The company announced the news in a press release with the unassuming title 'Opera gears up at 300 million users'. Within it, though, the company announced the biggest change to its product since... Well, since its inception, I suppose. Since 1996, the year in which the first public release of Opera took place (version 2.0), the browser has been based on its own custom rendering engine.
"The WebKit engine is already very good, and we aim to take part in making it even better. It supports the standards we care about, and it has the performance we need," Opera's CTO, Håkon Wium Lie, sates in the press release, "It makes more sense to have our experts working with the open source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium, rather than developing our own rendering engine further. Opera will contribute to the WebKit and Chromium projects, and we have already submitted our first set of patches: to improve multi-column layout."
He added that "the shift to WebKit means more of our resources can be dedicated to developing new features and the user-friendly solutions that can be expected from a company that invented so many of the features that are today being used by everyone in the browser industry".
Even though it feels like the end of an era, and even though I'd much rather see more browsing engines than less, the fact of the matter is that Opera is a company, and they need to stay afloat and make money. This is a very sensible approach to reducing costs, while at the same time making it easier to play a role on smartphones and tablets.
For me, though, Opera will always be that one program I downloaded right away whenever I inaugurated a new BeOS installation. For that alone Opera, and its quirky, unique, and custom engine, will forever have secured a place in my heart. One thing though, Opera: we can has git repo for Presto please?