Running WebKit on Linux

The browser engine WebKit can be compiled on Linux. There is also a simple Qt wrapper available to use the engine inside a simple browser.

WebKit is available at the svn repository hosted at The svn checkout is simple, however, since there are many tests included the directory is quite big:

$ svn checkout WebKit
$ du -sh WebKit
771M WebKit

If you keep an eye on the dependencies and build instructions WebKit should compile without any problems. Make also sure that the build script will launch qt4’s qmake (for example with PATH=/usr/lib/qt4/bin:$PATH), qt3’s qmake will not work. You will also get a simple Qt browser which uses WebKit as the browser engine. The Qt browser might be the most simple browser you’ve ever seen and doesn’t support much – but it is for demonstration purpose only, and fits to that task perfectly.

And, well, it works:

WebKitQt running on Linux

But as I said, the Qt browser is more a wrapper than a real program. Several things are missing: there is no tabbed browsing, no right click menu, the address line needs a http:// in front of every address, text fields don’t understand the Pos1 or End keys or combinations like Ctrl+Del, and so on. Still, it is working basically – and looks good.
Also, if you have a closer look at the screenshot you see that the “status bar” at the bottom which shows the address behind a link is transparent (real transparency!). Also, the status bar is moving in and out, and its lengths depends on the address size – very slick. I would like to see more of such effects in KDE 4, btw.

Speaking about KDE 4, I would like to point out something: WebKit is not a browser – that is important if you want to understand what all the fuzz is about. It is an engine. Just like khtml, on which WebKit is based on.
And: quite some KDE developers are also WebKit developers, and it is likely that WebKit will be available for KDE 4 – but it is not said in which way. Maybe WebKit will be available as a third party kpart to replace khtml if the user wants that. Or maybe inside a new stand alone browser. But that is not decided yet. So don’t complain about anything which is not yet set! We will see how WebKit will be available for KDE 4 users.


14 thoughts on “Running WebKit on Linux”

  1. Several people expressed that as a possibility – however this was never made clear, and there are quite some khtml developers who do not like the idea of replacing khtml with WebKit (basically because Apple doesn’t want to share any kind of control with anyone).

    This discussion between Germain Garand and others shows the problems pretty well.

  2. I am one KDE user giving a HUGE push for a WebKit’s usage in KDE4. Because with it:

    – My banking website (Commonwealth NetBank) might finally work, since it does in Safari but not in Konqueror.
    – WYSIWYG editing and AJAX applications that work in Safari (like GMail, the WordPress and VBulletin post forms (last I checked these did work in the Safari 3 beta)) will/might also work in Konqueror.
    – Wouldn’t it be easier to support Adium X conversation styles in Kopete if they both used WebKit?
    – Wouldn’t it also be easier for SuperKaramba to support Apple’s Dashboard widgets if they both used WebKit?

    Surely these advantages outweigh the cost of getting WebKit to play nice with KDE4? Stop all this anti-Apple talk and get it done already, for the good of KDE?

  3. Oh. you want to replace all the core functions of KDE with WebKit. ? have you forgotten what happend to OpenDarwin ? … if apple really wanted to help.. why are they proposing a replacement for KHTML? ..etc and why should KDE developers play in their svn instead of They come and help with other stuff on KDE svn . ? simply WebKit is their project and KHTML is our project. and some developers help in .. .. so that’s what I think personally 😉

  4. You don’t have to remember OpenDarwin to see how bad Apple can behave in regards to Open Source – the beginning of the WebKit project is even more teaching!

    There are still quite some developers pissed of because of this. This is very visible in this discussion, btw.

    However, there are major differences: WebKit is a fork of KHTML (not a replacement!) – so even if Apple would like to close it down, they simply cannot because they don’t have the rights to do so. They are forced to keep it open, no matter what.
    Also, WebKit of today is not WebKit of the first days. Today it uses a very open development model – several KDE developers are top level contributors with review rights. Also, other companies take part in the development: Nokia and Adobe are just the two best known.

    So the worst case scenario would be that Apple tries to throw stones at the development path as much as possible, but that would only hurt them – and could even lead to a fork made by Adobe, Nokia or again the KDE guys. It is unlikely that Apple would do such a thing, there would be no benefit.

