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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Apple ditches key open source ally

A couple of years after Apple selected the KHTML rendering engine as the foundation of its Safari web browser, Apple decided to build its own version called WebCore. WebCore is an LGPL open source project.

The group behind KHTML described their relationship with Apple as a "bitter failure". They were expecting much more contribution from Apple. According to KHTML developers, Apple engineers took a less "pure" approach to fixing bugs, applying patches that were not good enough to include back into the KHTML code base.

"In fixing one problem, they were breaking a whole bunch of other things. Apple developers were focused on fixing bugs in such a way that we could not merge them back into KHTML. Those fixes were never an option for us." said Zack Rusin from the KDE, "In fixing one problem, they [Apple] were breaking a whole bunch of other things. Apple developers were focused on fixing bugs in such a way that we could not merge them back into KHTML. Those fixes were never an option for us."

"As long as they needed us, they used us, but when they gained enough knowledge they had no reason to keep sending us reviews and patches," Rusin said. "At a certain point they decided it was a waste of time for them, and at that point the communication just stopped...We had hopes that they would pour resources into KHTML. But that never happened."

Apple is not abandoning OSS completely; the company's Mac operating system is based on the Darwin open-source project (BSD-licensed).

For more on this story, read this article by CNET's Paul Festa.

My question (for those who know the answer) is: why is Apple developing a browser at all? Why not pour all their Safari resources on making the already popular Firefox fantastic on Mac OS?

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