Apple, Google nearly tied as top contributors to WebKit as adoption expands

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014
Apple still contributes the greatest number of 'reviewed commits' enhancing its open source WebKit browser engine, but Google is nearly tied in contributions while an active and expanding community assist.

According to a report by TechCrunch, based on numbers crunched by Bitergia, a firm that analyzes the active participants and their contributions to open source projects, Apple's contributions to WebKit come despite a much smaller number of dedicated, individual software authors.

Contributions to WebKit by Apple and Google
Historical contributions to WebKit by firm, Credit: Bitergia.com via TechCrunch


Apple's employees make up just 11 percent of the authors contributing to WebKit's development, but those authors contribute 37.96 percent of the community's reviewed commits, Bitergia states.

Apple's interest in WebKit pertains to the Mac and iOS editions of its Safari web browser, but the browser engine code is also extensively used behind the scenes for the iTunes Store, in features such as Dashboard and iTunes Extras, and is tightly integrated into a wide variety of other operating system functions and used throughout Apple's development tools.

WebKit contributors come and go as global platform expands

Google's share of individual WebKit authors is a whopping 42.6 percent, but its contributions in reviewed commits per company amount to a share just slightly under Apple's, at 37.63 percent. Google uses WebKit in its Chrome desktop and mobile browsers, as well as in Android and its aspiring Chrome OS, a strategy to replace Windows with a glorified web browser on lower end netbooks.

Google's efforts to build and maintain its WebKit-based Chrome browser for Windows in 2008 allowed Apple to drop its own efforts to maintain Safari for Windows last summer, enabling it to devote its efforts on Safari for iOS and Mac OS X where it earns its revenues.

In addition to Apple and Google, other significant contributors to WebKit include Nokia and RIM, both of which adopted WebKit in order to deliver fully functional web browsers for their own mobile platforms.

However, Nokia's initial, pioneering involvement in bringing WebKit to the mobile market peaked in 2011 and has collapsed since, as the company abandoned its own Symbian and MeeGo platforms to exclusively support Microsoft's Windows Phone. Microsoft's mobile platform supplies its own browser engine that does not use WebKit, making it the only significant mobile company on earth not to do so.

At the same time that Nokia abandoned WebKit, the company now known as BlackBerry picked up the torch and boldly centered its new BB OS 10 around an existing WebKit browser. After acquiring Torch Mobile in 2009, the company abandoned the smaller firm's WebKit-based Iris browser for Windows Mobile and set to work on a new browser for its own BlackBerry platform.

Steve Jobs' Safari discovers a mobile revolution

Ten years ago in January 2003, Steve Jobs unveiled plans for Apple's own new Safari web browser, based on the new WebCore layout engine, which was the result of a year and a half effort to improve upon KDE's existing, open KHTML project. At that time, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, based on its own proprietary "Trident" or "Tasman" web engines, accounted for around 95 percent of the web browsers in use.

A year and a half later in the middle 2005, Apple introduced WebKit, a fully functional browser engine that went far beyond the core HTML layout and JavaScript engine created by KDE. This enabled Nokia, Google and others to rapidly bring their own web browsers to market.
The number of different, active contributors to WebKit has been rapidly growing since, expanding from around five in 2007 when the iPhone debuted to the current number of more than 20 major contributors.

WebKit now claims the largest share of any web browser engine.WebKit now claims the largest share of any web browser engine, thanks in large part to the popularity of Google's Chrome browser on the desktop, which has surpassed both Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox.

WebKit's share of mobile browsers is much higher, with Safari on iOS and Google's Android and Chrome mobile browsers contributing toward a total WebKit market share comparable to what Microsoft's proprietary Trident claimed a decade ago.

In addition to web browsers, WebKit also serves as the underlying technology behind a variety of other products, ranging from Valve's Steam (a sort of iTunes Store for games) to Adobe's AIR platform and HP's now defunct webOS, in addition to being used by a wide variety of apps to display and format content, including Apple's Mail and a vast array of third party iOS and Mac apps.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 37
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    One of Apple's greatest contributions to computing is also one of the most important to Google! Meanwhile, how much credit does Apple get for it from open source fanatics who think Google is Santa Claus?
  • Reply 2 of 37
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,989member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post



    One of Apple's greatest contributions to computing is also one of the most important to Google! Meanwhile, how much credit does Apple get for it from open source fanatics who think Google is Santa Claus?


     


    None, Apple "stole" it from KDE according to some.

  • Reply 3 of 37
    macrulezmacrulez Posts: 2,455member


    deleted

  • Reply 4 of 37

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post


     


    None, Apple "stole" it from KDE according to some.



     


    These are the same people who don't think Android owes anything to the Java+Linux platform that was ubiquitous before Google acquired a Java+Linux platform, forked it to avoid paying licensing fees and/or respecting existing copyrights and licensing limitations, and redistributed it under is own name.


