WebKit is developed on an open-source basis, with nightly builds available for download. These contain the latest experimental features, protocol support and code – bringing your WebKit-powered applications totally up to date. The latest versions of WebKit are faster and more feature-packed than the ‘official’ release provided by Apple. That’s the plus side. However, the open-source WebKit framework is in constant development and may contain code errors and bugs. You can either embrace that and become an active bug reporter for the project or grit your teeth when one of your WebKit applications crashes.
Fortunately, WebKit’s nightly builds don’t replace Safari or Dashboard’s HTML rendering system. The framework has to be specifically invoked from the terminal. For example, to launch Safari with the latest WebKit framework you use the specially compiled WebKit.app. It’s identical to the standard Safari icon apart from a lick of gold leaf around the compass. That means you can download WebKit builds and use the experimental version of Safari without making your system unstable.
WebKit is more than just a special version of Safari though. Xcode programmers and Dashboard coders may want to use it to make sure their widgets will work in future versions of Mac OS. Recently, Google released version 1.2 of its open-source AJAX application development environment Web ToolKit, with Mac support provided by WebKit. You can find it at code.google.com/webtoolkit/.
Best of all, whether you’re a curious surfer or serious about building tomorrow’s web applications, WebKit will cost you nothing.