In 2018, Rachel Nabors made the point that browser diversity is similar to biological ecosystem diversity. There are literal advantages to more diversity. That article was before the Edge engines were shut, and now the big shakeups at Mozilla have the topic of browser diversity on people’s minds again.
I really like Dave’s take on the matter. The diversity of browser engines makes web tech slow. Frustratingly slow, to many, but that slowness can bring value.
There’s a lot of value in slow thinking. You use the non-lizard side of your brain. You make more deliberate decisions. You prioritize design over instant gratification. You can check your gut instincts and validate your hypothesis before incurring mountains of technical debt.
I’d bet you a dollar that the less engines we have, the faster things get. Fast can be satisfying in the moment, but doesn’t make for the best brisket.
If we do see a major reduction in browser diversity, I think we lose the intentional slowness and the cooperation mechanisms we have in place. Who knows what will happen, but my hope is that just like iron can sharpen iron, maybe chromium can sharpen chromium.
It seems to me that a good compromise would be to have a minimal reference build that fully and correctly implements the standards which organizations can then extend. Chromium is a good start toward this but it should probably be taken out of the hands of Google and given to, say, the W3C.
Some of the biggest advantages (and source of strange browser specific bugs) is that the developers of a specific browser can decide to implement some aspect of a w3c spec in a totally different way than another developer. Simple, seemingly trivial, choices that could mean one browser just has better memory management.
Plus, having a single source browser would lower diversity. You’d essentially be saying “let’s go with WebKit, and then everything else can be unique.” And in that scenario, how would get to Chromium?