WebKitGTK+ 2.16

The Igalia WebKit team is happy to announce WebKitGTK+ 2.16. This new release drastically improves the memory consumption, adds new API as required by applications, includes new debugging tools, and of course fixes a lot of bugs.

Memory consumption

After WebKitGTK+ 2.14 was released, several Epiphany users started to complain about high memory usage of WebKitGTK+ when Epiphany had a lot of tabs open. As we already explained in a previous post, this was because of the switch to the threaded compositor, that made hardware acceleration always enabled. To fix this, we decided to make hardware acceleration optional again, enabled only when websites require it, but still using the threaded compositor. This is by far the major improvement in the memory consumption, but not the only one. Even when in accelerated compositing mode, we managed to reduce the memory required by GL contexts when using GLX, by using OpenGL version 3.2 (core profile) if available. In mesa based drivers that means that software rasterizer fallback is never required, so the context doesn’t need to create the software rasterization part. And finally, an important bug was fixed in the JavaScript garbage collector timers that prevented the garbage collection to happen in some cases.

CSS Grid Layout

Yes, the future here and now available by default in all WebKitGTK+ based browsers and web applications. This is the result of several years of great work by the Igalia web platform team in collaboration with bloomberg. If you are interested, you have all the details in Manuel’s blog.


The WebKitGTK+ API is quite complete now, but there’s always new things required by our users.

Hardware acceleration policy

Hardware acceleration is now enabled on demand again, when a website requires to use accelerated compositing, the hardware acceleration is enabled automatically. WebKitGTK+ has environment variables to change this behavior, WEBKIT_DISABLE_COMPOSITING_MODE to never enable hardware acceleration and WEBKIT_FORCE_COMPOSITING_MODE to always enabled it. However, those variables were never meant to be used by applications, but only for developers to test the different code paths. The main problem of those variables is that they apply to all web views of the application. Not all of the WebKitGTK+ applications are web browsers, so it can happen that an application knows it will never need hardware acceleration for a particular web view, like for example the evolution composer, while other applications, especially in the embedded world, always want hardware acceleration enabled and don’t want to waste time and resources with the switch between modes. For those cases a new WebKitSetting hardware-acceleration-policy has been added. We encourage everybody to use this setting instead of the environment variables when upgrading to WebKitGTk+ 2.16.

Network proxy settings

Since the switch to WebKit2, where the SoupSession is no longer available from the API, it hasn’t been possible to change the network proxy settings from the API. WebKitGTK+ has always used the default proxy resolver when creating the soup context, and that just works for most of our users. But there are some corner cases in which applications that don’t run under a GNOME environment want to provide their own proxy settings instead of using the proxy environment variables. For those cases WebKitGTK+ 2.16 includes a new UI process API to configure all proxy settings available in GProxyResolver API.

Private browsing

WebKitGTK+ has always had a WebKitSetting to enable or disable the private browsing mode, but it has never worked really well. For that reason, applications like Epiphany has always implemented their own private browsing mode just by using a different profile directory in tmp to write all persistent data. This approach has several issues, for example if the UI process crashes, the profile directory is leaked in tmp with all the personal data there. WebKitGTK+ 2.16 adds a new API that allows to create ephemeral web views which never write any persistent data to disk. It’s possible to create ephemeral web views individually, or create ephemeral web contexts where all web views associated to it will be ephemeral automatically.

Website data

WebKitWebsiteDataManager was added in 2.10 to configure the default paths on which website data should be stored for a web context. In WebKitGTK+ 2.16 the API has been expanded to include methods to retrieve and remove the website data stored on the client side. Not only persistent data like HTTP disk cache, cookies or databases, but also non-persistent data like the memory cache and session cookies. This API is already used by Epiphany to implement the new personal data dialog.

Dynamically added forms

Web browsers normally implement the remember passwords functionality by searching in the DOM tree for authentication form fields when the document loaded signal is emitted. However, some websites add the authentication form fields dynamically after the document has been loaded. In those cases web browsers couldn’t find any form fields to autocomplete. In WebKitGTk+ 2.16 the web extensions API includes a new signal to notify when new forms are added to the DOM. Applications can connect to it, instead of document-loaded to start searching for authentication form fields.

Custom print settings

The GTK+ print dialog allows the user to add a new tab embedding a custom widget, so that applications can include their own print settings UI. Evolution used to do this, but the functionality was lost with the switch to WebKit2. In WebKitGTK+ 2.16 a similar API to the GTK+ one has been added to recover that functionality in evolution.

Notification improvements

Applications can now set the initial notification permissions on the web context to avoid having to ask the user everytime. It’s also possible to get the tag identifier of a WebKitNotification.

Debugging tools

Two new debugged tools are now available in WebKitGTk+ 2.16. The memory sampler and the resource usage overlay.

Memory sampler

This tool allows to monitor the memory consumption of the WebKit processes. It can be enabled by defining the environment variable WEBKIT_SMAPLE_MEMORY. When enabled, the UI process and all web process will automatically take samples of memory usage every second. For every sample a detailed report of the memory used by the process is generated and written to a file in the temp directory.

