Apple Proposes Scrapping Safari Open Source Code for its Own, Report Says

Two years after introducing its Safari Web browser, Apple Computer has proposed dumping the open-source rendering engine KHTML in favor of its own proprietary language, a published report said Thursday.

The report by CNET says Apple has openly discussed abandoning the KHTML code base, or "tree," in favor of Appleis version, called WebCore.

In an e-mail dated May 5, Apple engineer Maciej Stachowiak admitted the company would be willing to port WebCore to work with the K Desktop Environment, which is an interface for Linux and Unix operating systems.

"One thing you may want to consider eventually is back-porting (WebCore) to work on top of (KDE), and merging your changes into that," he wrote. "I think the Apple trees have seen a lot more change since the two trees diverged, although both have useful changes. Weid be open to making our tree multi-platform."

WebCore is a framework for Mac OS X that takes the cross-platform KHTML library (part of the KDE project) and combines it with an adapter library specific to WebCore called KWQ that makes it work with Mac OS X technologies.

The suggestion, which KHTML developers have said they would likely not be in favor of, comes as Apple tries to fill cracks in the relationship with the open-source community who have accused Apple of one the one hand publicly embracing open-source code, but demand the community follow its rules.

KDE developers have been suggesting to Apple for some time that there should be a compromise between Apple and volunteer coders. It appears the e-mail from Mr. Stachowiak is suggesting Apple is willing to consider options.

"Business is constrained in ways that open source prides itself on not being constrained," said George Staikos, a software consultant, KDE developer and spokesman for the open-source group told CNET "There have been problems all along in the sense that Apple had their own internal issues to deal with (that) did not mesh well with the model used by KDE to develop KHTML, and it resulted in KHTML and (Safari) quickly diverging. This problem compounded over time."

Open-source developers have complained as of late that Apple took a less than professional attitude at fixing bugs and writing patches than what many are used to.

"In open source, everythingis supposed to be done the right way, but sometimes the less correct way is faster," said KDE developer Zack Rusin. "In fixing one problem, they were breaking a whole bunch of other things. Apple developers were focused on fixing bugs in such a way that we could not merge them back into KHTML. Those fixes were never an option for us."