Presto change … oh?

Browser maker Opera is ditching its custom-made Presto rendering system for its iOS and Android mobile browsers in favor of WebKit, the layout engine that powers Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome browsers.

This is a significant step for Opera and the Web. Presto was one of four viable layout engines on the market (the others being WebKit, Mozilla’s Gecko and Microsoft’s Trident for Internet Explorer). Opera will phase out Presto throughout 2013 and work to enhance aspects of the open source WebKit.

Good For The Web?

Depending on who you ask, this is either very good or very bad. WebKit is considered the best layout engine by many developers and will enable Opera to run many Web apps and sites that run on iOS and Android that would otherwise been difficult to implement. This will make it easier to create material that will render the same across many browsers. For many developers, any move to WebKit a good thing.

“It makes more sense to have our experts working with the open source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium, rather than developing our own rendering engine further. Opera will contribute to the WebKit and Chromium projects, and we have already submitted our first set of patches: to improve multi-column layout,” said Opera’s CTO Håkon Wium Lie in a press release.

Bad For The Web?

Others do not agree. Mozilla’s Robert O’Callahan calls it a “sad day for the Web” and says Opera’s impact on Web standards will be “dramatically reduced.”

“The big loss for the Web is a further decrease in the diversity of browser engines, especially on mobile devices,” O’Callahan wrote on his blog. “We now have one of the three viable browser engines, instead of one of the four, and engine diversity is already critically endangered – and more difficult, because this will strengthen the Webkit mobile monoculture and make it even harder for us to promote Web standards over ‘coding to Webkit.’”

Of course, a company like Mozilla would not be particularly pleased with Opera’s move to WebKit. When it comes to mobile browsers, the battle to be the leading third-party option is intense between Mozilla’s Firefox (which is not available on iOS), Opera and Dolphin. Anything that makes Opera a more attractive option to developers and consumers is not a good thing for the likes of Mozilla. 

Opera made the announcement of its move to WebKit while also proclaiming that the company has reached 300 million users between its TV, PC, tablet and smartphone browser products. Opera believes that the move to the more popular WebKit will help it accelerate growth in mobile.

What do you think? Is Opera’s decision good for the Web or bad for the Web? Let us know in the comments.

Lead image courtesy Shutterstock.