Started memory sampler for process MiniBrowser 32499; Sampler log file stored at: /tmp/MiniBrowser7ff2246e-406e-4798-bc83-6e525987aace
Started memory sampler for process WebKitWebProces 32512; Sampler log file stored at: /tmp/WebKitWebProces93a10a0f-84bb-4e3c-b257-44528eb8f036

The files contain a list of sample reports like this one:

Timestamp                          1490004807
Total Program Bytes                1960214528
Resident Set Bytes                 84127744
Resident Shared Bytes              68661248
Text Bytes                         4096
Library Bytes                      0
Data + Stack Bytes                 87068672
Dirty Bytes                        0
Fast Malloc In Use                 86466560
Fast Malloc Committed Memory       86466560
JavaScript Heap In Use             0
JavaScript Heap Committed Memory   49152
JavaScript Stack Bytes             2472
JavaScript JIT Bytes               8192
Total Memory In Use                86477224
Total Committed Memory             86526376
System Total Bytes                 16729788416
Available Bytes                    5788946432
Shared Bytes                       1037447168
Buffer Bytes                       844214272
Total Swap Bytes                   1996484608
Available Swap Bytes               1991532544

Resource usage overlay

The resource usage overlay is only available in Linux systems when WebKitGTK+ is built with ENABLE_DEVELOPER_MODE. It allows to show an overlay with information about resources currently in use by the web process like CPU usage, total memory consumption, JavaScript memory and JavaScript garbage collector timers information. The overlay can be shown/hidden by pressing CTRL+Shit+G.

We plan to add more information to the overlay in the future like memory cache status.

Accelerated compositing in WebKitGTK+ 2.14.4

WebKitGTK+ 2.14 release was very exciting for us, it finally introduced the threaded compositor to drastically improve the accelerated compositing performance. However, the threaded compositor imposed the accelerated compositing to be always enabled, even for non-accelerated contents. Unfortunately, this caused different kind of problems to several people, and proved that we are not ready to render everything with OpenGL yet. The most relevant problems reported were:

  • Memory usage increase: OpenGL contexts use a lot of memory, and we have the compositor in the web process, so we have at least one OpenGL context in every web process. The threaded compositor uses the coordinated graphics model, that also requires more memory than the simple mode we previously use. People who use a lot of tabs in epiphany quickly noticed that the amount of memory required was a lot more.
  • Startup and resize slowness: The threaded compositor makes everything smooth and performs quite well, except at startup or when the view is resized. At startup we need to create the OpenGL context, which is also quite slow by itself, but also need to create the compositing thread, so things are expected to be slower. Resizing the viewport is the only threaded compositor task that needs to be done synchronously, to ensure that everything is in sync, the web view in the UI process, the OpenGL viewport and the backing store surface. This means we need to wait until the threaded compositor has updated to the new size.
  • Rendering issues: some people reported rendering artifacts or even nothing rendered at all. In most of the cases they were not issues in WebKit itself, but in the graphic driver or library. It’s quite diffilcult for a general purpose web engine to support and deal with all possible GPUs, drivers and libraries. Chromium has a huge list of hardware exceptions to disable some OpenGL extensions or even hardware acceleration entirely.

Because of these issues people started to use different workarounds. Some people, and even applications like evolution, started to use WEBKIT_DISABLE_COMPOSITING_MODE environment variable, that was never meant for users, but for developers. Other people just started to build their own WebKitGTK+ with the threaded compositor disabled. We didn’t remove the build option because we anticipated some people using old hardware might have problems. However, it’s a code path that is not tested at all and will be removed for sure for 2.18.

All these issues are not really specific to the threaded compositor, but to the fact that it forced the accelerated compositing mode to be always enabled, using OpenGL unconditionally. It looked like a good idea, entering/leaving accelerated compositing mode was a source of bugs in the past, and all other WebKit ports have accelerated compositing mode forced too. Other ports use UI side compositing though, or target a very specific hardware, so the memory problems and the driver issues are not a problem for them. The imposition to force the accelerated compositing mode came from the switch to using coordinated graphics, because as I said other ports using coordinated graphics have accelerated compositing mode always enabled, so they didn’t care about the case of it being disabled.

There are a lot of long-term things we can to to improve all the issues, like moving the compositor to the UI (or a dedicated GPU) process to have a single GL context, implement tab suspension, etc. but we really wanted to fix or at least improve the situation for 2.14 users. Switching back to use accelerated compositing mode on demand is something that we could do in the stable branch and it would improve the things, at least comparable to what we had before 2.14, but with the threaded compositor. Making it happen was a matter of fixing a lot bugs, and the result is this 2.14.4 release. Of course, this will be the default in 2.16 too, where we have also added API to set a hardware acceleration policy.

We recommend all 2.14 users to upgrade to 2.14.4 and stop using the WEBKIT_DISABLE_COMPOSITING_MODE environment variable or building with the threaded compositor disabled. The new API in 2.16 will allow to set a policy for every web view, so if you still need to disable or force hardware acceleration, please use the API instead of WEBKIT_DISABLE_COMPOSITING_MODE and WEBKIT_FORCE_COMPOSITING_MODE.

We really hope this new release and the upcoming 2.16 will work much better for everybody.

WebKitGTK+ 2.12

We did it again, the Igalia WebKit team is pleased to announce a new stable release of WebKitGTK+, with a bunch of bugs fixed, some new API bits and many other improvements. I’m going to talk here about some of the most important changes, but as usual you have more information in the NEWS file.


FTL JIT is a JavaScriptCore optimizing compiler that was developed using LLVM to do low-level optimizations. It’s been used by the Mac port since 2014 but we hadn’t been able to use it because it required some patches for LLVM to work on x86-64 that were not included in any official LLVM release, and there were also some crashes that only happened in Linux. At the beginning of this release cycle we already had LLVM 3.7 with all the required patches and the crashes had been fixed as well, so we finally enabled FTL for the GTK+ port. But in the middle of the release cycle Apple surprised us announcing that they had the new FTL B3 backend ready. B3 replaces LLVM and it’s entirely developed inside WebKit, so it doesn’t require any external dependency. JavaScriptCore developers quickly managed to make B3 work on Linux based ports and we decided to switch to B3 as soon as possible to avoid making a new release with LLVM to remove it in the next one. I’m not going to enter into the technical details of FTL and B3, because they are very well documented and it’s probably too boring for most of the people, the key point is that it improves the overall JavaScript performance in terms of speed.

