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Interview: Kenneth Rohde Christiansen

Kenneth Rohde Christiansen will give a talk about "Qt Webkit goes Mobile" at FOSDEM 2011.

Could you briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Kenneth Rohde Christiansen. I am a 31 year old Dane, who recently moved back to Denmark after living abroad for more than 6 years (Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil). I currently work in the Application and Service Framework department of Nokia, which houses a.o. Qt Development Frameworks.

I have always been attracted to technology and computers, and so I got into web site development and programming when the web was in its infantry. Soon I got acquainted with Linux; I didn't have any clue what open source was, and the real reason I installed it was due to my interest in exploring technology. I loved it from day one, but it annoyed me that there was no nice consistent user experience, so I joined the GNOME effort. I was a pretty rookie at that time, but I tried to contribute with whatever that I could.

I put a bit of my open source work aside and concentrated on finishing my degree in the Netherlands, and after finishing my thesis in Germany, I moved to Brazil to work for the Nokia Technology Institute, also known as INDT (Instituto Nokia de Tecnologia). It was a great experience for me, nice colleagues, great projects and I finally got to use Python which I had wanted to get acquainted with for some time. The institute was mostly focusing on the Maemo products such as the N770, N810, etc, so there were a lot of opportunities to work with the open source community and develop using Linux.

I joined the concept team and we developed many prototypes, and some free open-source products such as the once-popular Canola media player; I even made it to Gizmodo once when we were exploring technologies for developing some of our products. I also did a map application with turn navigation for Canola, but that was unfortunately never released.

After moving from one concept to another, I was asked to assess how long it would take to port WebKit to the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries. We have had a team looking into that but without much progress and one of our concepts was depending on it. I saw that as a huge opportunity. I had wanted to work on some open source product for some time instead of some concept that seldom made it, and I had long admired the WebKit project. I gave a bit unrealistic estimate, but I ended up having something basic working in around one months time, and soon after we even had Flash working :-)

With the acquisition of Trolltech by Nokia, I moved to the Qt WebKit project. I had never used Qt before, due to being an ignorant GNOME fanboy ;-) but man did I like what I saw. The Qt WebKit team in Oslo was very welcoming and it was a great learning experience for me. I soon became a core member of the team and really felt that I made valuable contributions. Things started to gain pace. My team in Brazil grew a lot and I was travelling more and more, and even giving WebKit related presentations at the Qt Developer Days.

Since then I have moved back to Denmark, to help shape our WebKit / HTML5 story inside Nokia and I believe that our new team is making some great progress. Not much that I can say about that now, but stay tuned!

What will your talk be about, exactly?

My talk will be about how to bring the web to mobile devices, looking from a browser's point of view. Mobile devices are becoming more and more popular, and I believe that mobile computers and tablets will take over a lot of the traditional laptop/netbook market and even move into new markets. It is obvious that for Nokia this is what really matters and for that reason we have been concentrating a lot on adapting our WebKit engine so that it not only fits the desktop story, but behaves very well on mobile devices as well. This is also very important for the MeeGo project.

During the talk I will show some of the issues we have had to tackle and how we have gone about that. I hope it will be very interesting for people to know how mobile browsers work and what sets them apart from their desktop relatives.

What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk? What do you expect?

I hope to get people interested in web technology and in the mobile platform. Many open source developers are working on the Linux desktop and it would be nice if some of these would start exploring mobile alternatives such as MeeGo. Of course, getting more Qt WebKit contributors wouldn't be a bad thing either :-)

Qt WebKit is a very powerful engine, and it is quite easy to embed web usage in your apps. It even spots a hybrid approach where you can extend the engine from C++, so that you can access your C++ methods from the web view runtime. Quite powerful and used a.o. by Netflix on the Roku and the PS3, using a custom port. Sencha, who enabled people to easily create great iPhone/Android apps using HTML5, are also using Qt WebKit to power their Sencha Animator product which allows for creating CSS3 animations instead of using Flash.

It is quite nice for us to see Qt WebKit being put to such great usages, and it would be wonderful to see open source developers making such great use of it as well. The nice things about the project being open source is that companies as the above have contributed their patches back to the upstream project.

What's so attractive about Qt WebKit for mobile platforms?

Qt WebKit, is to my belief the 3rd most well maintained port of WebKit in existence. We have a great team of dedicated developers working on it almost 24/7, due to quite a devotion from our developers. In difference to the iOS and Android port, we are trying to work upstream as much as possible, ensuring that our port is always up to date with the newest development happening in WebKit.

Lately a lot of work has gone into making sure that Qt WebKit is fully capable of powering a mobile browser, by looking into the mobile use cases and by doing a lot of performance work. We will be continuing this work, but also making sure that Qt WebKit works well for the desktop.

How many developers are working on Qt WebKit?

Hard to say :-) We have a lot of people using Qt WebKit and contributing patches, but our core Qt team is around 10-15 people, depending on how you count them.

Which new features will we see in Qt WebKit 2.1 and 2.2?

Touch events, geolocation support, viewport meta tag, just to name a few. Please take a look at our overview page of Qt WebKit 2.1 and our overview page of Qt WebKit 2.2 to track our work, or look at our release blog.

We are not only working on these releases, but we are also doing a lot of research work on a brand new WebKit2 port, that will probably complement our WebKit1 API at some point in the near future. As with our WebKit1 API, we are making sure that it tackles all mobile requirements.

Have you enjoyed previous FOSDEM editions?

Yes, I have endeed! I have been to FOSDEM twice and both times it was a joy. I am very excited to come back as that is probably around 6 years ago :-) I guess that the conference has grown a lot since then.

Creative Commons License
This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Belgium License.