    And why do have KDE developers have to play in their svn? That has mainly historic reasons: in the beginning Apple focused on abstracting KHTML from the KDE stuff to have the pure engine – and called it WebKit. And they decided to keep their own fork for them, separate from KHTML. Not intelligent, but there were worse things back then.
    When Apple realized that this is not really intelligent they opened up their own process at least a bit – and suddenly others joined in because they liked the abstracted engine. Remember, Nokia uses WebKit, not KHTML.
    So today there is this very active project which provides the technical base for other projects to easily jump on, and several parties are already working on it.

    It would be mad to try to force these people to switch over to KHTML now because KHTML is simply not in a shape were other projects could easily adopt it.
    But WebKit is.
    Yes, it should have been started in a different way years back by Apple, no question. But they didn’t do it like that. Sad, but true. And now it cannot be changed back again.

    And no, I don’t think that KDE should not use the advantage of WebKit: it is even based on KHTML, it has it roots in KDE, why should it be abandoned? Just because a set of companies is involved?
    It is a chance, and KDE should at least use it as an option.

  5. It appears that Webkit will be replacing KHTML in KDE in the future; there’s an article at ARS Technica that all but says so. And Webkit development itself is now being spearheaded by Trolltech (who want to include it as part of Qt4).

  6. Dark Phoenix: the article at ARS was much discussed among the KDE developers, and not everyone agreed with it (especially not the KHTML developers).
    To be honest: I wait until KDE 4 to see if it will be an option or turned on by default or whatever…

  7. QT4 and KDE4 SUCK! The default widgets like garbage from MicroSoft Windows 2000/WindowsServer2003; it’s pathetic looking and the anti-aliasing sucks too. And if you guys think that Apple is doing any favors to open-source you’re dreaming; Apple’s ENTIRE philosophy has been PROPRIETARY small-mindedness; their business model favors selling exclusive high-priced (therefore high margin) proprietary products to the few(er) that can afford it, over selling open, standards-based, mass-market, high-volume-low-margin products. This is why these idiots lost the PC war (Steve Jobs took the company from a dominant position to being nearly decimated by IBM-PCs and compatibles, and subsequently fired from Apple many years back). Apple make Microsoft look like an open-source company. Forget these treacherous elitist jerks at Apple, you cannot trust them. Just look how they kept all their changes and development to KHTML code (that they ‘Borrowed”) secret for an entire YEAR before releasing it (and only because of GPL obligations). KHTML has be kept active to prevent Apple from usurping and destroying another open-source technology (have you ever wondered: What has Apple ever done for BSD unix? Like a modern day vampire they just keep it on life-support so that they can bleed it when they need it — BSD is not thriving like Linux. Apple takes from open-source but is stingy and selfish when it comes to contribute anything substantive back (unlike RedHat or IBM); Apple’s not a true hearted sponsor.

  8. YouHosers, please try to keep your arguments together: if I understand your post right, you first say that Qt4 and KDE4 suck. However, you base this on the default design?! This is ridiculous. Besides, Qt4 natively integrates with MacOSX and Windows Vista and for Linux it can copy the current KDE style but also provides a standard widget to integrate flawlessly into Gnome.
    Additionally, you do not provide any argument why KDE 4 should have shortcomings. So you just bash without any knowledge and any deeper insight. Keep your bullshit for yourself, please.

    About the Apple thing: the term vampire suits the way Apple handled Open Source some years ago. However, with WebKit Apple – so far – did an impressive Job. While they started off quite bad they seem to have learned. The current WebKit development efforts at least pleases several KDE developers. Judging from your rants I guess you have never actually talked to any KDE developer or WebKit developer about how the process actually works and satisfies or dissatisfies certain needs and wants of the Open Source community. So once again: keep your bullshit. Your comments are worthless.

  9. I try to compile but get the following ERROR

    Content deleted by liquidat
    This is not a support forum. Also, a blog comment is hardly the place to discuss compile problems. Please refer to an appropriate forum where you can *attach* output logs.

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