Linux Foundation to host open-source Servo web engine


The Mozilla-born project is built on Rust, and its new parent organization could greatly boost its mission “to provide an independent, modular, embeddable web engine.”

The Linux Foundation announced Tuesday that it was becoming the host of the open-source Servo web engine originally developed at Mozilla. 

Web engines are the core software component of web browsers and are responsible for rendering HTML content into what’s seen on the screen of devices like laptops and smartphones. Numerous webkits exist, like Apple’s WebKit, Google’s Blink, and Mozilla’s Gecko, each of which make up the core of Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, respectively.

Servo, which was programmed in Rust and created at Mozilla in 2012, is historically a key part of Firefox’s development, and “was instrumental in building Mozilla’s Gecko browser engine that powered the launch of the Firefox Quantum web browser in 2017, and is still core to Firefox’s DNA today,” Craig Ross of the Linux Foundation said in a press release.

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Mozilla originally conceived of Servo as a modern, open-source engine that could “take advantage of multicore hardware to improve speed, stability, and responsiveness,” Ross said. Servo speeds page load and improves stability with a parallelized CSS engine and WebRender, a unique rendering engine that approaches drawing web content from the perspective of a modern game engine.

Much of Servo’s speed is also due to being built in Rust. The two projects, the Rust compiler and Servo, grew alongside each other and for a time were the only two large Rust projects in development. 

Rust, Ross said, is built to focus on speed, memory safety, and parallelism, which not only improves its performance but also makes it more secure because Rust programming means Servo presents a smaller attack surface. Rust’s reputation as safe, fast, and simple is well-documented, and is one more reason Servo’s move to the Linux Foundation could be a big one. 

“Servo is the most promising, modern, and open web engine for building applications and immersive experiences using web technologies, and that has a lot to do with the Rust programming language,” said Mike Dolan, senior vice president and general manager of projects at the Linux Foundation.

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Mozilla COO Adam Seligman described Servo’s move as a graduation, and said it will have a chance to thrive and be part of the web’s future. Other major supporters of Servo’s move include Futurewei, Let’s Encrypt, Mozilla, Samsung, and Three.js.

Servo is already running on a variety of devices, including Linux, Windows, macOS, and has been ported to Android, Oculus, Magic Leap, and Microsoft HoloLens. With a high-profile open-source entity like the Linux Foundation behind it Servo’s list of platforms is only likely to grow. 

“The Linux Foundation’s track record for hosting and supporting the world’s most ubiquitous open source technologies makes it the natural home for growing the Servo community and increasing its platform support,” said Alan Jeffrey, technical chair of the Servo project.

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