WebKitGTK+ hackfest 2010!

Last week I attended the WebKitGTK+ 2010 hackfest. It was a great opportunity to meet up with the other developers, discuss some plans for the future, hack away at WebKitGTK+. But, most importantly, play Street Figher 2 =). Thanks to Collabora and Igalia for sponsoring the hackfest, Igalia for hosting and organizing it (well done!), and the GNOME foundation for having sponsored my trip to Coruña!

Unlike last year we didn’t find any big design issues hurting our work (page cache, I’m looking at you!) on new futures. I also didn’t have any huge plans for new API, although we did manage to get some new stuff in there, like the plugins management API Xan created, and the further work done by Dan in soup. This meant, from my point of view the hackfest has been a great oportunity to look at refactorings that we could do to further simplify understanding the code, changing it, and even sharing it =). Besides pushing the debian packaging of the 1.3.x series a bit further.

Coruña was great as always, and I enjoyed going around, eating and hacking there, although I got a cold on the last days which kinda hindered my ability to stare at the screen for too long, some times. Now that I’m at the hot brazilian summer again I’ll hopefully get better soon =)

Cheers \o/

Sponsored by the GNOME Foundation

Google’s User-Agent sniffing makes one more victim

Remember when I said Epiphany worked out of the box with Youtube’s WebM? Well, Google has recently decided to deny us WebM, like it did before with Wave, the Pacman doodle, and who knows what else? \o/

Wouldn’t it be nice if Google practiced what they preach?

Update: so it looks like my message went through to the people who needed to see it, and they found a filtering error in the User Agent sniffing code that made it think Epiphany was a too old Safari – I’m told the change will land in Youtube soon, thanks for those paying attention, and working on this! User Agent sniffing keeps being a problem, of course, and there are other stuff to fix, so I will probably still push my patch to spoof the user agent to google services which are still mishandling Epiphany, but it’s good to see some progress being made!

Update2: I started shipping a patch to send the Chrome user agent string to google domains in the Debian package for WebKitGTK+, when the “enable-site-specific-quirks” setting is enabled (which is the case for Epiphany); I already found something we were missing out on =D Google Images seems to have been greatly improved, and now faking being Chrome we are also able to enjoy it:

Google Images improved

WebKitGTK+ and the Web Inspector

When I started working on WebKitGTK+ I was a web developer, writing IT applications using Python and Django, and building features for content portals running Plone (argh). Even though I was an Epiphany user ever since it was forked off Galeon, I still had to use Firefox for my work, because I couldn’t really live without Firebug.

It should come as no surprise, then, that one of my first patches to WebKitGTK+ was actually making the awesome Web Inspector work in our port. After the initial support, though, not a lot has been done to further improve it, partly because it was already good enough for many uses, partly because I somehow started doing non-web development again ;).

These last weeks, through my R&D efforts in Collabora, I have been able to push Web Inspector features and integration a bit further. A simple change that boosts the Inspector’s usability quite a bit is having the nodes that are being hovered highlighted. Along with that, the ability to attach the inspector to Epiphany’s window should make it easier to use for poking the DOM.

The Web Inspector has a number of settings that control its behaviour. Since, for instance, enabling javascript debugging may slow down javascript performance, the inspector usually has it disabled by default, and provides a button to enable it. It also provides an option for always enabling that feature, but that does not work right now, because we are not saving/restoring the relevant settings. A solution to that is in the works using the GSettings infrastructure that was recently merged into glib.

Here’s a simple screencast, showing these improvements in action (click the video to check it out in full size):

WebKitGTK+ 1.2.2 and 1.2.3 released!

Some of you may have noticed WebKitGTK+ 1.2.2 and 1.2.3 have been uploaded recently. Here’s their announcement =). A quick summary: if you’re running the 1.2.x series upgrade to 1.2.3.

