WebKit turns ten years old today

The WebKit project, the open-source layout engine which powers browsers including Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome, is celebrating its tenth birthday today.

While the project has its origins in the earlier KHTML software library developed as part of the Konqueror browser, its official birth began on the 24th of August 2001 when the SVN repository was first initialised - although the name 'WebKit' wouldn't be officially used publicly until Apple released the code in 2002.

Although Apple was the prime mover in the WebKit project as it looked for a platform on which it could build its own web browser to bundle with its Mac OS platform, many other companies and individuals have become involved with the project over the years and it now powers a surprising quantity of browsers.

WebKit-based browsers include the aforementioned Safari - in both Mac OS and iOS flavours - and Chrome, along with the browser used in the Amazon Kindle, all Symbian Series 60 phones, the NetFront browser used in Nintendo's 3DS hand-held console, and the browser used in HP's abandoned webOS platform.

WebKit is well regarded as a powerful open-source framework for browser development, but that wasn't always the case: while the project started life in 2001, Apple wouldn't publicly release it until 2002 - and then it would only provide the source code to two portions of WebKit, known as WebCore and JavaScriptCore. It wasn't until 2005 that the company opted to make the entire codebase open-source, a move which allowed third party companies to contribute to its development.

Replaced in April 2010 by WebKit2 - which is redesigned to support a split process model where application user interface and web content is run in seperate processes to improve reliability and security - WebKit has had a major impact on the development of the web, and its lightweight nature has even found it being used outside of a traditional browser to render user interface elements in software such as Valve's Steam digital distribution platform and Adobe's Creative Suite packages.

WebKit has also given birth to the SunSpider benchmark suite, generally considered the best method of comparing the performance of differing JavaScript engine implementations and used in the majority of browser-based benchmarking suites.

With Apple continuing to gain ground with its mobile and desktop devices, the future of the WebKit project looks assured.