Open Source Camino Browser Faces Fork in the Road

by Sam Dean - Mar. 31, 2011Comments (0)

As Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome browsers have grabbed headlines as open source innovation champions over the past few years, other browsers have gotten much less attention. However, among discerning Mac users, the Camino browser remains a favorite. It's actually based on Mozilla's Gecko rendering engine, and many of the high-profile users who sing its praises like it for its speed, especially. Now, though, there are signs that Camino may face development problems.

Camino uses Gecko embedding to include Mozilla's Gecko rendering engine as a fundamental part of its interface, but Mozilla has announced the end of Gecko embedding. That presents the volunteers behind Camino with a problem, as described in this post.  The post reports:

"As important parts of embedding stop working, core Gecko contributors will longer be fixing them. Such breakages are unfortunately common—in fact, making sure that embedding breakages were resolved was a significant amount of the work that went into the release of Camino 2.0, as well as the upcoming Camino 2.1. Without support for embedding, releases of Camino using newer versions of Gecko—like the one used in Firefox 4—won’t be possible."

The post continues:

"As a purely community-based open source project, no one is employed to work on Camino; all Camino developers are volunteers, working on Camino in their spare time, as a labor of love. While maintaining embedding in a fork of Gecko is theoretically possible, we don’t have the manpower for a sustained effort of that kind."

 There is one option for Camino's community, and that is to port the browser to the WebKit rendering engine, which is also open source. However, the developers report that that would require a great deal of work.

I doubt if this roadblock will spell the end of Camino, but it's evidence of how influential the underlying development work that Mozilla does really is. I'm rooting for a port of Camino to WebKit, which has proven to be a very competitive rendering engine. Google Chrome uses it, as do many other browsers, and it may be the best path to the future for Camino.



John Mark Walker uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?




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