Persistent GLib main loop sources

Another performance improvement introduced in WebKitGTK+ 2.12 has to do with main loop sources. WebKitGTK+ makes an extensive use the GLib main loop, it has its own RunLoop abstraction on top of GLib main loop that is used by all secondary processes and most of the secondary threads as well, scheduling main loop sources to send tasks between threads. JavaScript timers, animations, multimedia, the garbage collector, and many other features are based on scheduling main loop sources. In most of the cases we are actually scheduling the same callback all the time, but creating and destroying the GSource each time. We realized that creating and destroying main loop sources caused an overhead with an important impact in the performance. In WebKitGTK+ 2.12 all main loop sources were replaced by persistent sources, which are normal GSources that are never destroyed (unless they are not going to be scheduled anymore). We simply use the GSource ready time to make them active/inactive when we want to schedule/stop them.

Overlay scrollbars

GNOME designers have requested us to implement overlay scrollbars since they were introduced in GTK+, because WebKitGTK+ based applications didn’t look consistent with all other GTK+ applications. Since WebKit2, the web view is no longer a GtkScrollable, but it’s scrollable by itself using native scrollbars appearance or the one defined in the CSS. This means we have our own scrollbars implementation that we try to render as close as possible to the native ones, and that’s why it took us so long to find the time to implement overlay scrollbars. But WebKitGTK+ 2.12 finally implements them and are, of course, enabled by default. There’s no API to disable them, but we honor the GTK_OVERLAY_SCROLLING environment variable, so they can be disabled at runtime.

But the appearance was not the only thing that made our scrollbars inconsistent with the rest of the GTK+ applications, we also had a different behavior regarding the actions performed for mouse buttons, and some other bugs that are all fixed in 2.12.

The NetworkProcess is now mandatory

The network process was introduced in WebKitGTK+ since version 2.4 to be able to use multiple web processes. We had two different paths for loading resources depending on the process model being used. When using the shared secondary process model, resources were loaded by the web process directly, while when using the multiple web process model, the web processes sent the requests to the network process for being loaded. The maintenance of this two different paths was not easy, with some bugs happening only when using one model or the other, and also the network process gained features like the disk cache that were not available in the web process. In WebKitGTK+ 2.12 the non network process path has been removed, and the shared single process model has become the multiple web process model with a limit of 1. In practice it means that a single web process is still used, but the network happens in the network process.

NPAPI plugins in Wayland

I read it in many bug reports and mailing lists that NPAPI plugins will not be supported in wayland, so things like http://extensions.gnome.org will not work. That’s not entirely true. NPAPI plugins can be windowed or windowless. Windowed plugins are those that use their own native window for rendering and handling events, implemented in X11 based systems using XEmbed protocol. Since Wayland doesn’t support XEmbed and doesn’t provide an alternative either, it’s true that windowed plugins will not be supported in Wayland. Windowless plugins don’t require any native window, they use the browser window for rendering and events are handled by the browser as well, using X11 drawable and X events in X11 based systems. So, it’s also true that windowless plugins having a UI will not be supported by Wayland either. However, not all windowless plugins have a UI, and there’s nothing X11 specific in the rest of the NPAPI plugins API, so there’s no reason why those can’t work in Wayland. And that’s exactly the case of http://extensions.gnome.org, for example. In WebKitGTK+ 2.12 the X11 implementation of NPAPI plugins has been factored out, leaving the rest of the API implementation common and available to any window system used. That made it possible to support windowless NPAPI plugins with no UI in Wayland, and any other non X11 system, of course.


And as usual we have completed our API with some new additions:


WebKitGTK+ 2.10

HTTP Disk Cache

WebKitGTK+ already had an HTTP disk cache implementation, simply using SoupCache, but Apple introduced a new cross-platform implementation to WebKit (just a few bits needed a platform specific implementation), so we decided to switch to it. This new cache has a lot of advantages over the SoupCache approach:

  • It’s fully integrated in the WebKit loading process, sharing some logic with the memory cache too.
  • It’s more efficient in terms of speed (the cache is in the NetworkProcess, but only the file descriptor is sent to the Web Process that mmaps the file) and disk usage (resource body and headers are stored in separate files in disk, using hard links for the body so that difference resources with the exactly same contents are only stored once).
  • It’s also more robust thanks to the lack of index. The synchronization between the index and the actual contents has always been a headache in SoupCache, with many resources leaked in disk, resources that are cache twice, etc.

The new disk cache is only used by the Network Process, so in case of using the shared secondary process model the SoupCache will still be used in the Web Process.

New inspector UI

The Web Inspector UI has been redesigned, you can see some of the differences in this screenshot:


For more details see this post in the Safari blog


This was one the few regressions we still had compared to WebKit1. When we switched to WebKit2 we lost IndexedDB support, but It’s now back in 2.10. It uses its own new process, the DatabaseProcess, to perform all database operations.


WebKitGTK+ 2.8 improved the overall performance thanks to the use of the bmalloc memory allocator. In 2.10 the overall performance has also improved, this time thanks to a new implementation of the locking primitives. All uses of mutex/condition have been replaced by a new implementation. You can see more details in the email Filip sent to webkit-dev or in the so detailed commit messages.

