[webkit-dev] GlobalScript in WebKit

Maciej Stachowiak mjs at apple.com
Mon Nov 30 14:17:26 PST 2009

On Nov 30, 2009, at 1:58 PM, David Hyatt wrote:

> On Nov 30, 2009, at 3:45 PM, Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>> WebKit (or at least the mainline) is not necessarily a great place  
>> for experiments. As our Project Goals say: "WebKit is an  
>> engineering project, not a science project." <http://webkit.org/projects/goals.html 
>> >. Of course, that's a pretty fuzzy line, because sometimes a use  
>> case is really well proven and we're not willing to wait for  
>> standards groups to get their butt in gear. But there are some  
>> potential bad scenarios with building features that don't have a  
>> clear path to standardization:
>> 1) It will be rejected by other browser vendors and end up a WebKit- 
>> only (or nearly WebKit-only) feature, but enough WebKit-specific  
>> content depends on it that we can't drop it, even if we would like  
>> to. Then we are stuck maintaining a dead-end technology  
>> indefinitely. It seems like the SQL database may be on this path.
> This is really the scenario to worry about the most.  Having to  
> support "failed" technologies is painful.
>> 2) It will get adopted into standards, but with significant changes  
>> when other implementors and standards experts jump on the  
>> bandwagon. These changes can cause a very painful transition, since  
>> we need to remain compatible with legacy WebKit-specific content,  
>> yet at the same time we don't want to be in violation of the  
>> consensus spec. This actually happened with <canvas> - it changed  
>> incompatibly in ways that broke a bunch of WebKit-specific content  
>> (in particular Dashboard widgets), but we had to implement the  
>> standard to support content coded to Firefox. This really sucked  
>> and we have Dashboard-specific hacks still lying around in our code  
>> base as a result.
> I don't really think it's fair to bring this up as a negative.   
> Having the experiment adopted as a standard is a complete win.  That  
> the transition from experiment to reality can be painful is just an  
> inevitable consequence of a maturing standard.

The transition could have been somewhat less painful if we'd gotten  
more review on <canvas> before shipping it in product. But I do agree  
that overall, <canvas> is a technology success story even if the path  
there was painful for us.

> CSS gradients are a good example.  The new syntax coming out of the  
> CSS WG is way better, but none of it would have happened without the  
> initial WebKit experiment.  Because of that experiment we're  
> eventually going to have gradients in all browsers.  Will the  
> transition be a bit painful?  Sure, but the end result is that we  
> pushed the Web forward.

Probably much less pain than <canvas> for a couple of reasons:
(a) We started getting outside review before shipping in product.
(b) The CSS prefixing convention makes it easier to support  
preliminary syntax at relatively low cost.

> Now I don't know if GlobalScript falls into this category or not.   
> If no other browser vendors are interested in it, we should be  
> pretty wary.  If we think the implementation of the feature can  
> change their minds, though, then I'd say it's worth at least  
> experimenting with.
> What do other browser vendors think of this feature right now?

My impression was they weren't really into it but we could always ask  


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