Overview

The BlackBerry® Browser is a full-featured web browser that is designed to render and support most existing web content on a mobile device. In BlackBerry 6, the BlackBerry Browser has undergone a number of dramatic improvements in order to provide a better web experience for BlackBerry device users.

Key to these improvements has been the adoption of WebKit as the engine for the BlackBerry Browser. An open-source browser engine, WebKit is used by several major desktop browsers, as well as an increasing number of mobile browsers. WebKit provides the BlackBerry Browser with a major improvement in both performance and standards support. This makes more of the web accessible to the BlackBerry Browser, as well as providing web developers with a broader set of features that they can use to design and develop compelling web experiences for BlackBerry device users.

In addition, in BlackBerry 6, the browser introduces a number of significant design improvements, such as support for tabbed browsing, which lets users have several pages open at a time, and automatic network transport selection, which ensures that the browser is transferring data using the fastest and least expensive network connection available.

The WebKit browser engine

In BlackBerry 6, the BlackBerry® Browser is built upon the WebKit browser engine. The browser engine is the underlying processing layer of the BlackBerry Browser, BlackBerry® Widget applications, and BlackBerry Java® Applications that use an embedded browser object. The browser engine is responsible for parsing the web content, calculating style values, executing JavaScript® code, and laying out the content.

WebKit is an open-source browser engine developed by contributors from several different organizations, whose primary focus is on implementing key W3C® and ECMA standards. Non-standard technologies, such as images, media, or BlackBerry specific functionality, must be managed by plug-ins or BlackBerry extensions to WebKit.

There are two components to the WebKit browser engine:
  • WebCore: The WebCore component manages the presentational code, and is responsible for arranging and rendering the content in the viewport, computing style values, and managing the DOM.
  • JavaScriptCore: The JavaScriptCore component manages the behavioral code, and is responsible for processing JavaScript code.

How the WebKit browser engine impacts web developers

For web developers who are developing content or applications for the BlackBerry web platform, the WebKit browser engine provides several advantages.

Advantage

Description

Improved performance

With WebKit, the browser can render webpages and process JavaScript code faster than earlier versions of the browser. Perceived wait times are reduced, which translates into a better experience for the user.

Improved support of web standards

With WebKit, the browser offers more support for web standards than was available in earlier versions. With improved support for major web standards, including HTML 5, CSS 3, SVG, and other XML-based standards such as XPath and XSLT, web developers now have a much richer set of features to use when developing web content or applications.

Improved conformity with other browsers

The BlackBerry Browser implements the full version of WebKit, rather than a mobile-specific version. As a result, the browser engine used by the BlackBerry Browser in BlackBerry 6 is essentially the same browser engine used by WebKit based desktop browsers. This means that, for web standards support, the BlackBerry Browser now offers greater conformity with other major desktop browsers.

Larger browser engine development community

Because WebKit is an open-source project with many contributors, web developers can benefit from the collective efforts of a much larger team of developers, working together to expand the standards support and improve the performance of the WebKit browser engine.

The change to WebKit has also resulted in the loss of some non-standard functionality that was available in the BlackBerry Browser prior to BlackBerry 6, including offline form queues, automatic pattern matching of telephone numbers and email addresses, and keyboard shortcuts.


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