Screen Saver inhibitor

It’s more and more common to use the web browser to watch large videos in fullscreen mode, and quite annoying when the screen saver decides to “save” your screen every x minutes during the whole video. WebKitGTK+ 2.10 uses the Freedesktop.org ScreenSaver DBus service to inhibit the screen saver while a video is playing in fullscreen mode.

Font matching for strong aliases

WebKit’s font matching algorithm has improved, and now allows replacing fonts with metric-compatible equivalents. For example, sites that specify Arial will now get Liberation Sans, rather than your system’s default sans font (usually DejaVu). This makes text appear better on many pages, since some fonts require more space than others. The new algorithm is based on code from Skia that we expect will be used by Chrome in the future.

Improve image quality when using newer versions of cairo/pixman

The poor downscaling quality of cairo/pixman is a well known issue that was finally fixed in Cairo 1.14, however we were not taking advantage of it in WebKit even when using a recent enough version of cairo. The reason is that we were using CAIRO_FILTER_BILINEAR filter that was not affected by the cairo changes. So, we just switched to use CAIRO_FILTER_GOOD, that will use the BILINEAR filter in previous versions of Cairo (keeping the backwards compatibility), and a box filter for downscaling in newer versions. This drastically improves the image quality of downscaled images with a minim impact in performance.


Editor API

The lack of editor capabilities from the API point of view was blocking the migration to WebKit2 for some applications like Evolution. In 2.10 we have started to add the required API to ensure not only that the migration is possible for any application using a WebView in editable mode, but also that it will be more convenient to use.

So, for example, to monitor the state of the editor associated to a WebView, 2.10 provides a new class WebKitEditorState, that for now allows to monitor the typing attributestyping attributes. With WebKit1 you had to connect to the selection-changed signal and use the DOM bindings API to manually query the typing attributes. This is quite useful for updating the state of the editing buttons in the editor toolbar, for example. You just need to connect to WebKitEditorState::notify::typying-attributes and update the UI accordingly. For now typing attributes is the only thing you can monitor from the UI process API, but we will add more information when needed like the current cursor position, for example.

Having WebKitEditorState doesn’t mean we don’t need a selection-changed signal that we can monitor to query the DOM ourselves. But since in WebKit2 the DOM lives in the Web Process, the selection-changed signal has been added to the Web Extensions API. A new class WebKitWebEditor has been added, to represent the web editor associated to a WebKitWebPage, and can be obtained with webkit_web_page_get_editor(). And is this new class the one providing the selection-changed signal. So, you can connect to the signal and use the DOM API the same way it was done in WebKit1.

Some of the editor commands require an argument, like for example, the command to insert an image requires the image source URL. But both the WebKit1 and WebKit2 APIs only provided methods to run editor commands without any argument. This means that, once again, to implement something like insert-image or insert link, you had to use the DOM bindings to create and insert the new elements in the correct place. WebKitGTK+ 2.10 provides webkit_web_view_execute_editing_command_with_argument() to make this a lot more convenient.

You can test all this features using the new editor mode of MiniBrowser, simply run it with -e command line option and no arguments.


Website data

When browsing the web, websites are allowed to store data at the client side. It could be a cache, like the HTTP disk cache, or data required by web features like offline applications, local storage, IndexedDB, WebSQL, etc. All that data is currently stored in different directories and not all of those could be configured by the user. The new WebKitWebsiteDataManager class in 2.10 allows you to configure all those directories, either using a common base cache/data directory or providing a specific directory for every kind of data stored. It’s not mandatory to use it though, the default values are compatible with the ones previously used.

This gives the user more control over the browsing data stored in the client side, but in the future versions we plan to add support for actually handling the data, so that you will be able to query and delete the data stored by a particular security domain.

Web Processes limit

WebKitGTK+ currently supports two process models, the single shared secondary process and the multiple secondary processes. When using the latter, a new web process is created for every new web view. When there are a lot of web views created at the same time, the resources required to create all those processes could be too much in some systems. To improve that a bit 2.10 adds webkit_web_context_set_web_process_count_limit(), to set the maximum number of web process that can be created a the same time.

This new API can also be used to implement a slightly different version of the shared single process model. By using the multiple secondary process model with a limit of 1 web process, you still have a single shared web process, but using the multi-process mechanism, which means the network will happen in the Network Process, among other things. So, if you use the shared secondary process model in your application, unless your application only loads local resources, we recommend you to switch to multiple process model and use the limit to benefit from all the Network Process feature like the new disk cache, for example. Epiphany already does this for the secondary process model and web apps.

Missing media plugins installation permission request

When you try to play media, and the media backend doesn’t find the plugins/codecs required to play it, the missing plugin installation mechanism starts the package installer to allow the user to find and install the required plugins/codecs. This used to happen in the Web Process and without any way for the user to avoid it. WebKitGTK+ 2.10 provides a new WebKitPermissionRequest implementation that allows the user to block the request and prevent the installer from being invoked.

WebKitGTK+ 2.8.0

We are excited and proud of announcing WebKitGTK+ 2.8.0, your favorite web rendering engine, now faster, even more stable and with a bunch of new features and improvements.


Touch support is one the most important features missing since WebKitGTK+ 2.0.0. Thanks to the GTK+ gestures API, it’s now more pleasant to use a WebKitWebView in a touch screen. For now only the basic gestures are implemented: pan (for scrolling by dragging from any point of the WebView), tap (handling clicks with the finger) and zoom (for zooming in/out with two fingers). We plan to add more touch enhancements like kinetic scrolling, overshot feedback animation, text selections, long press, etc. in future versions.

HTML5 Notifications


Notifications are transparently supported by WebKitGTK+ now, using libnotify by default. The default implementation can be overridden by applications to use their own notifications system, or simply to disable notifications.

