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Apple opens up open-source effort

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Developers of the KHTML browser engine, which Apple selected more than two years ago as the basis of its Safari browser, in recent months complained that Apple was taking more from their open-source project than it was contributing to it.

Now Apple may have succeeded in mollifying those volunteers with the launch Monday of the WebKit Open Source Project amid a revamp of its open-source practices.

"The Safari team is proud to announce that we are making significant changes in the way we operate, and these changes start today," David Hyatt, an Apple engineer on the Safari project, wrote in his blog on Tuesday. "Going forward we will be engaging actively with the community. Find us on IRC and on the mailing list, jump in, and get involved!"

With the new site, Apple is addressing several complaints from KHTML coders about the lack of transparency in Safari development. Apple launched a CVS (Concurrent Versions System) repository that includes histories of Safari's WebCore browsing framework and JavaScriptCore scripting framework, letting volunteers examine code that was previously withheld from them.

Apple also released the WebCore API (application programming interface) called WebKit into open-source development. Hyatt said Apple would begin tracking bugs in public, and announced the launch of a public mailing list,, and a public IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channel, #webkit on

When Apple chose KHTML as the basis of Safari--bypassing the better-known Mozilla open-source browser project--KDE developers had high hopes that Apple's involvement and investment would jumpstart the project.

KHTML was originally written to work in the Konqueror browser on top of KDE (the K Desktop Environment), an interface for Linux and Unix operating systems.

But two and a half years later, the comparative obscurity with which Apple coders carried out their work left KDE unable or unwilling to implement Apple changes. As a result, the KHTML and WebCore efforts began to diverge, or "fork," in programming parlance.

KDE developers on Tuesday applauded Apple's open-source reformation and expressed hope it would help bring the original and Apple's version closer together.

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