The Android Stock Browser Will Continue to Use WebKit Not Chrome's Blink

Mobile apps will be able to use a WebView component based on Chrome and Blink

By on April 9th, 2013 17:31 GMT

With Google launching Blink and essentially abandoning WebKit, some questions have arisen about what this means for the stock Android browser and Android as a whole.

The Blink engine is already built into Chrome and will be in Chrome on every platform it ships, that is, Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS and Android as well. It won't be on iOS since that's an iOS specific browser with the Chrome name.

So Blink will arrive on Android soon enough, in a matter of weeks if things go smooth, once Chrome 28 graduates to the stable channel, though obviously only for people running Chrome on Android.

As for the stock Android browser, Google isn't saying much, but the fact is, that's a different team, a different project and a different browser. Blink is for Chrome and that's what Google is focusing on.

Google doesn't have anything against shipping Blink as part of the stock Android browser, the problem is technical.

Blink can't be ported on its own, it relies heavily on V8, the JavaScript engine used by Chrome, and Skia, the graphics engine used by Chrome.

Any project that wants to incorporate Blink has to use these components along with the Chromium content layer, the portion of the code that implements most of the platform-specific features.

So there's no way to just simply pluck Blink and stick it into a browser, you have to take a significant portion of Chrome as well. Google probably doesn't see the need to do this.

That doesn't bode well for the stock Android browser which hasn't been getting much attention anyway. Going forward, Google will push Chrome as the default browser for Android but, crucially, won't make it available as part of the Android Open Source Project.

So any manufacturer will have to license all Google apps to get Chrome on their devices. Those forking Android will have to rely on the underdeveloped stock browser.

The Android browser will likely receive more improvements and will likely continue to rely on WebKit for the foreseeable future.

That said, there's nothing stopping Google from bundling Chromium as the stock browser in the open source Android though that too is probably more trouble than it's worth.

Chrome-based Android WebView

There's one piece of good news for mobile developers though, Google is working on a WebView component for Chrome, which will allow mobile apps to use the browser engine and all of its components from Chrome rather than the stock browser to display web content.

This is more evidence that as far as Google is concerned, Chrome will be the default browser in Android.

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