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09 May 2011, 09:56

Apple reluctant to release iPhone WebKit source code - Update

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Apple logo Developers are questioning why Apple appears to be reluctant to release the source code to the iPhone's latest WebKit. WebKit is, in part, under an LGPL licence and has historically been released promptly on But in the case of WebKit for iOS 4.3 – which is made up of two components, WebCore and JavaScriptCore – that source has not appeared on the web site; in its place are the words "coming soon". Developer and founder of, Harald Welte, noted the lack of release in a blog posting saying "it cannot be a simple oversight".

iOS 4.3.0 was released on March 10th, 8 weeks ago, and since then iOS 4.3.1 (25 March, bug fixes), iOS 4.3.2 (14 April, SSL certificate blocking) and iOS 4.3.3 (4 May, location database changes) have been released. One of iOS 4.3's features was an update to Mobile Safari to use the Nitro just-in-time compiler for JavaScript to boost performance. That boost is not available to applications that just use the WebKit view as, by design, iOS does not allow third party applications to execute code they have generated. Whether that feature is the reason for Apple's reluctance to release is unknown.

The lack of a source code release for 4.3.x was noted by Welte when he read a blog posting by a fellow developer Zecke which examined the state of WebKit ports. Zecke was specifically writing about the fact that no vendor has fully upstreamed their ports of WebKit. Zecke also noted that prior to 4.3.x, Apple had been providing some implementations of WebCore as .o files.

Welte thinks that the delay in releasing the code is unacceptable, especially as he believes Apple has demonstrated its understanding of its licence obligations in the past and has the process and web site to release the source code. "I think it is time that Apple gets their act together and becomes more straight-forward with LGPL compliance" said Welte.

Update - After this article was published on the 10 May, Apple published the WebCore and JavaScriptCore source code for iOS 4.3, 4.3.1 , 4.3.2 and 4.3.3. Version 4.3 has changes from previous versions, but the only other change in in 4.3.2's WebCore source code.


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