[Sugar-devel] Browse and the move to WebKit

Peter Robinson pbrobinson at gmail.com
Tue Jun 14 16:35:42 EDT 2011

I'm not a developer so some of what I write is here say but from what I know
of from following various upstream.

On Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 8:58 PM, Daniel Drake <dsd at laptop.org> wrote:

> There have been various discussions in the past suggesting a move from
> mozilla to webkit for the Browse activity and related components, but
> I've never really been convinced: there is always a cost to switching,
> and convincing-looking numbers from webkit supporters tended to be
> countered with convincing-looking numbers from mozilla supporters.
> But now I believe there is a new reason for the switch to WebKit:
> necessity.
> === Mozilla ===
> First, why I've become convinced that Mozilla is no longer a viable
> option in the face of alternatives:


> The combination of the fact that mozilla embedding has been neglected
> over the years, is currently broken and is now actively discouraged,
> and the fact that general use and design of the library sits way
> outside of our open-source norms means that I've lost faith in this
> being a good option for us (and I've got so frustrated by this episode
> that I've changed web browser on my desktop system as well).

Would a skinned version of Firefox Mobile work for what is needed?

> === WebKit ===
> What I'd like to do now is spec out a project for someone to take on,
> moving Browse to WebKit in a way that can be clearly justified for the
> community.
> But, WebKit is totally new to me so I have many open questions. Can
> anyone help me answer them? I'll be collecting the results into a wiki
> page (to form the above spec).
> 1. I've only made half the argument above. Mozilla is bad, but why is
> WebKit the solution? The key questions here are: is it embeddable?
> Does it work well when embedded? Do the developers support it being
> embedded?

Yes. Its used by yelp (gnome help) and various other applications and
libraries. Eclipse embeds it in SWT and a number of mail clients use it for
html mail rendering (I think Claws uses it).

> Does anyone have experience here? The name "WebKit" makes it sound
> nice and modular, and the fact that WebKit itself isn't a browser
> would seem to support these arguments, but it would be nice being able
> to argue this on a more solid basis.

In theory it should be nice an modular, the JS is a separate component for
example. Details of all the components are here:


> 2. What is the state of Surf?
> This is the existing webkit-based browser for Sugar. Does it work
> well? Is it reliable? What are the gaping holes?

It works, we're shipping it in SoaSv5.

> 3. What is the safe of pywebkitgtk in F14, F15, F16?
> This is the backend library used by Surf, right? Is this still the
> right answer for creating a webkit-based app using Python + GTK?
> Does it work well on Fedora 14, or do we need a newer distro?

It works with Surf on F-14 (yum install sugar-surf for a quick test) but I
have no idea of the state of it. Looking at the rpm changelog in Fedora
1.1.6 is the current release in Fedora, current as of Aug 2009, although
1.1.8 is in F-15 as of March.

Looking at the 1.4.x release that ships with F-15 it looks like there's
gobject introspection support has been added so I suggest that for a new
project that might be the best way to go for python support. Tomeu might be
the best person to reply to that point though.

F-14 ships 1.3.10. Looking at the changelogs I suspect we're stuck on that
version due to requirements on libsoup.

There's issues with the version in F-14 in that it doesn't support TLS and a
number of other things (not sure exactly what else though).

I remember at one point there being some pretty key problems with
> pywebkitgtk causing Surf development to halt. What were these issues
> and have they been overcome?

I suspect the solution is to use introspection instead. The support seems
complete since the release of 1.4.x stable release in F-15.

> IIRC those pywebkitgtk-related problems were going to be solved with a
> move to GObject introspection, which wasn't mature back in that
> timeframe. But it is mature and usable now. But does this require us
> to move to GTK+-3?

I don't believe it does. In F-14 and F-15 there's both webkitgtk and
webkitgt3 releases.

 Does WebKit/webkitgtk work for both GTK+-2 and GTK+-3? Any pros/cons
> of one over the other?

 There's 2 different builds of them in both F-14 and F-15. The gtk3 linked
version in both releases trails behind the gtk2 release, I don't believe
that's due to lack of support for gtk3 but rather someone hasn't kept the
releases in sync.

Not a complete answer but should give you a start.

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