A quick look at browser engines (Trident, Gecko, WebKit, Presto)

September 10, 2008

For the better part of the last 10 years, browsing the Internet for most meant using Internet Explorer. However, the recent release of Google Chrome as well as the continued popularity of Firefox, Safari and Opera have given users unprecedented choice in what software to use. But, most users don’t know much about the engines and technology that actually powers their particular web browser.

Without an engine, all you’d see when you visit any website, would be the raw HTML, CSS, and javascript that our developers use to create the site. Sure, you’d also be able to find the content hidden deep within all those tags and instructions, but not in a pleasing format and without any multimedia enhancements. The browser’s engine is what takes all of that code and renders the information for you, on the fly.

Today, most of the Internet is rendered by four main browser engines. Trident, Gecko, WebKit and Presto. Here’s a brief overview of these engines, where they came from and who’s using them.


Popular Browsers & Applications: Internet Explorer, Avant Browser, Maxathon, Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, AOL Browser
License: Closed-Source
Acid2 Compatible: Yes ( In version VI included in Internet Explorer 8 )
Acid3 Compatible: No
Operating Systems: Windows
Major Contributors: Microsoft
Share: Prior to 2004, 95% of browsers on the Internet, now approx 70%.
First Released: April 1997

First released with Internet Explorer 4.0 and still in use today, Trident was designed as a software component to allow software developers to easily (and freely) add web browsing functionality to their own Windows applications. The overwhelming majority of third party developers that integrate web browsing into their software use the Trident engine (mshtml.dll) such as Avant Browser and Maxathon as well as programs such as AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, Valve Steam, Pandion and many others. 

However, a few notable Microsoft products no longer use Trident as their rendering engine, which may be an indication Microsoft is developing a replacement for the now 11 year old engine. Expression Web uses its own engine which Microsoft claims is the most standards-compliant on the market today. Internet Explorer Mobile also does not use Trident, but a engine custom developed for the Windows Mobile platform. 

Internet Explorer 5 for Mac did not use the Trident engine, but a custom engine known as Tasman, although previous versions of Internet Explorer for Mac did use Trident. Development of Internet Explorer for Mac was halted in roughly 2003, but development of Tasman continued to a limited extent, and was later included in Office 2004 for Mac in their Entourage product.

It had been rumored that Tasman would replace Trident in Internet Explorer 7, but as of the Internet Explorer 8 beta, Trident is still Microsoft’s engine of choice.


Popular Browsers & Applications: Firefox, Camino, Flock, Thunderbird, Seamonkey, Epiphany, NVU, Netscape, K-Meleon
License: Open-Source
Acid2 Compatible: Yes
Acid3 Compatible: No
Operating Systems: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux/BSD
Major Contributors: Mozilla Corporation, Netscape (originally)
Share: Approx 20%
First Released: December 1998

Development of the Gecko layout engine began at Netscape in 1997. The original Netscape rendering engine was considered to be slow and not compliant with W3C standards, compared to the one used in Microsoft Internet Explorer at the time. Ironically, today these are two complaints now typically directed at the Trident engine used by Internet Explorer. First called Raptor, this name was changed to NGLayout due to trademark issues. Netscape later changed the name to Gecko. In July 2003, AOL (which had purchased Netscape in 1998) spun off development of the Gecko engine to the Mozilla Foundation.

Because Gecko (and the popular Firefox browser that drives it’s development) are open source, other companies use it to develop their own browsers and applications. Gecko is now seen by some developers as a superior alternative to the Trident engine because it is cross platform and also lacks many of the security vurnalibilties of the more popular Trident engine.


Popular Browsers & Applications: Safari, Chrome, Adobe AIR, iCab, Epiphany (experimental), Konqueror (KHTML)
License: Open-Source
Acid2 Compatible: Yes
Acid3 Compatible: Yes
Operating Systems: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux/BSD
Major Contributors: WebKit Foundation, Apple, Nokia, Adobe, Google, KDE Team (originally)
Share: Approx 7%
First Released: January 2003 (forked from KHTML, which was first released in October 2000)

The first applications based on KHTML were released in October 2000 by the KDE team, around their Konqueror file and web browser. WebKit was forked from the Konqueror browser’s KHTML library, by Apple, Inc., for use as the engine of Safari web browser. 

Google’s recently released Chrome browser, along with the upcoming Android mobile phone platform, also use WebKit as their browser engine. WebKit is used on the iPhone and iPod touch to render content within the device’s web browser and email software. Adobe also uses the WebKit engine to render HTML & javascript inside of Adobe AIR applications. The team behind the browser Epiphany announced in April 2008 that it will use WebKit exclusively, and stop using the Gecko layout engine. Epiphany is a web browser for the GNOME desktop used by Linux.


Popular Browsers & Applications: Opera Desktop/Mobile/Mini, Nintendo DS, Wii Internet Channel, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX and above, Adobe CS 2 and above
License: Closed-Source
Acid2 Compatible: Yes
Acid3 Compatible: Yes
Operating Systems: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux/BSD
Major Contributors: Opera Software
Share: Less than 2%
First Released: November 2002

Presto is the code name for the engine for the Opera web browser developed by Opera Software replacing the Elektra engine used in versions 4–6 of the browser. Unlike Trident, Gecko and WebKit… Preseto is available only as a part of Opera browser or related products. Neither the source or binary forms of the engine are freely available for integration into third party products.

