Google open-sources Chrome browser for iOS

Complications involving the required tie-in to Apple’s WebKit engine had prevented the move in the past

Google is open-sourcing its Chrome browser on the Apple iOS platform, after making changes enabling the code to be part of Google’s Chromium browser project.

The code will be moved to the open source Chromium repository, which lets developers build their own Chrome-like browsers. It had been kept separate from Chromium because of Apple's requirement that all iOS browsers be built on the Apple-controlled WebKit rendering engine.

But after years of refactoring to cleanly separate WebKit from the Chrome for iOS code, the Chrome for iOS code is rejoining Chromium, Google said in a bulletin. (Chrome on other operating systems uses Google's own Blink browser engine.) Developers can compile the iOS version of Chromium like they can for other Chromium versions. Google said it had spent a lot of time during the past several years making changes required to move the code for Chrome for iOS into Chromium.

As a result, web app development should be faster, since all tests for Chrome for iOS have available for Chromium browsers. Chromium, providing the open source core of Chrome, has allowed spinoffs of the browser.

Instructions on building Chromium for iOS say the iOS build is more complicated than the desktop build. As part of the inclusion of Chrome for iOS in the Chromium project, Google is providing the ios/build/tools/setup-gn.py script to create four build directories for release and debug device simulator builds and for generating an Apple Xcode workspace.

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