Here’s some information regarding 1.2.2:

1.2.2 is an update to the 1.2.x stable series; along with a lot of crash, and misc fixes the biggest changes are: 1) the inclusion of a new API from the development branch (webkit_back_forward_list_clear()),
because it’s simple and will help with fixing a problem in Epiphany stable, and 2) lots of drag and drop, and clipboard related work by Martin Robinson.

Despite not being strictly fixes, we believe the stable series has a lot to gain from this work; a couple examples should illustrate this better: the changes included fix both a crash when dragging links from WebKit into other browsers, and the annoying bug that made the cursor get stuck in a grab when dragging, sometimes.

http://webkitgtk.org/webkit-1.2.2.tar.gz
MD5: 40338001324a38b977c163291e8816d3

Here’s some information regarding 1.2.3:

To some such a quick succession in releases may look like a brown paper bag was in order. Not strictly, but indeed 1.2.3 aims to fix some oversights with easy fixes. First of all, WebKit was not buildable with ICU 4.4.1, but thankfully a fix had already been checked in to trunk, so 1.2.3 includes that fix. Secondly, Debian’s Michael Gilbert has done a great job going through all CVEs released about WebKit, and including patches in the Debian package. 1.2.3 includes all of the commits from trunk to fix those, too.

http://webkitgtk.org/webkit-1.2.3.tar.gz
MD5: 0ab5c478a6f5b74a1ae96bf13a456662

You can read some more details, including the list of CVEs that were addressed, in the NEWS file:

http://gitorious.org/webkitgtk/stable/blobs/master/WebKit/gtk/NEWS

Enjoy!

Google’s pacman doodle in Epiphany/Midori?

Google has had a very nice idea today, to celebrate Pacman’s aniversary: they made their logo become a playable HTML5 pacman. If you’re wondering why your WebKitGTK+ browser is not being able to play the game here’s why: Google is doing User-Agent sniffing and denying you the fun, sending a static image that you can click to perform a search instead of the game.

If you make Epiphany or Midori identify themselves as Chrome or Firefox, the game will work. I really don’t get this User Agent sniffing bullshit coming from Google. If you go to gconf-editor, and under epiphany->general set the user_agent key to “Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux; en-gb; rv:1.9.0.2) Gecko/2008092313 Firefox/3.8″ it works. I’m starting to seriously consider User Agent spoofing for *.google.com as a quirk on WebKitGTK+. Lame.

Update: as a protest, I’m making blog.kov.eti.br and kov.eti.br say Chrome/Chromium are not supported, by doing User Agent sniffing.
Update2: it’s been pointed out to me that the game is not HTML5 – it’s actually smart usage of divs, and flash *urgh* for the audio
Update3: thanks to a friend who works at Google getting in touch with pacman’s designer, it looks like it now works without faking U-A – I’m happy for this, thank you! Despite this good step forward, google is still denying us the nice fade in effect, and still sees us as ‘unsupported’ in Wave and similar products, so I’ll keep my protest for now.

WebKitGTK+ and WebM

So you probably heard about WebM, right? It’s the awesome new media format being pushed by Google and a large number of partners, including Collabora, following the release of the VP8 video codec free of royalties and patents, along with a Free Software implementation.

It turns out that if you are a user or developer of applications that use the GStreamer framework, you can start taking advantage of all that freedom right away! Collabora Multimedia has developed, along with Entropy Wave GStreamer support for the new format, and the code has already landed in the public repositories, and is already being packaged for some distributions.

I just couldn’t wait the few days it will take for the support to be properly landed in Debian unstable, so I went ahead and downloaded all of the current packages from the pkg-gstreamer svn repository, built everything after having the libvpx-dev package installed, and went straight to a rather unknown, small video site called Youtube with my GStreamer-powered WebKitGTK+-based browser, Epiphany!:


Youtube showing a webm video in Epiphany

If you’re running Debian unstable, or any of the other distributions which will be lucky to get the new codecs, and support packages soon, you should be able to get this working out of the box real soon now. Check the tips on WebM’s web site on how to find WebM videos on youtube.

