Why are Browser Engine Monocultures a bad thing?

It is often mentioned in Hacker News comments and the Twitters that it’s a tragedy that the web ecosystem is now dependent one only three renderers: Chromium, WebKit, and Gecko. Every time a new browser is announced I see comments like:

"The world needs less Chrome-clones and Google-backed browsers (which to a certain extent includes Firefox), and more independent ones." [link]


"The web really needs a truly cleansheet, non-invasive, open source browser written in a modern language. It’s disheartening to see the consolidation in the web space on Chrome. We need an alternative. There has to be someone who can counter Chrome’s dominance with a modern, fast browser engine. [link]

I understand this sentiment but I want to challenge it. No non-programmer cares what libraries make up their favorite browser. They don’t care whose JPEG decoder it is inside, or which CSS parser. Why does it make a difference which large browser engine is inside either?

All three major browser engines are open source. Anyone can see how it works, submit patches, or make a fork. Yes, some companies have undue power over browsers and web standards, but that is due to OS lock-in and market share, not because of the internal rendering library. Adding a fourth browser engine wouldn’t change that.

So I ask you:

Why do you care that the browser engine landscape is becoming a mono-culture? Why is a browser engine mono-culture a bad thing? And if the real issue is browser product marketshare dominance, then wouldn’t reusing an existing browser engine be a better choice than using something else?

Talk to me about it on Twitter

Posted April 14th, 2022

Tagged: rant