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article imageGoogle open-sources Chrome for iOS

By James Walker     Feb 2, 2017 in Technology
Google has open-sourced the iOS version of its Chrome web browser, enabling external developers to experiment with the code and build their own versions. The work has taken several years to complete, owing to the complexity of Chrome's iOS app.
Google Chrome's desktop edition is built on top of Google's Chromium project, an open-source browser engine that anyone can contribute to. Until now, Chrome for iOS hasn't been part of Chromium though, due to the limitations of Apple's mobile platform.
Apple requires all iOS web browsers to be based on the WebKit rendering engine. Because Chrome is based on Blink, Google had to create a new version of the browser's core that's compatible with WebKit for iOS. Traditionally, the two versions have been kept separate. Google has now folded them together in the Chromium code base though, allowing the iOS app to be open-sourced.
Google has spent years preparing the iOS code for its move into the open-source Chromium repository. Because Chromium now needs to support both Blink and WebKit, additional complexities were introduced that have taken time to resolve. However, the project is now complete, extending Chrome's already strong support of open-source communities.
"Given Chrome's commitment to open-source code, we've spent a lot of time over the past several years making the changes required to upstream the code for Chrome for iOS into Chromium," said Google. "Today, that upstreaming is complete, and developers can compile the iOS version of Chromium like they can for other versions of Chromium."
According to Google, development speed has been increased as a result of the change because tests written for the iOS app are now available globally from anywhere in Chromium. This will simplify the creation of future cross-platform features, giving Chrome more unification across device ecosystems.
Although open-sourcing the app doesn't directly impact users, it is an important milestone that shouldn't be overlooked. The iOS version of Chrome can now be pulled apart from developers outside of Google. With more pairs of eyes looking through the code, security issues could be discovered more quickly.
Currently, Chrome for iOS tends to receive updates less frequently than the version for Android phones. This may also change as a result of the code being open-sourced since third-party programmers will be able to contribute new releases. Chrome for Android was open-sourced in May 2015.
The change could also inspire the creation of more web browsers for iOS, giving consumers more choice when picking new apps. Developers interested in building a browser can now base their code on Chrome's, providing a quick starting point with all the basic infrastructure already implemented.
The code for Chrome for iOS can now be browsed and searched in Google's online repositories. The company said it will continue to support open-source communities going forward, thanking Chromium contributors to date for participating.
"We value the open source community and all of our contributors, and we're that glad that Chrome for iOS can finally join in," said Google.
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