WebView background color

There’s new API now to set the base background color of a WebKitWebView. The given color is used to fill the web view before the actual contents are rendered. This will not have any visible effect if the web page contents set a background color, of course. If the web view parent window has a RGBA visual, we can even have transparent colors.


A new WebKitSnapshotOptions flag has also been added to be able to take web view snapshots over a transparent surface, instead of filling the surface with the default background color (opaque white).

User script messages

The communication between the UI process and the Web Extensions is something that we have always left to the users, so that everybody can use their own IPC mechanism. Epiphany and most of the apps use D-Bus for this, and it works perfectly. However, D-Bus is often too much for simple cases where there are only a few  messages sent from the Web Extension to the UI process. User script messages make these cases a lot easier to implement and can be used from JavaScript code or using the GObject DOM bindings.

Let’s see how it works with a very simple example:

In the UI process, we register a script message handler using the WebKitUserContentManager and connect to the “script-message-received-signal” for the given handler:

webkit_user_content_manager_register_script_message_handler (user_content, 
g_signal_connect (user_content, "script-message-received::foo",
                  G_CALLBACK (foo_message_received_cb), NULL);

Script messages are received in the UI process as a WebKitJavascriptResult:

static void
foo_message_received_cb (WebKitUserContentManager *manager,
                         WebKitJavascriptResult *message,
                         gpointer user_data)
        char *message_str;

        message_str = get_js_result_as_string (message);
        g_print ("Script message received for handler foo: %s\n", message_str);
        g_free (message_str);

Sending a message from the web process to the UI process using JavaScript is very easy:


That will send the message “bar” to the registered foo script message handler. It’s not limited to strings, we can pass any JavaScript value to postMessage() that can be serialized. There’s also a convenient API to send script messages in the GObject DOM bindings API:

webkit_dom_dom_window_webkit_message_handlers_post_message (dom_window, 
                                                            "foo", "bar");


Who is playing audio?

WebKitWebView has now a boolean read-only property is-playing-adio that is set to TRUE when the web view is playing audio (even if it’s a video) and to FALSE when the audio is stopped. Browsers can use this to provide visual feedback about which tab is playing audio, Epiphany already does that 🙂


HTML5 color input

Color input element is now supported by default, so instead of rendering a text field to manually input the color  as hexadecimal color code, WebKit now renders a color button that when clicked shows a GTK color chooser dialog. As usual, the public API allows to override the default implementation, to use your own color chooser. MiniBrowser uses a popover, for example.



APNG (Animated PNG) is a PNG extension that allows to create animated PNGs, similar to GIF but much better, supporting 24 bit images and transparencies. Since 2.8 WebKitGTK+ can render APNG files. You can check how it works with the mozilla demos.



The POODLE vulnerability fix introduced compatibility problems with some websites when establishing the SSL connection. Those problems were actually server side issues, that were incorrectly banning SSL 3.0 record packet versions, but that could be worked around in WebKitGTK+.

WebKitGTK+ already provided a WebKitWebView signal to notify about TLS errors when loading, but only for the connection of the main resource in the main frame. However, it’s still possible that subresources fail due to TLS errors, when using a connection different to the main resource one. WebKitGTK+ 2.8 gained WebKitWebResource::failed-with-tls-errors signal to be notified when a subresource load failed because of invalid certificate.

Ciphersuites based on RC4 are now disallowed when performing TLS negotiation, because it is no longer considered secure.

Performance: bmalloc and concurrent JIT

bmalloc is a new memory allocator added to WebKit to replace TCMalloc. Apple had already used it in the Mac and iOS ports for some time with very good results, but it needed some tweaks to work on Linux. WebKitGTK+ 2.8 now also uses bmalloc which drastically improved the overall performance.

Concurrent JIT was not enabled in GTK (and EFL) port for no apparent reason. Enabling it had also an amazing impact in the performance.

Both performance improvements were very noticeable in the performance bot:



The first jump on 11th Feb corresponds to the bmalloc switch, while the other jump on 25th Feb is when concurrent JIT was enabled.

Plans for 2.10

WebKitGTK+ 2.8 is an awesome release, but the plans for 2.10 are quite promising.

  • More security: mixed content for most of the resources types will be blocked by default. New API will be provided for managing mixed content.
  • Sandboxing: seccomp filters will be used in the different secondary processes.
  • More performance: FTL will be enabled in JavaScriptCore by default.
  • Even more performance: this time in the graphics side, by using the threaded compositor.
  • Blocking plugins API: new API to provide full control over the plugins load process, allowing to block/unblock plugins individually.
  • Implementation of the Database process: to bring back IndexedDB support.
  • Editing API: full editing API to allow using a WebView in editable mode with all editing capabilities.

GTK+ 3 Plugins in WebKitGTK+ and Evince Browser Plugin

GTK+ 3 plugins in WebKitGTK+

The WebKit2 GTK+ API has always been GTK+ 3 only, but WebKitGTK+ still had a hard dependency on GTK+ 2 because of the plugin process. Some popular browser plugins like flash or Java use GTK+ 2 unconditionally (and it seems they are not going to be ported to GTK+ 3, at least not in the short term). These plugins stopped working in Epiphany when it switched to GTK+ 3 and started to work again when Epiphany moved to WebKit2.

To support GTK+ 2 plugins we had to build the plugin process with GTK+ 2, but also some parts of WebCore and WebKit2 (the ones depending on GTK+ and used by the plugin process) were built twice. As a result we had a WebKitPluginProcess binary of ~40MB, that was always used for all the plugins. This kind of made sense, since there were no plugins using GTK+ 3, and the GTK+ 2 dependency was harmless for plugins not using GTK+ at all. However, we realized we were making a rule for the exception, since most of the plugins don’t even use GTK+, and there weren’t plugins using GTK+ 3 because they were not supported by any browser (kind of chicken-egg problem).

