Skip to main content

Google makes Chrome for iOS open source

chrome on ios reading list browser mobile ipad search
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.”

Rao didn’t elaborate, but part of the problem likely stemmed from Apple’s restrictive policy regarding third-party browsers. The first iterations of Chrome for iOS were required to use the iOS WebKit framework and WebKit JavaScript — Safari’s rendering engine — instead of the Google’s desktop rendering engine. And they were forced to use a slow JavaScript engine while only Safari could use a faster JavaScript engine — Apple’s new Nitro JavaScript engine.

That policy changed mid-2014, though, when Apple began allowing browsers like Chrome to tap the Nitro JavaScript engine. Google quickly took advantage, adding the ability for iOS users to link directly to other iOS app when search queries yield a specific app as a result.

And earlier this year, it introduced a new version of Chrome for iOS with an improved rendering engine that crashes 70 percent less than the previous version and handles JavaScript code just as fast as Safari.

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
We now know when Apple is adding RCS to the iPhone
The iPhone 14 Plus held in a man's hand.

Last November, Apple made a surprise announcement when it confirmed that RCS was coming to the iPhone in 2024. It's something iPhone and Android phone users alike have been waiting years for, but there was just one small problem: Apple never said when in 2024 RCS was coming. Thanks to Google, of all companies, we now have a better idea of when RCS is heading to the iPhone.

As spotted by 9to5Google, the Android website was recently updated with a new page dedicated to Google Messages. If you click on the "See more features" button for the section talking about RCS, there's a section titled "Better messaging for all" with the following text: "Apple has announced it will be adopting RCS in the fall of 2024. Once that happens, it will mean a better messaging experience for everyone."

Read more
iOS 18 could make my iPhone look like Android, and I hate it
The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's rear panels.

If rumors are to be believed, iOS 18 will allow you to customize the home screen on your iPhone more substantially than ever before. This feature will be familiar to Android phone owners, but I don’t want my iPhone to look like an Android phone.

It’s a weird double-edged sword, as by giving you more freedom to make the home screen look unique, iOS may also lose what makes it unique compared to the less constrained world of Android.
iOS 18 and your iPhone home screen

Read more
iOS 18 could add a customization feature I’ve waited years for
iOS 17 interactive widgets on an iPhone 15 Pro Max.

iOS 18 is coming later this year, and all signs point to it being a dramatic iPhone update. Now, thanks to one new report, it looks like iOS 18 could add a customization feature I've been waiting years and years and years for: better home screen customization.

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, iOS 18 will introduce a "more customizable" home screen. More specifically, iOS 18 will allow you to place app icons and widgets anywhere you want. If you want a space or break between an app icon or your widget, welcome to the future: iOS 18 may finally let you do that. MacRumors corroborated this report with its own sources, too.

Read more