Opera Adopting WebKit and Why it Sucks

Everyone who knows me, knows I’m an Opera fanatic. I’ve been using it for 13 years or so, actually. We had some great times over the years… tabbed browsing years before Mozilla copied it. Mouse gestures and easy keyboard navigation. Incredibly fast rendering. Session saving. Security. Stability. I could count on one hand the amount of times its crashed on me over the years (and 90% of it had to do with MSNBC’s old website — I can only hope they fired their UX guy). Admittedly, Opera has been slacking off with standards implementation lately, but it’s not exactly show-stopping stuff.

So why are they ditching Presto in favor of WebKit? I guess they just don’t have the money to keep moving in that direction, especially with the WebGL stuff that complicates future implementation. It’s a sad situation though, and makes me wonder how long until Firefox and IE follow suit. “But wouldn’t it be a perfect world with one rendering engine?” Well, yes and no. This happened once, remember IE6? If you wanted the Internet to work, you had to use that browser. But things weren’t so great… standards were lacking to say the least. New standards stagnated, and Flash workarounds became prevalent. But hey, it was the only browser in town, until Firefox. So if all browsers went to WebKit… not only would it be IE6 all over again, but the WebKit code would probably get forked all over the place anyway and defeat the purpose. You’d just end up with arguments over the direction of the project, and the end result would be WebKit, MozKit, ChromeKit, and IEKit. Hey, it’s happened once before.

I like WebKit, but I don’t love it. I’ve tried to love her, honestly I have, but she’s just not my type. The Javascript API implementation is very nonstandard and IE-ish. Stability seems lacking (might be due to the multi-threading?). Flash barely works (Chrome and Safari need to stop blaming Flash for their browser crashes; other browsers don’t have these problems). It’s slow. To be fair, maybe these are just problems with Chrome and Safari, and not necessarily WebKit. When I was loading up my netbook awhile back and deciding on a browser, I went with Chrome, and for 3 months I gave it a chance. It was excruciatingly slow. It crashed a lot. I figured it was because it was an underpowered netbook, so I didn’t think Opera would work any better if I installed it, but thankfully I was wrong. It made the Internet tolerable again. It’s going to be really lame if I have to start using IE9 instead of WebKit — and worse — if IE9 turns out to be a better browser than Chrome.

Presto was the little engine that could. Blindingly fast, incredibly stable. It’s just sad Opera never let it live up to what it could have been, or rather what it was, a standards-compliant powerhouse that shamed all other browsers. Why did they let it fall behind? Why don’t they open-source Presto and let the community improve it? Why just piggyback on WebKit?

I know I’m rambling. I’m not happy about this, but I wish Opera the best of luck in their implementation. Perhaps they’ll do a better job than Google, at least.

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