WebKit2 and WebKitGTK+

So you’ve seen people talking about WebKit2, perhaps have seen someone claiming it “drops support for Linux“, and you’ve been wondering what the hell that means for WebKitGTK+. Well, welcome to the preemptive Q&A section with WebKitGTK+ maintainers =D. Let’s first explore some history so we can better understand what exactly is going on.

What exactly is WebKit2?

Currently, when we say “WebKit” we really mean one of the ports that are built on top of WebCore using the WebKit layer. WebCore is the part that does all of the hard Web-related work, WebKit an API layer that exposes WebCore functionality in a coherent way, so that the platform-specific ports can expose a public API layer for their applications to use, which is usually also called “WebKit”. This WebKit layer was designed by Apple to build the Mac, and Windows ports it maintains, and was later released as Free Software so that other ports, such as the GTK+, Qt, EFL ports could be built on top of it, instead of having to do all the heavy lifting from WebCore directly.

Current WebKit model

WebKit2 is nothing more than the second version of that interface, with a whole lot of changes on what you can expect from it, and on how it interacts with WebCore, and the platform-specific API and UI. First of all, the first WebKit was not API stable, and that interface was usually not made public by the various ports – they only exposed their platform-specific APIs. WebKit2 is being designed to provide a stable, cross-platform, C-based, non-blocking public API. This is huge. It will allow cross-platform code to be written without having to consider language, and port differences for basic functionality.

The second big change is the API will be made fully non-blocking. Currently most things you do are asynchronous already, but some of them may be completed in a synchronous ways (like, loading a string into WebKit instead of an URI). This is important for responsiveness, and is also a very important need for what comes next: process splitting.

WebKit2 will bring into WebKit proper the concept of splitting the UI process from the Web process, similar to what Chromium has. It also much more awesome than what Chrome has for a large number of reasons, including, but not limited to:

  1. It’s being contributed directly to the WebKit project, in a cross-platform way that lets ports such as WebKitGTK+ take advantage of it, instead of being shipped directly into Safari, like Google does with Chrome;
  2. The process separation goes bellow the API layer, meaning that all complexity involved in managing the process separation is handled by the library, and hopefully none of it leaks to the application using it; that means that applications like Devhelp and Yelp will be able to take advantage of this without having to make their lives more complicated;
There’s a much better diagram in WebKit2’s wiki page, but here goes a simplified version that demonstrates what I’m talking about:
WebKit2 model

What WebKit2 is not?

WebKit2 is NOT a rewrite of the whole WebKit stack. Webcore will continue mostly unchanged, and all ports currently building on top of it will keep working. It is also not a fork – the code lives in the same tree as the current version of WebKit, which will allow us to progressively move towards using this new, improved layer. WebKit2 is not Apple-only, and it is not dropping Linux support. Initial builds of the code that is being landed will likely show up building on Linux in the near future (specially because us porters are already eager to play with it).

What happens to WebKitGTK+?

In the near future, nothing special. We will continue working towards making it feature-complete, more stable, faster, and rocking on it as always. We will, though, start working out how we can best take advantage of WebKit2 in order to provide an even more awesome library for the G world. What this means is you can expect us to have a library that will provide a nice GTK+ widget, just like we have today, with a GObject-based API, like we have today, but that is built on top of this new WebKit2 infrastructure, taking advantage of the process-splitting, and the bigger focus on not blocking the UI thread. This should give us a platform that is more stable, and faster and more responsive than what we already have today.

The API is bound to change, of course, but the WebKit2 version of WebKitGTK+ will be a separate, parallel-installable library, and we will keep supporting the WebKit1 version while we work on making the new one at least as good as the current one. This is long term we’re talking here. We’ll likely see WebKitGTK+ 1.4, and 1.6 come to life before we are satisfied enough with WebKitGTK+2.

