Apple Guide Podcast

Apple Guide Podcast

Chrome Isn’t Your Only Option

April 03, 2021

When you turn on a computer for the first time, what's the first thing you do? Probably open an internet browser and install Chrome. Since Chrome was released, it quickly rose to the top spot. While up there, it's hit a few snags, like Google's extreme data collection policies, security issues, and performance problems. So, why settle with Google Chrome when you have so many other options!

On the surface, you have multiple browsers to choose from, like Safari, Google Chrome, and Edge, to name a few. Under the hood is a browser engine responsible for converting the website's code into what you see when you load a webpage.

So, first, let's take a look at the three most important web engines, starting with KHTML, an open-source, free-to-use browser engine developed in 1998. Because of KHTML's open-source status, many projects have descended from KHTML, like Apple's WebKit released in 2003.

In 2013, Google announced the Blink browser engine, a direct descendent of Apple's WebKit. Blink is most notably the engine behind the Google Chrome browser. However, technically it's developed by the Chromium project, the group that develops the template browser of Chrome.

The last important web engine to mention is Firefox's Gecko. Unlike the previous two web engines, Gecko is only used to power Mozilla apps like Firefox and Thunderbird.

Now you may be wondering, why are these web engines so important? If you remember, a couple of weeks ago, I made a post about Linux, an operating system that is secretly behind every computer. I will leave a link to it below. One of the things we touched on was open source software or the ability for anyone to download an open-source app and edit the code to adapt it for their needs. Well, this is what happened in the browser space.

KHTML is the open-source project Apple used to build WebKit. Then WebKit was used by Google to create Blink. Today, both Blink and WebKit are open-source, allowing other developers to adapt them into their browsers.

Think of it this way you're going to build a car. Sure, you can build it from scratch, but that would take a lot of resources. So, what if you bought the engine from a different company. That would be one less thing you have to develop in-house and would allow you to focus on making better features. Essentially, this is what's happening in the browser market.

Today, if you use Microsoft Edge, Opera, or Brave, you're using a browser powered by Blink, the same web engine that powers Google Chrome. If you ever hear that a browser is Chromium-based, that's what that means. Thanks to open-source, these companies were able to take the Blink web engine, remove the Google parts, and focus on creating unique features. Brave is a perfect example of this. They have been able to create an ad-free, tracker-free, privacy-first browser. In some cases, Chromium-based browsers may even let you install Chrome browser extensions, like your password manager, Honey, Grammarly, or any other extension, expanding what your browser can do. Microsoft did a great job with Edge, for example. They completely reinvented the browser, making it, in some ways, better than Chrome, all while letting you install any Chrome extensions.

Since the rise of Blink, WebKit's use has been declining. However, it's still the engine behind the Safari browser across the Apple ecosystem. Also, every iOS browser, like Chrome and Firefox, is required by Apple to use the Webkit engine, instead of their own.

From these engines have sprung a wide range of internet browsers. So, here are some honorable mentions you should tr...