Since WebKitGTK+ 2.5.1 we have two binaries for the plugin process: WebKitPluginProcess2 which is exactly the same 40MB binary using GTK+ 2 that we have always had, but that now is only used to load plugins using GTK+ 2; and WebKitPluginProcess, a 7,4K binary that is now used by default for everything except loading plugins that use GTK+ 2. And since it links to GTK+ 3, it might load plugins using GTK+ 3 as well. Another side effect is that now we can make GTK+ 2 optional, WebKitPluginProcess2 wouldn’t be built and only plugins using GTK+ 2 wouldn’t be supported.

Evince Browser Plugin

For a long time, we have maintained that PDF documents shouldn’t be opened inside the browser, but downloaded and then opened by the default document viewer. But then the GNOME design team came up with new mockups for Epiphany were everything was integrated in the browser, including PDF documents. It’s something all the major browsers do nowadays, using different approaches though (Custom PDF plugin inside the web engine, JavaScript libraries, etc.).

At the WebKitGTK+ hackfest in 2012 we started to think about how to implement the integrated document reading in Epiphany based on the design mockups. We quickly discarded the idea of implementing it as a NPAPI plugin, because that would mean we had to use a very old evince version using GTK+ 2. We can’t implement it inside WebKit using libevince because it’s a GPL library, so the first approach was to implement it inside Epiphany using libevince. I wrote a first patch, it was mostly a proof of concept hack, that added a new view widget based on EvView to be used instead of a WebView when a document supported by evince was requested. This approach has a lot of limitations, since it only works when the main resource is a document, but not for documents embedded in a HTML page or an iframe, and a lot of integration problems that makes it quite difficult to maintain inside Epiphany. All of these issues would be solved by implementing it as a NPAPI plugin and it wouldn’t require any change in Epiphany. Now that WebKitGTK+ supports GTK+ 3 plugins, there’s no reason not to do so.

Epiphany Evince Plugin

Thanks to a project in Igalia I’ve been able to work on it, and today I’ve landed an initial implementation of the browser plugin to Evince git master. It’s only a first implementation (written in C++ 11) with the basic features (page navigation, view modes, zoom and printing), and a very simple UI that needs to be updated to match the mockups. It can be disabled at compile time like all other frontends inside Evince (thumbnailer, previewer, nautilus properties page).

Epiphany embedded PDF document Epiphany standalone PDF document

Another advantage of being a NPAPI plugin is that it’s scriptable so that you can control the viewer using JavaScript.

Epiphany scriptable PDF

And you can pass initial parameters (like current page, zoom level, view mode, etc.) from the HTML tag.

<object data="test.pdf" type="application/pdf" width="600" height="300" 
                currentPage="2" zoomMode="fit-page" continuous="false">
  The pdf could not be rendered.

You can even hide the default toolbar and build your own one using HTML and JavaScript.

WebKitGTK+ 2.5.1: Good bye WebKit1

WebKitGTK+ 2.5.1 is the first version of this release cycle. It comes very late mainly due to the regressions introduced by the switch to CMake and the problems we found after removing WebKit1 from the tree. It also includes some new features that I’ll talk about in other posts, probably when 2.6.0 is released. In this post I’ll only focus on the breaks introduced in this release, in order to help everybody to adapt their applications to the API changes if needed.

Wait, but why breaking the API?

Since the release of WebKitGTK+ 2.0 the WebKit1 API has been considered deprecated and in maintenance mode. The new WebKit2 API is quite complete and stable now, so the plan for WebKitGTK+ 2.6 was removing WebKit1, leaving it alive, but still in maintenance mode, in the 2.4 branch. After removing the code from trunk we realized that newer versions of WebKitGTK+ that are WebKit2 only should be parallel installable with older versions of WebKitGTK+ that also include WebKit1. After some discussions trying to find the best solution, we reached the conclusion that we had to bump the binary version. But then I thought, since we were going to force everybody to recompile, why not take advantage to introduce some small (but necessary) API changes that in most of the cases will not affect the the users anyway? And then I started to review the API and proposing some changes. I also wanted to make sure all API changes were introduced in the first unstable release, so that users only have to adapt their applications once, and that’s the main reason why the release has taken so long.

Binary version bump

The new binary version is 4.0, so to use this new release you need to update your build system to look for webkit2gtk-4.0 pkg-config file.

GObject DOM Bindings

The GObject DOM bindings API situation was actually the main reason for breaking the API. The problem was that the code for the DOM bindings is generated automatically from the IDL files. This means that every time a new IDL file was added to the build system, we ended up exposing a new class in our public API without even noticing. Same happened when a API incompatible change was introduced in an IDL file, for example to update it to the current standard. We added a script to our build bots to warn us when that happened, and then we had to manually deprecate the existing API and add exceptions to the code generator. This was a lot of work just to keep backwards compatibility of an API nobody was using. Most of the people actually use a 5-10% of the DOM bindings API.

Since WebKitGTK+ 2.5.1 the GObject DOM bindings API is split into stable and unstable parts. The stable part contains the most commonly used API that it’s unlikely to change. We will keep maintaining backwards compatibility of this part of the API. The rest of the API is considered unstable and might change at any time, you can still use it but at your own risk. We thought this solution was better than just removing the unstable API. There are two kind of unstable APIs:

  • Classes that are considered unstable: the entire class is considered unstable. The header is not included in the main webkitdom.h header, so to use them you have to include the header file explicitly.
  • Unstable symbols of stable classes: a method or constant in a stable class that is considered unstable. In this case the header file is included by the main webkitfom.h header, but it doesn’t contain any unstable symbols, they are included in a new header WebKitDOMClassNameUnstable.h that also needs to be included explicitly.