We hope this clears some of the doubts up, and lightens your hearts!

The WebKitGTK+ maintainers.

WebKitGTK+ 1.1.90 is out!

We’re coming close to GNOME 2.30 release date, and we are getting ready to branch a stable release off of WebKit’s svn trunk in preparation for that. The idea of the stable branch is to try to maintain, and improve stability, with no additional features going in. Speaking of features, though, if you’ve been paying attention you will have noticed WebKitGTK+ has come a long way, now.

We came from not having basic features such as download support or openning links in new tabs, a more-or-less working HTML5 media implementation, and very few or missing in action developers to a thriving project, that gets more, and more attention, and contributors every day, with advanced features available, and rocking HTML5 media support that leaves little to be desired. It’s been just over one year since we started rolling mostly bi-weekly releases, each adding more awesome features.

There are still many issues, and we are not always equipped as a team to handle all the specifics of the engine ourselves, but I am really happy with the progress we’ve made, and really thankful for the support my employer Collabora has given all the way for this to happen, including the early work on plugins, and many other things before my time as a contributor. When I switched to using Epiphany with the WebKit backend as my default browser back in January 2009, that meant having to deal with a whole lot of misbehaviour, and work-around a lot of painful brokeness. These days I enjoy a snappy, functional browser that makes me happy.

If you haven’t done so yet, go download, and test the newest Epiphany, with the latest WebKitGTK+, and help us make the GNOME 2.30’s web browser rock even more!

WebKitGTK+ testing

Most times when I blog about WebKitGTK+ it’s to talk about new features, and their usage in Epiphany. This time I’d like to tell those who care more about our test infrastructure. Like I said in my previous post, testing is something we take very seriously in WebKit land. It would be hard to get such a complex project, with such diversity of platforms moving forward without automated testing.

Apple hosts a buildbot master that controls a whole lot of build slaves, for many platforms. Today we added the fourth WebKitGTK+ build slave to the family: 64bits release. This makes up for 4 build slaves in total, 2 release bots sponsored by Collabora, and 2 debug bots sponsored by Igalia. These bots build WebKitGTK+, and then run what we call the “layout tests”. I use quotes there because the name is a bit misleading. Despite being HTML/JavaScript tests, they cover a whole lot of functionality, and tests for regressions in many areas, including security, crashes, animations, media playing, DOM behaviour, and javascript API behaviour. WebKitGTK+ bots currently run 6397 tests, which represent about half the available tests.

Our bots are also, as of today, the first ones to run platform-specific API tests. Almost a year ago we started writing small tests based on glib’s GTestSuite, and they have been very valuable in helping us make sure our API expectations aren’t breaking (at least unknowingly), and to be able to test things that would be very hard to have Layout Tests for. So, yay! Thanks to everyone involved.

Back to layout tests, now: the other half is currently skipped because of one of three main reasons:

  • We suck, and the test fails for real, either because we are missing implementation of something it uses (say, JavaScript isolated worlds, which has been recently added), or because our implementation is wrong
  • The test is a render dump, and we did not generate results for it yet
  • We lack functionality to run the test in our DumpRenderTree implementation

The first one is the worst of all. It means we have broken functionality, or lack web compatibility. The second one is less bad, we can usually trust layout, and rendering to be good because most of the rendering code is shared (thought there are exceptions, of course). Render dumps are a special way of representing the render tree as text, and we need to generate our own results because of differences in things such as font sizes. The third one is also pretty bad – it means we cannot test some features; DumpRenderTree is an application that uses the port’s API to run the tests, and provide additional JavaScript API through JavaScriptCore.

If you feel like helping WebKitGTK+, choosing a bunch of these (specially non-render-dump) skipped tests to make them pass could likely be a good first step =).

