Blog Post

WebKit: the Browser That Owns the Mobile Internet

Mobile browsers have been around for a long time and have evolved from pretty sucky to providing the “real” Internet in your hand. Taking a look around the mobile browser world there is one observation that is hard to argue against — WebKit browsers are so far ahead of the pack that the rest had better catch up. I’ve played with all of the browsers out there and the WebKit browsers beat the rest hands down when it comes to creating a browsing experience that rivals one on the desktop. If that is the objective, then those browsers not using WebKit had better get busy.

iPhone, Palm Pre
iPhone, Palm Pre

WebKit is the open-source base for the best mobile browsers in the market. Just look at the browser on the Palm (s palm) Pre, Android (s goog), and of course the iPhone (s aapl), and you have to agree that WebKit is the cat’s meow. The other browsers out there don’t come close to putting full, complicated web pages on the small phone screen. Opera Mobile tries hard but still falls short.

Now I wouldn’t go as far as Gizmodo and state that all other browsers had better adopt WebKit or go away. There are better mobile browsers, like Opera Mini, for non-touchscreen phones that are faster on those types of phones and optimized for using phone buttons to control. There are also server-based browsers like Skyfire that are pretty darn good, too. Competition is always a good thing and it’s better to have choices out there. Mozilla is hard at work on the Fennec browser which will add spice to the mobile web, too.

I wouldn’t say that all developers working on mobile browsers should stop what they’re doing and adopt WebKit for their product. Only the developers can know how much sense that makes or not. But I will state emphatically that your target is very well-defined with WebKit and you’d better catch up or pass it pretty soon. So far, everything else falls short.

12 Responses to “WebKit: the Browser That Owns the Mobile Internet”

  1. opera 9.7 runs smooth, but has memory problems on my wing. i usually have about 12 mb free on my storage side and anywhere from 8-12mb free on my program side, but have difficulty loading and buffering video files.

    iris browser has a nice look to it, but the flash lite 3.1 is not built in and after an hour and a half of attempting to have it run from the plug in folder I gave up on it.

    Bolt a java based browser build has some issues with it’s media player too. It redirects the end user to the default browser. Not too cool, if you want to watch some you tube.

    Skyfire is my favorite of the bunch, though the memory issue finally hit me today after I hyped up the v.1.1 version on another blog.

    I was impressed with the iphone’s ability to stream from youtube though. Just not ready to take another bite out of the apple unitl they can …

    :MULTI-TASK: lol

  2. My N800 says different. Firefox rules the roost.

    And I seem to recall JK saying something to the effect of Opera Mobile being the best browser hands down on a mobile device when the latest version came out.

    • Ah, I see now. I viewed just the image and see the grey line for what it is and the entire right edge of the screen.

      Still not sure what my next phone is. I do know I’m leaving AT&T. Pre is a top contender. But the Magic/Ion/G2 looks good too (and Melissa’s already on T-Mo so I could share her minutes). Also wondering if I can revert to a non-touchscreen device like the Curve 8900 or Blackberry Tour. Hmmmmmm.

    • Brian E

      RIM’s browser doesn’t begin to stack up to the alternatives – WebKit, Opera, or even Mobile IE. Before you devide that the 8900 is the phone for you, be sure to try the G1 and Pre’s browsers. I just switched from an 8320 to a G1 for this reason.

      The G1’s messaging capabilities are quite robust too, especially if you use GMail for your corporate email as I do.

      It will be interesting to see if anyone creates an Android handset without a touchscreen in the traditional BlackBerry form factor. The G1’s trackball can already be used to access almost all of the interface. With a little tweaking, I don’t think I’d miss the touchscreen at all. Even in the browser, scrolling around with the trackball is surprisingly fluid.

  3. Yes – don’t forget Symbian has used a Webkit-based browser since long before the iPhone was a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye (maybe not that long, but they were first to market with one by at least 2 years).

  4. opera mini works fine for me. I will probably go ahead and download webkit and play around with it for sometime. I heard webkit is great for touch screen phones but not as good when it comes to normal cell.

  5. I had always thought that Webkit was the rendering engine, much like Gecko for Firefox and Trident for IE. There are many browsers based off webkit on the PC and in the mobile space.

    You also don’t mention Opera Mobile which is (one of) the most used mobile web browsers on the planet.