Initial Thoughts on WebKit

Posted on in Software

WebKit Download ButtonIn response to two recent articles (one from ComputerWorld and the other from TechCrunch), I've decided to give WebKit a try. For those that aren't familiar, WebKit is the development version of Safari. Consider this Safari Beta Testing, if you'd like.

What really piqued my interest is that Duncan Riley at TechCrunch seems to think that (when released) this new version of Safari will really hit Firefox hard. As an avid (perhaps even rabid) Firefox user, I couldn't let such a statement go untested.

I am currently using WebKit r30939 built on March 10, 2008. Let me tell you, Duncan and Seth (Weintraub, of ComputerWorld) weren't kidding. WebKit is extremely fast. I originally thought this was because the memory footprint of WebKit r30939 was about half the size of my Firefox 2 installation. After a little use though, WebKit's memory usage grew to near-Firefox proportions.


Speed is one thing, but the real question is how well the web browser performs with my favorite online tools. Specifically, how well is WebKit going to work with Google Apps?


Gmail LogoFirst of all, Gmail performance in WebKit is very quick. As a test, I tried opening a PDF as HTML. The response in WebKit felt instantaneous, while Firefox took a moment. I would say that WebKit exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, WebKit suffers from the same problem Safari does. The status bar always says it's loading something, and it never finishes. I don't know what causes this, and the problem doesn't seem as severe as it did in Safari 3. Still, annoying, but serviceable.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar LogoGoogle Calendar performed like a real champ. I couldn't find any problems with it. It performed noticeably faster than Firefox 2 when displaying my calendar initially. After that, both browsers gave similar impressions. The most important thing here is that I found no compatibility problems during my testing.

Google Docs

Google Docs LogoGenerally zippy performance, as you'd expect. Apparently, Google Presentations is not fully compatible with WebKit. I don't say that because I noticed a problem (I didn't), but because that's what Google said when I opened a presentation file. Also, there was something weird going on with the Font drop-down menu in Google Document. All the fonts were there, but the menu never showed which one was active. This only appeared to be a problem in some documents.

Google Reader

Google Reader LogoNothing interesting to report here really. WebKit still performs swiftly, and all the shortcut keys work just fine. One annoyance for me is that if I open an article, whether via clicking or pressing the 'v' key, I want it to open in a new tab. I found an option to focus on a new tab, rather than doing it in the background, but I still had to Cmd-Click to get a tab. For me, this isn't a show-stopper, but it would require me to change the way I work.

Summing It Up

In conclusion, WebKit is really, really fast. It seems to have very few compatibility problems with the web applications I use on a daily basis. That being said, I've only been using it for a very short time. I'll give it a week of exclusive use and report any interesting findings. I'd also like to test it against Firefox 3.

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