[webkit-dev] Moving forward with WebKit/GTK+

Gustavo Noronha Silva gns at gnome.org
Tue Oct 28 12:04:06 PDT 2008

Hello there,

For some time now I've been worried by the lack of progress of
WebKit/GTK+ where API is concerned. I am aware that loads of work have
been going into improving the engine backends and frontends, including
many bug fixes, but real-world adoption for many applications is
hindered by lack of features being accessible through a public API.

While using Epiphany/Devhelp/Liferea, for instance, which already have
semi-functional WebKit/GTK+ ports one isn't able to middle-click links
to open them in new tabs, which is the kind of feature a user would
quickly perceive as basic, and missing. Some other features are
currently being implemented by hacks (mis-)using the already exposed
API, or the JavaScriptCore API.

It happens that quite a bit of missing API bits are already written and
posted to WebKit's bugzilla:

[gtk] Implement WebPolicyDelegate methods
[GTK] Improve frameloader signals
[Gtk] Implement WebKitWebDownload
[gtk] implements FrameLoaderClient::dispatchDidChangeLocationWithinPage
[Curl] Rewrite of curl backend to run in event loop
[GTK] ChromeClient::createWindow and friends need to be implemented
[Gtk] Enable WebInspector in the Gtk port

And some others. Some of these patches go back to the begining of the
year. Some even have formal reviewers comments, but invariably all of
them lack recent official comments or action.

The fact that WebKit/GTK+ doesn't go forward is starting to harm its
momentum in the GNOME community, from my point of view - Epiphany is
already having to decide if they take back the decision to move from
Gecko to WebKit, and contributors don't really have a lot of motivation
to keep contributing with many-months-old patches sitting in the
bugzilla (myself included).

We tried to get together last week to try and push forward on the review
and landing of some of the patches, but we end up only having an
informal review of one patch by contributors of WebKit/GTK+ and related
projects; lacking a formal reviewer in the second meeting there was not
much we could have done.

Notice that I'm not questioning the work done by Alp, I think he's done
a great amount of good work, but having only him as a formal reviewer is
a clear bottleneck in my opinion. I believe we need to fix this if we
want to see WebKit/GTK+ going forward.

I can think of various options; forking the tree and trying to advance
it outside of the main repository being the one I like the least. What I
think could help and not be so destructive as a fork is to have more
reviewers. From looking at history and by hanging around since around
April, I believe Christian Dywan, is a very good candidate.

I don't see GNOME adopting WebKit, or an Epiphany release that is really
based in WebKit happening if we don't fix this issue, and I would like
to hear people's opinion on how we can do it.


* DISCLAIMER: I am not speaking for the GNOME project, nor for its
release team (though I'm CC'ing Vincent Untz so that he is aware of this
discussion), nor for the Epiphany developers. I speak only for myself.

Gustavo Noronha Silva <gns at gnome.org>
GNOME contributor: http://www.gnome.org/

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