Rumor: Apple could transition Safari to Google’s open-source Chromium platform

Update: The following rumor has since been debunked by the original reporter, Chrome Unboxed. That has also been backed up by an email exchange from Apple.

It appears that Apple’s flagship web browser may join its competitors on the Chromium-based browser trend. At least, if recent screenshots are to be believed.

According to a recently published (and Google translated) bug report from iPhones.ru, there may be reason to believe that Apple is moving towards developing a version of Safari that is based on the open-source Chromium platform. The report, which includes screenshots from reader Artyom Pozharov, details a discovery made by Pozharov while browsing Chromium Monorail, Google’s bug tracking site.

Apple Safari chromium screenshot 1
Artyom Pozharov/iPhones.ru

In the report, Pozharov shares three screenshots, but the last two are the most interesting. The second screenshot featured in the report depicts what appears to be an Apple developer and his invitation to “colleagues from Chromium Authors to activate the Intelligent Tracking Prevention technology flag in the Chromium 80 release, and version 2.4 not yet released (the current release is 2.3).” This screenshot also shows an image attachment thumbnail (presumably attached by the Apple developer) of a screenshot of a preliminary version of Safari on Chromium. The invitation and subsequent screenshot appears to have been posted by the same Apple developer who is only identified by his email address.

The third screenshot featured in the report, is essentially a screenshot of a screenshot: Pozharov downloaded the image attachment of the Apple developer’s screenshot of “the still crude Safari browser on the new engine” and took a screenshot of it. As Pozharov notes, this screenshot of a Safari based on Chromium does indicate one interesting thing: This version of Safari appears to have been developed for Windows, not MacOS.

apple safari chromium screenshot 2
Artyom Pozharov/iPhones.ru

In addition to Pozharov’s screenshots, there is another reason why this particular rumor may be valid. As Chrome Unboxed notes, the bug referenced by Pozharov’s report “has since been marked as private,” rather than just returning an error when searching for the bug number. Instead, Chrome Unboxed reports that the bug “comes up as blocked and needing permission to view.” This could indicate that the bug was an intended development rather than a fake post.

While these details are interesting and could point to a Safari-based Chromium browser, it still only amounts to an intriguing rumor. Such a move would represent a substantial change in Apple’s approach to web browsers, and would fall in line with what Microsoft has recently done with its new Edge browser.

In the meantime, Digital Trends has reached out to Apple to comment on it, and we’ll update this story once we receive a statement on the matter.

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