In both cases you need to define WEBKIT_DOM_USE_UNSTABLE_API before including the headers

#include <webkitdom/WebKitDOMHTMLMediaElement.h>
#include <webkitdom/WebKitDOMElementUnstable.h>

WebKit2 GTK+ API

The API changes in the WebKit2 GTK+ API could have been avoided, by deprecating symbols and adding new ones, but since we were going to break the API anyway, and the affected symbols are not that commonly used we thought it was worth it.

  • WebKitWebView::create: the signal now receives a WebKitNavigationAction parameter containing information about the navigation action that triggered the event. So now you can know the type of event (if it was a link clicked, a form submitted, etc.), the mouse button and keyboard modifiers, the URI request or even if it was a user gesture. This information is very useful to implement a popup blocker, for example.
    /* before */
    static WebKitWebView *
    web_view_created_cb (WebKitWebView *web_view,
                         gpointer       user_data)
    /* after */
    static WebKitWebView *
    web_view_created_cb (WebKitWebView          *web_view,
                         WebKitNavigationAction *navigation_action,
                         gpointer                user_data)
  • WebKitWebViewGroup has been removed. This class was only introduced to add the user stylesheets API, since most of the people actually use the default web view group. The grouping of pages inside WebKit2 is something that will be eventually removed, in favor of users doing the groups they need. The user stylesheets API has been moved to a new class WebKitUserContentManager that will also be extended to support user scripts. The settings can still be handled directly with the WebKitWebView API, so that if you want a group of web views to share the same settings you can simply call webkit_web_view_set_settings() for all the web views passing the same WebKitSettings object.
    /* before */
    WebKitWebViewGroup *group = webkit_web_view_get_group (web_view);
    webkit_web_view_group_add_user_style_sheet (group, 
                                                NULL, /* base URI */
                                                NULL, /* whitelist */
                                                NULL, /* blacklist */
    /* after */
    WebKitUserContentManager *user_content;
    WebKitUserStyleSheet     *style_sheet;
    style_sheet = webkit_user_style_sheet_new (buffer,
                                               NULL, /* whitelist */
                                               NULL /* blacklist */);
    user_content = webkit_web_view_get_user_content_manager (web_view);
    webkit_user_content_manager_add_style_sheet (user_content, style_sheet);
    webkit_user_style_sheet_unref (style_sheet);
  • WebKitCertificateInfo has been removed. This was supposed to be a convenient way of handling TLS certificates, but when trying to use it in a real case, it ended up being unconvenient. The WebKitWebView::load-failed-with-tls-errors signal now receives a GTlsCertificate and TlsCertificateFlags, and webkit_web_context_allow_tls_certificate_for_host() receives a GTlsCertificate.
    /* before */
    static gboolean
    load_failed_with_tls_errors_cb (WebKitWebView         *web_view,
                                    WebKitCertificateInfo *info,
                                    const gchar           *host,
                                    gpointer               user_data)
      WebKitWebContext *context = webkit_web_view_get_context (web_view);
      GTlsCertificate *certificate = webkit_certificate_info_get_tls_certificate (info);
      GTlsCertificateFlags errors = webkit_certificate_info_get_tls_errors (info);
      if (add_exception_for_error (host, errors))
        webkit_web_context_allow_tls_certificate_for_host (context, info, host);
    /* after */
    static gboolean
    load_failed_with_tls_errors_cb (WebKitWebView       *web_view,
                                    GTlsCertificate     *certificate,
                                    GTlsCertificateFlags errors,
                                    const gchar         *host,
                                    gpointer             user_data)
      WebKitWebContext *context = webkit_web_view_get_context (web_view);
      if (add_exception_for_error (host, errors))
        webkit_web_context_allow_tls_certificate_for_host (context, certificate, host);
  • View mode API: The view source mode was removed from WebCore, and the API was already marked as deprecated. Since it’s very unlikely we add more view modes, we just removed the API. There’s no replacement for this, but it could be easily implemented either using a external window with a GtkSourceView or embedded into a WebKitWebView by using a custom URI scheme and a JavaScript library for syntax highlighting.


Since version 2.5.1 WebKitGTK+ uses CMake instead autotools as its build system. The equivalent to configure, make and make install now would be something like this:

$ cd webkitgtk-2.5.1
$ make
(enjoy the summer in the meantime)
# make install


Sure, we are available as usual in the #webkitgtk+ IRC channel at FreeNode and our mailing list webkit-gtk@lists.webkit.org.

WebKitGTK+ 2.4.0: the multiprocess made easy

Yes, we did it again, we have just released WebKitGTK+ 2.4.0, another major stable release with a lot of bug fixes, some new features and more complete API.

Multiple Web Processes

This is the most important new feature included in this release, and the one we have spent most of the release cycle with. All started during the WebKitGTK+ hackfest when a team of around 10 people worked together to implement the base of the multi-process support. And at the very end of the release cycle we have been able to turn it on by default in Epiphany.

DOM touch events support

WebKitWebView now processes the touch events happening in the widget to notify the DOM, making modern websites using DOM touch API properly work. Carlos Garnacho has taken a screencast to show it in action

Plugins cache

When the first page containing plugins was loaded, the UI process got blocked for some time, while the plugins were scanned. This was one of the most annoying bugs of WebKitGTK+ introduced in 2.0. Plugins are synchronously scanned on demand during the page load, and it’s something that can’t be avoided. WebKitGTK+ 2.4 uses a persistent cache to store information about all plugins, so that plugins are only scanned the first time or when they change.