     


    Also, all credit for the ongoing development of WebKit goes to anyone other than Apple, while all credit for Android automatically goes to Google, even for forks of Android that don't benefit Google in any way other than to expand the fragmentation of the "platforms" that are "Android."

  • Reply 5 of 37


    Eff yeah, WebKit!


     


    Apple saved the Internet. You're welcome, iHaters.

  • Reply 6 of 37
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,975member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post




    Citation needed.


     


    The bad news here isn't for Apple, not at all.  It's for all those who think Google is evil and refuse to use anything the company makes - now they'll have to stop using Safari. ;)



     


    Wikipedia has a pretty good history of WebKit.  Yes, it did start out life in KDE (as KHTML), but Apple has made significant contributions to it.  Doubtful that anyone can really claim "ownership" of it at this point (which is a good thing).

  • Reply 7 of 37
    macrulezmacrulez Posts: 2,455member


    deleted

  • Reply 8 of 37
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    auxio wrote: »
    Wikipedia has a pretty good history of WebKit.  Yes, it did start out life in KDE (as KHTML), but Apple has made significant contributions to it.  Doubtful that anyone can really claim "ownership" of it at this point (which is a good thing).

    Since Apple owns it I would think they would claim ownership of it.


    edit: From webkit.org: "WebKit is open source software with portions licensed under the LGPL and BSD licenses. Complete license and copyright information can be found within the code. WebKit and the WebKit logo are trademarks of Apple Inc."
  • Reply 9 of 37
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,291member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    Since Apple owns it I would think they would claim ownership of it.





    edit: From webkit.org: "WebKit is open source software with portions licensed under the LGPL and BSD licenses. Complete license and copyright information can be found within the code. WebKit and the WebKit logo are trademarks of Apple Inc."


    Doesn't that just mean they own the right to the name Soli, having held on to it for Mac OSX? I don't believe they "own" the webkit project.


     


    EDIT: Here ya go from Webkit.org, the link you mentioned:


     


    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.

  • Reply 10 of 37
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,975member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    edit: From webkit.org: "WebKit is open source software with portions licensed under the LGPL and BSD licenses. Complete license and copyright information can be found within the code. WebKit and the WebKit logo are trademarks of Apple Inc."


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    Doesn't that just mean they own the right to the name Soli, having held on to it for Mac OSX? I don't believe they "own" the webkit project.



     


    Yes, just the WebKit name and logo are owned by Apple.  The source code is under different licenses and owned by whoever is credited in a given source file.


     


    Edit: As someone who has collaborated on many such projects, it annoys me when people who aren't involved with a project make blanket statements about it.  

  • Reply 11 of 37
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    Doesn't that just mean they own the right to the name Soli, having held on to it for Mac OSX? I don't believe they "own" the webkit project.

    Now you're just trying to lessen Apple's involvement and achievement with WebKit. Apple spent years privately converting the KHTML fork over into the WebKit we finally saw released in Safari. To suggest this isn't Apple's creation and that they only get credit for the name and logo blows me away. Is Android's not Google's even though they bought Android from another company who used Linux for the kernel and whose codebase now consists of outside sources adding to it? I've never once heard you or MacRulez or DaHarder or anyone else say Android isn't Google's property so why is WebKit all of a sudden something Apple gets no credit for shaping? Seems disingenuous to me.
  • Reply 12 of 37
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    auxio wrote: »
    The source code is under different licenses and owned by whoever is credited in a given source file.

    The source code that is own by whomever is credited for it but that is not the same as saying Apple doesn't own the WebKit project in created.

    Q: Who has the right to decide how an open source project will be licensed?
  • Reply 13 of 37
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,975member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    Now you're just trying to lessen Apple's involvement and achievement with WebKit. Apple spent years privately converting the KHTML fork over into the WebKit we finally saw released in Safari. To suggest this isn't Apple's creation and that they only get credit for the name and logo blows me away. Is Android's not Google's even though they bought Android from another company who used Linux for the kernel and whose codebase now consists of outside sources adding to it? I've never once heard you or MacRulez or DaHarder or anyone else say Android isn't Google's property so why is WebKit all of a sudden something Apple gets no credit for shaping? Seems disingenuous to me.


     


    The get credit/ownership for the parts of the source code they are credited in.  Take a look at the source code and see for yourself.


     


    Have you read the original email from Don Melton to the KDE team?  Even he gave credit to the KDE developers for creating a "great open source project" which Apple was able to build off of.


     


    I'm certainly not claiming that Apple's only contribution is a name and a logo, and I'd even be willing to say that Apple has played a far greater role in developing WebKit than Google has.  However, having experience with similar projects, it's frustrating when outsiders and media make blanket statements about ownership because they're looking for the simplest answer to package for people who don't know better.

  • Reply 14 of 37
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,975member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    The source code that is own by whomever is credited for it but that is not the same as saying Apple doesn't own the WebKit project in created.



