Chrome Content View: Compilation, Comparison and Thoughts

One thing that we get asked a lot is whether Cordova should bring along its own WebKit when running on Android. The reason for this is pretty obvious to everyone at this point, especially those poor users stuck on Android 2.x. If you're an Android 2.x user and you went to, you would see something like this:

Yeah, that's pretty bad, and it doesn't get a lot better when we go to Android 4.1.

Of course, those are the WebViews that we have access to. If you compare them to Chrome:

Or you compare it with Silk on the Amazon Kindle Fire HD:

It just gets depressing. We know that it's possible to have Webkit not suck on Android, but since the Android Team neglected the browser, we have to get desperate and do crazy things like build our own. The most reasonable candidate for us is to hack on Chromium, and the only thing that I can get building was the Chromium content view. So, I took my personal Ubuntu 12.10 machine, followed these instructions here, and after fixing a header I got this installed on my phone.

Now, that's a good score. Sadly, this is a debug build so the performance on it is rather slow, but it does show what's possible on mobile.  It's actually comparable to what's on a desktop version of Chrome minus WebGL according to this test.

However, the reality of the matter is something different.  Currently if you took the Chrome ContentView to and tried to use any of the Adobe examples, the application would currently crash.

As far as us getting Cordova working on it, that's going to take a lot of time, since the ContentView is structured very differently than the Android SDK's WebView, and it's not ready for primetime. Anything that we do will be a hack, and not suitable for the Android Market or anywhere else right now. Hopefully in a few month's time, we can get something more solid and be able to have better WebViews on Android.