Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Mobile WebKit Compatibility

Category: Browsers, Mobile

PPK has cried “There is no WebKit on mobile!” as he posts new compatibility tables that test WebKit across desktop and mobile:

I compare 19 WebKits in order to prove that there is no “WebKit on Mobile” and to figure out which one is the best. My hope is that eventually I’m going to gain some insight in the “family tree” of all WebKits.

This page only contains tests of CSS and JavaScript items that work in some WebKits but not in all. Adding more items, all of which are either supported by all or by none of the WebKits, makes no sense — it’s in the items in the table below that the differences between the 19 tested WebKits lie.

I will probably add some HTML5 items to this list later on, provided they’re supported by at least one WebKit (probably Safari or Chrome).

These tests focus solely on compatibility. I say nothing about performance or user interface, and especially on mobile these factors may, in the short run, be more important than compatibility.


Alex Russell responded to the concern that we are in a world of hurt with multiple browsers on mobile just like we are on the desktop. Alex thinks that the core notion of timeliness matters here:

I’m not convinced that the situation is nearly that bad.

The data doesn’t reflect how fast the mobile market changes. The traditional difference between mobile and desktop, after all, has been that mobile is moving at all. If you figure a conservative 24 month average replacement cycle for smartphones, then the entire market for browsers turns over every two years. And that’s the historical view. An increasing percentage of smartphone owners now receive regular software updates that provide new browsers even faster. What matters then is how old the WebKit version in a particular firmware is and how prevalant that firmware is in the real world. As usual, distribution and market share are what matters in determining real-world compatibility, and if that’s a constantly changing secnario, the data should at least reflect how things are changing.

He uses his own charts to make the comparison :)


What have you found?

Posted by Dion Almaer at 6:51 am

3.1 rating from 26 votes


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I’d actually like to see how many of these features the other browsers (Opera, Mozilla, IE, etc) to see how they compare…

Comment by gms8994 — October 13, 2009

Wow that’s a cute one. “I’m only graphing the points where incompatibilities exist to prove that webkit is completely incompatible.” So the question remains. On how many points is are the various webkits compatible? If there are 20,000 compatible functions and 200 incompatible then the guys statement is completely absurd. On the other hand if the compatible functions are 300 then we should be raising the cain. All this tells us is which webkit browsers are best, not the actual degree of their differences. Thus I declare that the unnamed number is infinity making the percentage of incompatibility something like .0000000000000….. 0001% or completely insignificant.

Comment by mojave — October 13, 2009

Mojave is a bit harsh – it’s actually very useful to have a reference for incompatibilities among the different webkit implementations.

And the statement PPK makes is valid: the various webkit implementations have some serious incompatibilities. This is something to keep in mind when doing client side scripting targeted towards mobile devices.

That being said, many of the incompatibilities seems to be pretty minor. I have a clunky old S60v3 phone, and a lot of apps developed exclusively for the iPhone (such as the iPhone-flavour of Google Reader) works just fine on the device.

Comment by kristianj — October 13, 2009

Notice that, of the 204 features that are not common to all implementations, at least half are common to all but the most obscure implementations. Mojave is right, we need to know how many features are ‘safe’ or these other numbers are meaningless. Even more than that, we need to know which features are ‘unsafe’ so that we don’t use them expecting them to work everywhere. Many of them are probably things we either weren’t going to use or which won’t result in any any seriously ill effect if they don’t work (like many of the css effects).

These charts are a good start but as they are now, they only invoke (likely) unnecessary concern without providing any practical solutions or advice.

Comment by okonomiyaki3000 — October 13, 2009

Ah, I guess I should have followed that link before posting…

Comment by okonomiyaki3000 — October 13, 2009

There are still around 2 million Nokia N95 handsets in use in the UK. I don’t know how many N96’s or the overall number of S60v3 handsets there are; but they aren’t going to disappear in a hurry. Also, operators will start to give older smart phones out for free on standard contracts soon, which may even increase numbers. Hopefully any new S60v3 devices would be flashed with upto date firmware: but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Sadly, I think it’s an incredibly optimistic assumption that “An increasing percentage of smartphone owners now receive regular software updates that provide new browsers even faster.”

Research done at my place of work suggests this may be true for very early adopters of technology/gadgets. But not everyone with an iphone would fall into this category.

Comment by jeffwad — October 14, 2009


You miss in your test Origyn Web Browser (www.sand-labs.org/owb), which is targetted to CE devices exclusively, but you can dry test on x86 linux (qt, sdl or gtk flavor)
If you grant me access to your test suite in some automated ways, I’d be happy to give you results on STM or Broadcom references CPU from the Digital TV market.

There is mobile webkit :)

Jean-Charles Verdié

Comment by jcverdie — October 14, 2009

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