Adobe has licensed Opera technology for use in the Adobe Creative Suite applications, however, given Adobe’s recent promotion of WebKit inside of AIR, their use of Presto technology in CS should be short lived. 

Source: neowin.net (Posted by: Michael Stanclift)


25 Responses to “A quick look at browser engines (Trident, Gecko, WebKit, Presto)”

  1. […] X, Linux/BSD Major Contributors: Opera Software Share: Less than 2% First Released: November 2002 Read the full details Elayidom Blog Archive A quick look at browser engines (Trident, Gecko, WebKit, […]

  2. […] admin wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptEpiphany is a web browser for the GNOME desktop used by Linux. Presto. Popular Browsers & Applications: Opera Desktop/Mobile/Mini, Nintendo DS, Wii Internet Channel, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX and above, Adobe CS 2 and above … […]

  3. anonymous Says:

    I have msie, sleipnir and firefox. On a dual boot ubuntu system. Firefox is fast, sleipnir (trident) is 2nd and horrid ole ms i last, but still the default, it’s handy.

  4. Tech Expert Says:

    FIRST OF ALL, the browser “Maxathon” is actually “MAXTHON”, Please use spell check before saving changes when you type.

  5. I have never heard of the Presto engine before. I thought there was only 3 engines for web browsers,Trident,Gecko and webkit. So I have learned something here from this useful post. And I have found out that Opera is made from the Presto engine not webkit like I thought it was. I have webkit browsers,Chromium and Arora and they are fine. But I never got on with Opera as I always had problems with it. Now I know that Opera is not a webkit browser,maybe thats why. As perhaps Presto is not compatible with my Windows 7. That could be why Opera does not work well.Andrea Borman.

  6. tommyfun Says:

    excellent write up of the major rendering engines

  7. Thank you for the information. Just one question: what is the rendering engine of RIM’s BlackBerry and on Samsung phones prior to their Android lineup and what is the Android browser actually?

  8. Samuel Says:

    Interesting indeed.
    I have some questions though.
    How does Valve use Trident ? Is Steam using Trident only as the web-browser?

    Are there other alternatives out there? I think there should be at least some other home-made engines. I have read that for example, Shenz Browser ( http://www.shenz.com/browsersite/B2.htm ) uses it own engine.

  9. Blackberry Says:

    I want to” slide” the link perfectly obvious.
    Priced Competitively: These larger and newer tablets are a
    bit more difficult for itself moving forward. The question, then, is whether anyone remaining in
    Apple’s top ranks has enough of a back to continually stand up to Apple’s numbers, and you can install everything and anything onto a laptop.
    Then it made that ipad obsolete by releasing a fourth-generation ipad yesterday.

  10. gary Says:

    Please compile an update. This is 5 years old and Chrome is #1 by far,

  11. Ich bräuchte einen Experten auf dem Themengebiet, der
    mir gegen Bezahlung die Fragen geklärt. Hätte da noch ein paar Fragen zu spezifischen Punkten.

  12. Julianne Says:

    Haben Sie einen rss feed, den ich abonnieren kann?
    Ansprechende Erläuterung, Sie haben einen neuen
    Leser dazugewonnen.

  13. Hätte da noch diverse Fragen zu einzelnen Punkten.
    Ich bräuchte einen Spezialisten auf dem Gebiet, der mir
    gegen Bezahlung die Fragen geklärt.

  14. Eunice Says:

    Dieser Blog war sehr hilfreich. Sie sind fesselnd! Toll, jemanden gefunden zu haben, der zum thema einen Gesamtüberblick hat.
    Echt, mannigfaltigen Dank, dass Sie das her offerieren.
    Davon benötigt das World wide web mehr. Personen mit ein wenig mehr

  15. Hallo Personen, hab gerade bei Google Alerts von diesem Blog erfahren und finde ihn
    überaus informativ. Ich denke, dass viele Personen davon profitieren können.

  16. Charis Says:

    Ich denke, dass zahlreiche Leute davon profitieren können.
    Hallo Menschen, hab gerade bei Google Alerts von diesem Blog erfahren
    und finde ihn überaus informativ. Danke.

  17. RalfMC Says:

    @Tech Expert: Please do tell which spell checker knows ‘Maxthon’. Anyway, the typo has not yet been fixed…

  18. dimi Says:

    How i can replace MS with Gecko engine in c#

  19. […] If you're a GNU / Linux Desktop user like me and you have to administrate hybrid server environments running mixture of MS Windows with Microsoft IIS webserver running active server pages (.ASP) developed application or UNIX / GNU Linux servers web applications using Mono as a server-side language, often you need to have browser which properly supports  Internet Explorer Trident web (layout) renderer (also famous as MSHTML). […]

  20. here Says:

    I like reading an article that will make people think.
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

  21. website Says:

    Hello! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers?
    I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any tips?

  22. $19.79 Says:

    I have read so many articles or reviews regarding the blogger lovers except this piece of writing is truly a nice post, keep it up.

  23. How can i use webkit for youtube browsing and watching videos online in webbrowser made in visual studio 2012

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