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Opera Moves to WebKit, Hits 300 Mil. Users

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Opera Moves to WebKit

Opera has announced that all of their new products will now use WebKit as the rendering agent and V8 for the JavaScript engine.

What Does this Mean for Developers?

Extension developers may be concerned about this switch because it will probably mean a lot of extra work. But never fear! Opera will soon release a tool to convert existing OEX extensions into a format friendly to the new Chromium-based Opera. There will also be conversion tutorials and developer forums.

Web developers shouldn't be affected much, but there are two things to keep in mind:
  1. Chromium doesn't have built-in support for for H.264 or MP3 codecs. Check media support with HTML canPlayType, but the simplest method is to encode codecs in both WebM and H.264 with two <source> elements.
  2. The window.opera object will not exist in the new Chromium-based Opera.

What Does this Mean for Users?

In short, Opera users will notice better site compatibility--especially on mobile sites, which are usually only tested on WebKit browsers. The switch to WebKit has been described as a purely "under the hood" change, so users shouldn't notice much difference.

300 Million Users

Source: Wikipedia Opera also announced that it has hit 300 million users. It's still the smallest of the major browsers (see the graph to the right), but if this move to WebKit makes Opera development and usage easier, it may see an increase in its user-base and more attention from the big kids.

The Future

Opera's first WebKit-based product will be for smartphones and will be announced at the Mobile World Congress  in Barcelona at the end of this month.