As always a huge thanks to all the contributors that make this possible, and very specially in this release to the sponsors of the WebKitGTK+ hackfest 2013 (Igalia and the GNOME Foundation).

WebKit1 deprecation

There’s one last thing I would like to mention. Even when WebKit1 API has been deprecated since we released WebKitGTK+ 2.0, we have kept shipping both APIs in our tarball releases. A decision hasn’t been made yet, but this is probably the last release including the WebKit1 API, we have plans to remove the WebKit1 code from trunk and move all the build bots to run only WebKit2 tests. We encourage everybody to port their applications to WebKit2, submitting bug reports if there’s anything preventing the switch, and of course we are happy to help on IRC, mailing list, etc.

WebKitGTK+ Hackfest 2013: The Network Process

As every year many ideas came up during the WebKitGTK+ hackfest presentation, but this time there was one we all were very excited about, the multiple web processes support. Apple developers already implemented the support for multiple web processes in WebKit, which is mostly cross platform, but it requires the network process support to properly work (we need a common network process where cookies, HTTP cache, etc are shared for all web processes in the same web context). Soup based WebKit ports don’t implement the network process yet, so the goal of the hackfest became to complete the network process implementation previously started by EFL and Nix guys, as a first step to enable the multiple web processes support. Around 10 people were working on this goal during the whole hackfest, meeting from time to time to track the status of the tasks and assigning new ones.

After all this awesome work we managed to have the basic support, with MiniBrowser perfectly rendering pages and allowing navigation using the network process. But as expected, there were some bugs and missing features, so I ran the WebKit2 unit tests and we took failing tests to investigate why they were failing and how to fix them.

So, we are actually far from having a complete and stable network process support, but it’s a huge step forward. The good news is that once we have network process implemented, the multiple web processes support will work automatically just by selecting the multiple web process model.

All this sounds like a lot of work done, but that’s only a small part of what has happened this week in Coruña:

  • Martin and Gustavo made more parts of WebKit actually build with the cmake build.
  • Jon made several improvements in Epiphany UI.
  • Gustavo fixed the default charset encoding used by Epiphany.
  • Iago, Edu made some progress in the wayland support for WebKit2.
  • Dan was working on HTTP2 implementation for libsoup.
  • Zan was finalizing his GSoC work under Martin’s mentorship to bring WebGL support under Wayland
  • Gustavo added support for right-side docking of the web inspector in WebKitGTK+.
  • Javi, Rego and Minhea were focused on a new implementation for the selections in CSS regions.
  • Calvaris began to rewrite the GTK media controls once more, this time in JavaScript.
  • Zan finished the patches to add battery support in WebKitGTK+ using upower.
  • Martin, Gustavo and Zan worked on support for testing WebGL and accelerated compositing layout tests in WebKitGTK+.
  • Brian, Alex and Zan were working on the parsing of the valgrind xml output used when running the tests under valgrind to detect memory leaks.
  • Brendan added a setting to both WebKit1 and WebKit2 APIs to enable media source and fixed a crash in several video layout tests.
  • Claudio went back to his work on the notifications support for WebKitGTK+ and was reviewing patches like crazy.
  • Philippe worked on the WebRTC implementation for the GStreamer WebKit media backend.
  • Mario, Joanie and API were focused on accessibility, also making sure that the multiple web processes doesn’t affect the accessibility support.
  • Brendan also worked on MediaSource, investigating how to handle video resolution changes.
  • I removed all the WebKit1 unused code from Epiphany, and moved the GNOME shell search provider to its own binary.

And I’m sure I’m missing more great stuff done that I could not follow closely. It’s definitely been a very productive hackfest that it would haven’t been possible without the sponsors, Igalia and the GNOME Foundation. Thanks!

Igalia S.L. GNOME Foundation

WebKitGTK+ 2.2.0: It shines and doesn’t blink

With a bit of delay but we have finally released a new stable version of WebKitGTK+. This is the first stable release after the major 2.0 release. It mainly contains a lot of bug fixes and a few important new futures and API additions.

New Web Inspector

WebKitGTK+ now uses the new Web Inspector recently opensourced and upstreamed by Apple. We took advantage of the migration to improve the way inspector resources are distributed by compiling them in the WebKitGTK+ library as GResources. This means that resources are now always available without having to run make install or set environment variables.

WebKitGTK+ new Web Inspector

Initial Wayland support

WebKitGTK+ 2.2 can be built with Wayland target if it’s available (it requires GTK+ 3.10 compiled with Wayland support). Not everything is fully supported yet, but the WebKit layout tests can be run under the Weston compositor and WebGL content works under Wayland displays too. There’s more detailed information in Žan Doberšek’s blog.

Video accelerated compositing support

When accelerated compositing is enabled, the GStreamer media player can play videos using OpenGL. You can find more details in Víctor’s blog.

Custom JavaScript injection

This was one of the major regressions in WebKit2GTK+ compared to the WebKit1 API. WebKitGTK+ 2.2 now allows to inject custom JavaScript code using the JavaScriptCore C API from a WebKit Web Process Extension. New API has been added to also allow running specific JavaScript code in isolated worlds. You can find examples about how to use this API and how to write Web Process Extensions in general in this post.

Improved accessibility support in WebKit2

Accessibility support in WebKit2 has been reworked to not depend on pango and gail, which resulted in several bugs fixed and a much better accessibility support. Check Mario’s blog for all the details.