WebKitGTK+, and the Page Cache

So, one of the things I get to do during work hours for Collabora is to contribute code, and do maintenance tasks for WebKitGTK+, and have been doing so since early last year, working on all kinds of things, from improving the network backend to handle the real-world web, to fixing scrolling problems, while reviewing patches from the many awesome developers who have been joining us (more on that later =D).

One of the big features I have worked on this past month or so, along with Xan Lopez is the Page Cache. The page cache is a feature of web browsers that makes going back, and forward between pages in the same view very fast. It’s better explained in this post, but to summarize, the idea is that instead of destroying all the work you have done since downloading the resources, and having to reparse/rebuild the structures the view uses to display the page from the cached resources, you hit pause on the page, and store the whole thing as is, and when coming back to it, you just hit play. You can see in the video two instances of Epiphany, one with the page cache enabled, one with it disabled. Easy to see which was has it enabled. Thanks to KiBi for the suggestion regarding a page that shows this easily =D.

We initially thought we had this feature enabled, since our initialization functions (that exists since before the current maintainers were involved) did setup the number of desired pages in the cache, but during the hackfest we held in December we found out we were fooled all this time. Enabling the page cache does make going back faster, but also made lots of things become unstable and crash.

Since then, we have been working on figuring out all the problems, and fixing them, using help from adventurous users of in-development software ;D. I believe we’re now at a point in which I can happily declare the GTK+ port has a working page cache in trunk! If you’re interested in the nasty details, bear with me!

Let me go back in time a bit, and show you what problems we had. First, some background: the GTK+ port deviates a lot from the other ports when it comes to scrolling. This is because, when designing this part of the port, Holger Freyther had a very nice idea in mind: that the WebView should be a first-class citizen GTK+ scrollable widget. Meaning it would use GTK+’s adjustments for scrolling, and be able to interact with any parent scrolling widget, be it a GtkScrolledWindow, or a MokoFingerScroll.

We cannot just throw away all the rest of the scrolling code in WebCore, though, that deals with all the details related to interacting with the DOM, and JavaScript code. This means our WebView contains adjustments that need to be set, and unset on our port’s version of WebKit’s own representation of the view, called the FrameView, to interact with it, and to get updates on the bounds of content, and such. For every load, in the non-page-cache case, a new FrameView is created, the previous one is destroyed – this means we need to set the adjustments on every load.

The problem starts when you have the page cache enabled, because the code path used to do what is called “commit” the load of a cached page (that is, start replacing the content that is currently being displayed by the one that should now be displayed) is completely different, and we were not setting the adjustments on this new view, so we started with that.

But all was not well. We were still having weird behaviour with scrollbars disappearing, and becoming the wrong size, and worse, crashes when “back” was hit. We then started investigating in more detail how it is that the page cache does its magic, to try and figure out the source of all evil.

It turns out that when you leave a page that can be cached, the existing FrameView is no longer destroyed – it is stored as is in a CachedFrame to be restored if you go back, and a new one is created for the new page. This was having the undesired effect of having the adjustment be set in more than one FrameView at once, causing all kinds of (predictable, after we knew for real what was going on) unwanted effects. Thus, we reworked the code to make sure the adjustments are only ever set in one FrameView at once, making sure they are unset when the FrameView is being frozen, and reset when it’s being restored from the page cache.

Last, but not least, it was discovered that going back to a page that contained resources with data: URIs (such as Google results pages which contain a small number of image hits) also caused a crash. This was because our network backend was not storing the data: URI in the ResourceResponse objects it fed into WebCore. The page cache relies on those responses to recreate the requests it uses to artificially replay the load when restoring the page from the page cache, so we fixed that as well.

What can be taken from all this? Building browsers is a lot of hard work! I can’t think how we could deal with this level of complexity without the awesome testing suite of WebKit. The good news is all of those issues I talked about in this post are now covered by the automate tests that run as part of the normal buildbot cycle in our bots, so we’re covered for the future, at least for these specific problems =D.