I thought that all the developer time they are saving would go into improving the browser and only a small number of people would be contributing to WebKit. I.e. browser improves faster as less time is spent working on the browser engine.
Now it is obvious. Cost saving! Which is fine, just a bit disappointing. Especially considering how they have 3 products. Opera, Opera Mini and the new Tablet Browser (I don't know if this is replacing Mini)
Opera isn't switching to WebKit, it's switching to the Chromium codebase (which uses WebKit). Chromium is a full browser, so Opera is basically outsourcing it's browser development to Google (which aside from practically all Chromium work also does most WebKit work these days).
This makes perfect business sense for Opera - why work hard to make a browser, when it can get one for free. As a plus, that browser uses WebKit, so its main competitors - mobile Safari and the mobile version of Chrome - will never be ahead of it on core engine features. Furthermore, one of those competitors, Chrome, will never be ahead of it in any way since they will be practically the same browser.
For that reason I doubt anyone believed Opera would be putting much engineering effort into core WebKit or even core Chromium. It makes no business sense - Google is already doing all the hard work on Chromium (and WebKit, with others), and anything Opera adds to WebKit shows up in its main competitors immediately.
What Opera does need engineers for is to replace the Google-specific stuff in Chrome, like login to Google services and other Google web services. Also Opera will modify the UI. Opera can also add some stuff on top of that to differentiate. But Opera simply no longer needs a significant browser engine department - Google is now that department.
Opera's browser and it's engine, Presto, are dead.
Opera is building a new browser using Chromium. They can still add value on top of that - Opera has more things than just a browser, they have their server-side rendering, ad network and analytics, etc. They can integrate those with a version of Chrome that has Opera branding and there could be value in that.
Note also that to include Chrome on your phone means a deal with Google. Typically that means using all Google services (docs, mail, app store). If you want to use something else, you can't use Chrome, so that might be an opportunity for Opera.
I kind of hope they would keep their "batteries included" philosophy. Meaning, retaining all the built-in functionality that you'd need 10+ extensions/plugins for in other browsers. For instance, you can't even change or add keyboard shortcuts in Chrome without an extension (at least, I couldn't figure out how to do it, and searching the web just pointed me to extensions).
Other features I use daily or at least weekly are: quick preferences (F12), per-site preferences, content-blocker, stylesheet switcher, paste-and-go (Chrome has this now, but not as a keyboard shortcut), go-to-parent-directory and way too many keyboard shortcuts to name here.
I'm sure I could get these features with a few choice extensions in Chrome, but I'd have to figure out which are the good ones first, and hope they play nice with eachother.
Either way, this is dark news nonetheless. I was somewhat positive about the switch to webkit/chromium but laying off this many people is bad for morale, bad for the product and of course most bad for the people that just lost their job.
Opera isn't switching to WebKit, it's switching to the Chromium codebase (which uses WebKit)
All the articles I've read recently, including this article, all only mention WebKit. Where have you heard that they are switching to Chromium and not just WebKit? I'd be interested to read more about that.
I can't find anything that suggests that they are using anything other that WebKit as the rendering engine. ExtremeTech has an article that mentions Chromium:
By switching to WebKit/Chromium, Opera will not only become faster and more functional, but it will also allow its Norwegian developers to focus on the browser’s overall user experience.
Notice that they seem to equate WebKit with Chromium, which isn't the case.
In my opinion (no based in knowledge of any kind) is that they are just ripping out Presto and replacing it with WebKit. I suspect that the next version of Opera will visually look similar to Opera now and will support most if not all the same functions (customizable menus, ad blocking, Mail client, etc).
They'll be using chromium to some extend, that doesn't mean it's going to be a chromium browser that's exactly like Chrome, Yandex, Torch, SRWare and what have you. That is what you seem to imply.
As you probably know "some stuff on top of that" is rather broad in Opera's case, assuming they keep current functionality. If they have business sense they'll also want to keep their 300 million users, I doubt they'll do that by killing their product and making an Opera branded Chromium instead.
It states that for the user, it's going to be the same browser. It also states Opera extensions will keep working, so at the very least we know they'll be making something not as chrome as the other chromium browsers.
Yes, exactly, running Opera extensions on top of Chromium is precisely the kind of stuff Opera should add on top. Not that hard to do too, and does not require a fork.
It won't be exactly like Chrome, I never said it would - it will add stuff to it and remove some stuff. And I do think that can be a viable product that keeps many of their users.
I agree Opera might be more different than Chrome than SRWare for example. But it will still be 99% chromium in the core engine. To make significant changes in there would mean forking chromium and not being able to easily update from upstream - which would be silly.
> What makes you think Opera is outsourcing development to Google? Just because something is using a framework doesn't mean they aren't using it to build their own thing on top of it.
They are using Chromium as their browser. Chromium is a full browser, so basically almost all the work on Opera's new browser will be done by Google. That is why I said "outsourcing development to Google", but of course I didn't mean it literally as in "paying Google to develop for them".
That's not speculation, that's just what it means when Opera is switching to Chromium.
Opera will add stuff on top. But Opera can't differentiate much in the core browser stuff, otherwise it would be forking Chromium and it would become harder and harder over time to get updates from upstream. That makes no sense technically or business-wise. What does make sense is to add things on top that are modular and separate, for example remove Google's login and replace it with Opera's, etc.
Opera has said they will leave all the core stuff to Google and just modify UI and other stuff on top. That means almost all development is done by Google.
This isn't the case when you use a small open source codebase. But it is the case here when Opera is using an enormous codebase by a huge corporation, and just innovating in the UI and other modular features on top of the huge core.