    Q: Who has the right to decide how an open source project will be licensed?


     


    In most open source projects I've worked on, there's a "blanket" license for the project to cover parts which no one has really claimed ownership of (like build scripts and whatnot).  However, the source code itself can have many different licenses depending on who created it (or where it came from -- sometimes it could be another project entirely).  You typically have to read the individual source files to find out -- though usually there's a text file somewhere which summarizes all of the licenses.


     


    EDIT: Which is why incorporating open source code into a commercial project can be a legal minefield.

  • Reply 15 of 37
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Corrections View Post


    Also, all credit for the ongoing development of WebKit goes to anyone other than Apple



     


    If that's what you genuinely believe then you have a very warped view of reality. 

  • Reply 16 of 37
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    auxio wrote: »
    <span style="line-height:normal;">I'm certainly not claiming that Apple's only contribution is a name and a logo, and I'd even be willing to say that Apple has played a far greater role in developing WebKit than Google has.  However, having experience with similar projects, it's frustrating when outsiders and media make blanket statements about ownership because they're looking for the simplest answer to package for people who don't know better.</span>

    No one is saying that only Apple gets credit for what makes up WebKit but it still their project. They forked it from KHTML as allowed by the licensing and made their own project.

    WebOS was Palm's project and is now HP's project. It's a Linux and WebKit but Palm made it closed. WebOS became their project. Gram nee WebOS is now open sourced by HP and if I recall correctly the licensing will allow others to fork it and create their own projects.

    These contributions are great and what we've seen from Linux and WebKit show just how powerful open source projects can be. I don't expect much from WebOS (but you never know, just look at WebKit from KHTML) but I do expect Android to grow in amazing ways.
  • Reply 17 of 37
    macrulezmacrulez Posts: 2,455member


    deleted

  • Reply 18 of 37
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,209moderator
    WebKit now claims the largest share of any web browser engine. WebKit now claims the largest share of any web browser engine, thanks in large part to the popularity of Google's Chrome browser on the desktop, which has surpassed both Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox.

    WebKit's share of mobile browsers is much higher, with Safari on iOS and Google's Android and Chrome mobile browsers contributing toward a total WebKit market share comparable to what Microsoft's proprietary Trident claimed a decade ago

    Different tools seem to differ wildly in their stats:

    http://www.w3counter.com/globalstats.php?year=2012&month=12
    http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser-ww-monthly-201212-201212-bar
    http://www.netmarketshare.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=0&qpcustomd=0#

    I'm divided on Google's efforts. On the one hand, I like that they have promoted much better software in such a big way with their search engine monopoly but on the other hand, I don't like how they've turned armies of people against Apple while feeding off Apple's achievements.

    Given the choice between Google not offering Chrome and Android and offering it, I prefer that they do just from the results. I don't think Apple would be much further ahead otherwise because their pricing structures will always exclude a large amount of people and I like that it's complimentary technology rather than conflicting technology that fills the space.

    I'd like to see Firefox and Opera adopt the webkit engine. It just makes it easier for deployment because there are fewer variants to test against. Chrome is different enough from Safari so they can easily put their own identity to it. There's little hope of Microsoft doing this sort of thing but there wouldn't be any harm in it to have everyone at least use the same core engine.

    These browser races really contradict the whole point of the internet. Access to internet content shouldn't be a commercial competition. The competition should only be in the content that is delivered not how it's received.
  • Reply 19 of 37
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,975member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    No one is saying that only Apple gets credit for what makes up WebKit but it still their project. They forked it from KHTML as allowed by the licensing and made their own project.


     


    Really, the only thing which matters is the technologies/ideas which make up a project.  A name is just a name and can change many times during the lifespan of a project (and it's forks).  As can legal ownership as companies are bought, sold, go bankrupt, etc.


     


    But yes, if it makes you happy, I'll also give Apple credit for providing the infrastructure to support the project.  Though I believe that's the contentious point for the original KDE developers if you read the Wikipedia article: they really had to push Apple to provide this type of information (what bugs were being fixed by which patches).  But I'm glad Apple finally set this up for the WebKit project in the end: many companies likely wouldn't bother unless they were legally forced to do so.

  • Reply 20 of 37

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post



    I'm divided on Google's efforts. On the one hand, I like that they have promoted much better software in such a big way with their search engine monopoly but on the other hand, I don't like how they've turned armies of people against Apple while feeding off Apple's achievements.


     


    Only in the beginning, but it looks as though Google is now "giving back" more to Apple than they "fed" off of. I don't see it as a negative for Apple at all- they took a step in an open direction (great) which they are now benefiting from.


     


    Maybe I'm just misreading the charts/numbers but it looks like at the moment Google is contributing twice as much to WebKit as Apple is. That "nearly tied" claim seems to be for total number of commits (someone correct me if I'm wrong)- but Google's current rate of contribution is much higher. So the difference in the total number of commits between the two companies is likely to grow pretty quickly.

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