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Revision as of 06:28, 19 June 2011 by DanielDrake (talk | contribs) (Implementation plan)
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Browse and related components are switching to WebKit as its back-end technology provider. (this is just a proposal, for now)


  • Planned/proposed by Daniel Drake
  • Implemented by: ? (volunteer here!)

Current status

  • Targeted release: (SUGAR_VERSION)
  • Last updated: (DATE)
  • Percentage of completion: XX%

Detailed Description

Browse and related components currently embed Mozilla XUL/Gecko as their backend, however, Mozilla embedding has typically been neglected and buggy, causing a maintenance headache for us. It is now actively discouraged by Mozilla developers, who are focusing all their efforts on Firefox. From the perspective of a fairly regular open-source project, Mozilla's direction is also questionable on other points.

WebKit is a promising alternative, which is (by nature) an embeddable web engine. It is used in Apple Safari and Google Chrome and various other projects.

Existing prototype: Surf

The pywebkitgtk-based Surf activity can be used as a prototype. Possible areas that need work are:

  • Downloads - originally missing due to no support in pywebkitgtk but now landed?
  • persistant history - not saved across sessions (or journal entries)
  • clipboard/undo/redo - should be simple
  • back and forward buttons - you can go back and forward through your history, but autocomplete and skipping back or forward in the history is not implemented. shouldn't be too hard to complete
  • arrow key navigation in textbox
  • No cookie support

pywebkit is seen as deprecated, even by the author himself. PyGI is the solution, allowing direct calls into pywebkitgtk with no static bindings, and is now mature. Some of the missing features above can't be solved until either pywebkitgtk grows more API, or the switch is made to PyGI.

The PyGI GTK+-2 option

To take Surf to the next level, it needs to switch to PyGI for access to the GTK2 version of WebKitGtk, which would fit in with the rest of the Sugar environment. However, this is not possible, for 2 reasons (as explained by pygi developers Tomeu and J5):

  1. PyGI introspection to GTK2-based libraries is not supported and does not work well
  2. sugar-toolkit uses pygtk static bindings, and mixing pygtk static bindings with pygi bindings will not work at all

Therefore a simple port of Surf to webkitgtk via pygi is not an option.

Implementation plan

To implement this, Sugar must first be ported to pygi and GTK3. Once that is done, the following steps are proposed:

Browse should be ported to the gtk3 version of webkitgtk (already present in Fedora), using pygi and GTK3.

A decision must be made on modularisation: do we create something like hulahop, providing a nice easy-to-use web view widget for Sugar, or do we just call into WebKit directly from Browse? A hulahop equivalent would only be needed if embedding WebKit is painful and complicated, like mozilla was.

Another possibility is the creation of a Sugar-level "web widget" - again, this would depend on the complexity and difficulty of embedding webkit. Such a widget could be shared between Browse and Wikipedia, but finding the right level of abstraction to avoid making that widget over-specific to those two use cases could be tricky - it depends partially on WebKit's design and their level of success in achieving an easily-embeddable experience.

Benefit to Sugar

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UI Design

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How To Test

User Experience

If this feature is noticeable by its target audience, how will their experiences change as a result? Describe what they will see or notice.


pywebkitgtk is already a part of the Sugar platform (for epub support in Read).

Contingency Plan

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Comments and Discussion