Adobe has begun putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to improving Web page design.
Today, the first bit of Adobe-written code landed in the WebKit browser engine project, an early step to try to bring magazine-style layouts to Web pages using an extension to today's CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) technology. Adobe calls the technology CSS Regions.
The move begins fulfilling a plan Adobe announced in May to build the technology into WebKit and--if the company can persuade others to embrace it--furthers Adobe's ambition to standardize the advanced CSS layout mechanism.
WebKit is the browser engine within Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome, among others, but inclusion in the software doesn't guarantee those browsers will adopt it. Google, however, is helping shepherd the technology, so it seems likely at least Chrome will get it, and inclusion in the main WebKit code base makes it easy for others to do so.
CSS--in particular the present CSS3 version under development--is a major frontier for more sophisticated Web pages. Recent CSS advances include downloadable fonts and animations that can move elements around a Web page, and hardware acceleration arriving in browsers is making its use faster and less battery-taxing.
Adobe's move is notable given how important a competing technology, its own Flash Player, is to the company. Adobe argues it's a toolmaker that offers multiple tools, but the WebKit work signifies a more active role in Web technology. The WebKit contribution shows it's putting a priority on improving Web publishing's foundations.
Mihnea Ovidenie, part of Adobe's Romania-based WebKit team, contributed the CSS patch, and Google Chrome programmer Kent Tamura approved it. The patch itself is very basic--just a WebKit build system update to let people enable or disable the CSS feature.
For those who don't want to wait for all the patches to be approved in WebKit, Adobe makes a custom version of WebKit available on Adobe Labs for those who want to try CSS Regions and its close cousin, CSS Exclusions.
Web standards are developed through a push-me-pull-you method with browser makers introducing new technology at the same time standards groups try to settle it down. That can produce some chaos, but it also ensures Web developers have had a chance to test the ideas in the real world before they get baked into a standard.