’s article suggests this is unlikely to happen any time soon. He cited Mozilla’s openness, global community, innovation through competition, lack of silos and user-owned experiences, and data as crucial.

On the question of a WebKit switch, Eich said the costs in terms of code work would be “way too high […] on any feasible, keep-your-users, current-product timeline”. He said users would “lose the benefits of the rich, broad and deep Firefox Add-ons ecosystem”. With Firefox’s “deep-platform pieces not in chromium code,” Eich argued Firefox wouldn’t still be Firefox.

Eich also suggested the web “needs multiple implementations of its evolving standards to keep them interoperable”, and said he expected more web engines over the next decade, not fewer, due to hardware trends and the so-called power wall issue.

On mobile, Eich inferred that Mozilla’s continuing work on its own rendering engine enables the existence of Firefox OS and Firefox for Android, which he believed will “gain significant distribution on mobile over the next few years”.

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