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Re: SimpleWebKit (was GNUstep Web browser (was Re: WebKit Bounty))

From: Mark Rowe
Subject: Re: SimpleWebKit (was GNUstep Web browser (was Re: WebKit Bounty))
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 18:02:38 +1100
User-agent: Unison/1.7.9

Hi there,

I'm not interested in getting into a debate about which direction GNUstep should take for developing a web rendering engine. As a complete outsider to the community anything I say has little influence, and I have no place in trying to exert any. I am merely trying to share some of the knowledge and experience that I have acquired over the few years that I have been involved with WebKit. If the GNUstep community decides to move towards a different solution, whether it be SimpleWebKit or some other appropach, I wish you the best of luck.

I'll only address the points relevant to WebKit below:

On 03/20/07, Riccardo <address@hidden> said:

Although people will say Obj-C++ was needed because of the usage of
KHTML, I think that Apple underestimated the task of getting KHTML to
work cleanly and if those resources were put in better use a cleaner
and better WebKit woul dhave existed. And no need of ugly languages,
less crashes, better memory managment. And about speed - I don't know.

Speed and memory footprint are *huge* factors in the choice of language in a situation such as this. WebKit in Safari 2.0.4, the version currently shipping with Mac OS X 10.4, is one of the fastest browsers available on any platform. The current development version has had substantial performance improvements in many areas. This is achieved through a combination of smart algorithms and a programming language that can take advantage of the computing resources available. While Objective-C is a lovely language to develop in, it's dynamic nature severly limits the possibility for performance optimisations by the compiler.

If you believe Objective-C is the One True Programming Language then by all means use it to develop a web platform. WebKit is in many ways about using the right tool for the job. The performance-criticial portions in WebCore and JavaScriptCore are written in C++. The easy-to-use API that most developers see on a day-to-day basis is Objective-C in the WebKit layer. Objective-C++ allows high performance without sacrificing a developer-friendly API.

[...] porting WebKit will be a great task too, will probably need latest compilers
and will bind us at Apple.
What if in the future WebKit will need Obj-C 2.0 features - let us be
saved. Or it will ocnstantly need some ugly Core* stuff? Or some other
decisions whcih might hurt us or which we don't want to share?

The core functionality in WebKit is in cross-platform C++ code. Both JavaScriptCore and WebCore are buildable without any dependencies on Apple-specific technologies, even on Mac OS X. The implementation of the WebKit API layer, and it's hooks into JavaScript via WebScriptObject etc, currently has some dependencies on either CoreFoundation, Mac OS X private APIs, or Cocoa implementation details. A port to GNUstep would involve factoring these platform-specifics out of the main code.

WebKit currently makes use of Objective-C 2.0 features if you're building it on a prerelease version of Mac OS X 10.5. This is purely an API nicety, it is no way used in the implementation of WebKit itself. As far as I know there a no plans to use any Objective-C 2.0 language features in WebKit in the near future. If GNUstep developers are involved with WebKit there would be a good incentive to keep the current state of play.

Kind regards,

Mark Rowe

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