Mozilla and Samsung Announce Cooperation to Build New Browser Engine

This is kind of an interesting development … the more browser engine alternatives that are out there, the better.

With Opera joining Google and Apple to use Webkit as the core engine of its browser, the number of major engines dropped from four to three. Only Microsoft with its Internet Explorer and Mozilla with Firefox are maintaining their own engine. Microsoft should not have any issues financing development of the engine and neither should Google, but Mozilla, a non-profit organization, depends much on the money it earns by selling the default search engine provider spot of the browser to Google.

Mozilla today announced a partnership with Samsung to build a new web browser engine for ARM devices and Android. The browser engine, based on Mozilla’s Rust programming language is called Servo. It is not clear how the two partners participate in the project, but it seems that Samsung is providing Mozilla at least with the backend and infrastructure necessary to develop and create the next generation browser engine.

The announcement is vague, unfortunately, about what we can expect. What we can take away is that it will be created from the ground up with modern hardware – think multi-core processors – in mind. Mozilla believes that Rust is the perfect choice for this endeavor because of its built-in security features and precise hardware control.

Rust, which today reached v0.6, has been in development for several years and is rapidly approaching stability. It is intended to fill many of the same niches that C++ has over the past decades, with efficient high-level, multi-paradigm abstractions, and offers precise control over hardware resources. But beyond that, it is *safe by default*, preventing entire classes of memory management errors that lead to crashes and security vulnerabilities. Rust also features lightweight concurrency primitives that make it easy for programmers to leverage the power of the many CPU cores available on current and future computing platforms.

The Servo project is hosted on Github where we find additional information about the project including strategies that the team is exploring, challenges it is facing, and information about the roadmap (which does not reveal any dates yet).

With Servo in the making, it is not clear what Mozilla has in store for its current browser engine Gecko. It does not look as if Gecko will be replaced by Servo any time soon, as the latter seems to aim purely for mobile devices at the time of writing. It will be interesting to see how this evolves though.

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