The Unique Relationship Between Apple and Google Chrome
By Brandon Gordon
Since 2008, the year it was introduced, Google Chrome has been an open-source software application. This means that the source code in which the program was written has been available for anyone to acquire and modify it as they see fit, much more a producer releasing the individual stems of a song so that people can conduct their own remixes. However, there was one major exception to this open-source policy. It did not extend to Chrome for iOS. That policy has changed and Chrome for iOS is now open-source.
Making Chrome open-source is part of the Chromium project. This has allowed users to create their own unique browsers, using Chrome's design as something of a backdrop. However, complications arose with the Chrome app being part of the iOS software, on devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Since these are Apple products, Apple sought to have control over the apps that are installed on their devices.
However, Chrome is not featured on Apple's new Touch Bar, featured on the new Macbook Pro, which is the biggest takeaway from the new model. This meant that an app such as Chrome for iOS needed to be rendered with Apple's rendering engine, WebKit. The problem? Chrome's code is rendered with Blink, made by Google. With this apparent incompatibility of rendering engines, Chrome for iOS was limited in comparison to its brethren.
However, things have changed some in the last few years which have granted more freedom to Chrome for iOS. In 2014, Apple's long-standing policy regarding rendering engines with browsers from third-parties such as Chrome and Firefox changed, allowing for more flexibility regarding software compatibility. Rohit Rao of Google wrote about the challenges that were faced by the company in implementing Chrome for iOS into the Chromium design.
"For Chromium, this means supporting both WebKit as well as Blink, Chrome's rendering engine for other platforms," Rao wrote. "That created some extra complexities which we wanted to avoid placing in the Chromium code base."
Since 2017 started, Chrome for iOS has seen improved performance. This is due, in part, to a stronger rendering engine which has reduced the number of crashes experienced by the previous iteration of the app by 70 percent. With Chrome for iOS now being open-source, tech-savvy users will perhaps be able to formulate their own perfect version of Chrome. Rao also wrote about advanced features for the updated, open-source Chrome for iOS.
"Development speed is also faster now that all of the tests for Chrome for iOS are available to the entire Chromium community and automatically run anytime that code is checked in," Rao wrote.