Apple's choices for Safari freaking out Mozilla community

Apple’s adoption of KHTML/JKS over Mozilla’s Gecko has created a disturbance in the force of the Mozilla community. Here’s how Don Melton, who helped launch Mozilla in 1988 and is now the engineering manager for Safari, explained Apple’s choice:

The number one goal for developing Safari was to create the fastest web browser on Mac OS X. When we were evaluating technologies over a year ago, KHTML and KJS stood out. Not only were they the basis of an excellent modern and standards compliant web browser, they were also less than 140,000 lines of code. The size of your code and ease of development within that code made it a better choice for us than other open source projects. Your clean design was also a plus. And the small size of your code is a significant reason for our winning startup performance.

Here’s how Mozilla founder and former evangelist Jamie Zawinski interprets this in his weblog:

Even though some of us used to work on Mozilla, we have to admit that the Mozilla code is a gigantic, bloated mess, not to mention slow, and with an internal API so flamboyantly baroque that frankly we can’t even comprehend where to begin. Also did we mention big and slow and incomprehensible?

Mike Shaver, a Mozilla staff member, did everything but say, “yeah, it’s probably best that Apple didn’t go with Gecko” in his weblog:

I guess I’m supposed to be mortally offended–or at least embarrassed–that they went with KHTML instead of our Gecko engine, but I’m having trouble working up the indignation. We’ve all known forever that Gecko missed its ‘small-and-lean’ target by an area code, and we’ve been slogging back towards the goal, dragging our profilers and benchmarks behind us, for years. If I had to write a new browser, and I was going to have to touch the layout code in a serious way, I would think about Mozilla alternatives. I really, really hope that Mozilla will learn from Safari/KHTML, because they’ve done a lot of great work in about a tenth of the code.

FWIW, I think Gecko is wonderful even though Mozilla and Netscape (two browsers that use Gecko) are craptacular. I was not a believer until I used Chimera, a lightweight but full-featured browser that uses a version of Gecko optimized for Mac OS X. Similarly, Windows users have Phoenix, which I haven’t tried but understand is also pretty great. | story