The side effects of Blink

This is an article on Blink, the browser engine.

Blink is a browser engine developed by Google. It uses V8 as a Javascript engine, so as a result, it’s extremely fast, and it’s the engine that powers Google Chrome. It was a fork of WebKit because the Chrome Team decided that using WebKit was too slow since it had extra proprietary code to support V8. And so Blink was born. Since Blink was created, many browsers have been switching to Blink and V8. Opera ditched Presto and switched to Blink a long time ago. Microsoft released the new Edge which sits on top of Chromium (which then sits on top of Blink and V8). Vivaldi and Brave also switched to Blink. The only browser not running on an engine from the WebKit family is Firefox which uses Gecko (and with bits of Servo written in). All these browsers switching to WebKit and Blink could be bad for the Web. But to fully understand how, we have to travel back to 1994.

Netscape Navigator

When Netscape Navigator was released, it was the first widespread way to access the Web. At the time, not unlike now, Windows was the most used operating system. Microsoft seized this opportunity to create a new browser, Internet Explorer. It drove Netscape to extinction. Microsoft forced hardware manufacturers to include IE in their PCs. It even acquired a few lawsuits due to this. Microsoft thought it had “won” the Web, so it focused on other fronts. This was especially hard for web developers at the time, who despised IE because it was not following web standards set by various organizations. Firefox saw this opportunity and Netscape’s engine, Gecko, came back alive in the form of a new browser – Firefox.

IE was a powerful force which slowed down the development of the Web drastically. The same thing could happen with Blink. Google metaphorically owns the Web. A few examples are

  • Google Search
  • Google Ads
  • Chromium
  • Chrome
  • V8
  • And last but definitely not least: Blink

If Google doesn’t like a specific W3C/WHATWG standard, it could just remove support from Blink. What if the open-source community doesn’t agree? Just don’t index the pages that use that specific standard on their Google search engine. While it’s unlikely Google will ever have an incentive to do this, we just don’t know.

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