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I would love to claim the foresight of planning for the iPhone all along. Alas, that was not the case. :) For any of us.

We built our own browser because we didn't want to depend on another company for a critical application.

We built our own browser engine because we wanted to use the technology in more things than a browser.

We built that engine small and fast because Bertrand Serlet would have shot me if I had done otherwise. :)

You have to remember that Mac OS X itself was smaller in those days. Not iOS small, but considerably smaller that it is now.

After the initial success of Mac Safari, there was a time when I was second-guessed by some for choosing KHTML and KJS as the basis for WebKit. When we decided to do the iPhone, I was suddenly a genius again. :)

That's just the way it works in the real world.




It is probably just the dumb luck of having started the same day as you and Maciej (and thus going through orientation at the same time), but it was completely obvious to me that you were building a browser team, at least once you stopped working on Mail.app bugs during the Puma crunch and he moved over to your team a few weeks later ;-)

To drive home Don's point about how secret Alexander was: I was given official access to Marklar months before Alexander. Since there was no Rosetta at that time the Intel builds of OS X had no bundled web browser (and porting Chimera or Mozilla were clearly nowhere on that team's priority list at the time, for obvious reasons). I was eventually given access to Alexander largely because I was doing enough Intel related work that it was necessary to have access to a browser on my Intel machines.


>We built our own [map app] because we didn't want to depend on another company for a critical application.

I believe, in retrospect, Apple's Maps.app will be considered in the same league as Safari. It may have had a rougher start than Safari, but I think it's a great program.


But it's different for maps, it's not the programming that was at fault, it's the cartographic data.

And to continue the parallel, it would have probably been better for apple and everyone else if apple had just used the gecko engine for their browser.


> And to continue the parallel, it would have probably been better for apple and everyone else if apple had just used the gecko engine for their browser.

In what way?

WebKit seems to have enjoyed some success since then... since Chrome toppled both Internet Explorer and Firefox.


It might have been better at the time to use gecko, but apparently building a new rendering engine had enough advantages that Apple decided it was worth it. In hindsight, WebKit was the right call. It's powerful enough to run advanced desktop browsers, yet lightweight enough to power (almost) the entire mobile web.


I thought that WebKit was based upon KHTML. Was it different enough upon initial release that you would consider it "building a new rendering engine"?


Mozilla was a bridge to step away from IE and "Made for IE" sites.

It's goal was "bug-for-bug compatability with IE" so that you could run Mozilla / Netscape on websites that weren't updated / weren't ever going to be updated.

KHTML / Konqueror was effectively "strict-mode-only" not caring (as much) if sites broke, but implementing things "as sanely as possible".

Firefox was Mozilla with a sane UI on top of it.

Mozilla UI was trash because goofballs in suits kept ruining it by pushing for "site-specific-themes paid for by advertisers" which caused the "chrome" to be incredibly buggy / slow / etc.

WebKit / Safari was Apple delicately picking up KHTML, making the "hard" decisions to implement some things poorly / hackily / different / more quickly than the "purist" open source KHTML volunteer developers had envisioned.

They actually handled it overall quite well, as opposed to their other forays into open-source land (kernel / darwin, cups, etc).

WebKit is excellent now because it didn't have to start with that bridge step, and had speed / correctness / isolation as a focus from the start. So even though WebKit is the current "leader", it owes a lot to Mozilla for doing the hard grunt-work that allowed it to take cover behind the big lumbering dinosaur and come out unscathed on the other side.


I remember using KHTML back before Safari was out, and it was wayyy behind Firefox. I'd bet that KHTML was mostly just a sane starting point that needed a significant amount of work to complete with IE/Firefox.


Safari pre-dated Firefox, so something about your recollection is a bit off here. Perhaps you're thinking of SeaMonkey or Phoenix as the point of comparison?

Either way according to Wikipedia, Don had forked KHTML/KJS in 2001 (which pre-dated the first public release of Phoenix by a year or so), so his choices were to hack SeaMonkey into something suitable or to start from somewhere else.


I think you're right about using SeaMonkey. Either, I remember using some Mozilla based browser that was way ahead of KHTML that is still used


I honestly have no idea. I'm not a developer. :)


Presumably, by your logic, Google and Adobe were wrong to adopt webkit instead of Gecko too.


Don, you've had a couple of great stories make it to HN recently -- awesome reads. Looking forward to reading many more.


Thank you! I'm typing as fast as I can. :)


Keep them coming, please :)


That's twice you mentioned 'being shot' for failure. Sounds like a real culture of fear. I get the excitement for a chance to innovate the future of computing, but I sometimes get a sense of real Stockholm Syndrome from people at Apple. I personally don't want to work at a place where people are so afraid of failure. Look at Forstall's recent exit. All those years changing the world through computing, and at the end he gets a disgraceful boot out the door.

You can change the world from a growing startup without having to fear for your career at every turn. You can have fun without being afraid. Imagine that!


That's just me being facetious. Don't read that much into it.

Apple was an excellent place to work and I had a great relationship with Scott, Bertrand, Avie and Steve. Nobody was going to shoot me. AFAIK. :)


It's the underlings you have to watch out for.


Or it was just a phrase!




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