Boxee Embraces HTML5, Switches to Webkit

Boxee is going to switch its integrated web browser from Mozilla’s Gecko to Webkit with its next major update, I was told by Boxee Lead Apps Developer and Community Evangelist Rob Spectre. The switch is an attempt to make full use of HTML5 within Boxee, but it should also help with accessing a wider array of video content that’s not yet available through dedicated Boxee apps.

Since its first release, Boxee has offered a web browser through its “Boxee Browser” application that enables users to navigate to any site on the web. However, the implementation has been little more than a stop-gap measure to offer access to sites like, which briefly blocked the ability to access its videos directly through Boxee in early 2009. The current browser is based on Mozilla’s Gecko layout engine, which is also used by Firefox. Its implementation is fairly buggy, and many sites don’t display correctly within Boxee.

The new browser will be based on Webkit, which is the browser engine used by Apple’s (s AAPL) Safari browser and Google (s GOOG) Chrome. “The web browsing experience is going to be dramatically improved,” Spectre said during a phone conversation. The main motivator for the switch was to make Boxee’s browser HTML5-compliant. Spectre said that HTML5 has proven to be the future of web browsing on desktop PCs and mobile handsets, and adding it to a living-room centered platform like Boxee was the logical next step. “It absolutely should be the future for the browsers you use on your TV,” he said.

The company’s highly anticipated Boxee Box will come with an integrated Webkit browser when it ships in November. Boxee’s desktop client will also offer Webkit-based browsing with its 1.0 release, which will be available “shortly thereafter,” according to Boxee VP of Marketing Andrew Kippen.

Boxee’s embrace of HTML5 should also help the company to compete with Google TV devices from Sony (s SNE) and Logitech, (s LOGI) which are slated to launch this fall. Google has been putting a lot of emphasis on bringing a full web browsing experience into the living room.

In fact, Google has been advising web developers on how to prepare sites and apps for its TV platform, and Google TV’s universal search will present web search results right next to local and cable TV content. Google TV is based on Android, which also uses Webkit as its default browser.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: What Does the Future Hold For Browsers? (subscription required)