Google's decision to open-source Chrome for iOS is a boon for third-party mobile development.
Google’s Chrome browser on desktop has been open source almost since its inception — in 2008, the Mountain View, California-based company released a large portion of Chrome’s underlying code as an open-source project called Chromium, which it permitted third-party developers to study and use as they saw fit.
But that wasn’t the case for Chrome for iOS, which Google kept separate from the rest of the Chromium project due to “the additional complexity required for the platform.” On Tuesday, though, Google announced that the Chrome for iOS’s underlying code will be rejoining Chromium and will move into the open-source repository.
The challenge, apparently, involved working around the limitations of Apple’s iOS operating system. “Due to constraints of the iOS platform, all browsers must be built on top of the WebKit rendering engine,” Google’s Rohit Rao wrote. “For Chromium, this means supporting both WebKit as well as Blink, Chrome’s rendering engine for other platforms. That created some extra complexities which we wanted to avoid placing in the Chromium code base.”
The open-source move is also the result of multi-year changes Google has made to the Chrome development process. “[Developers] can compile the iOS version of Chromium like they can for other versions of Chromium,” Rao wrote. “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 any time that code is checked in.”
The open-source code is available on Google Source, an open-source repository.