After years struggling to capture a bigger share of the browser market Opera has announced it is dropping its own Presto rendering engine in favor of WebKit -- the same engine used by Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome. The move will happen gradually over the course of 2013 across desktop and mobile products.

The Norwegian firm says that it will show off a WebKit-based version of its Android browser at the Mobile World Congress show in less than two weeks. This and an upcoming desktop counterpart will be based on Chromium, Google's open source project that contains most, but not all, of the code used in Chrome.

Commenting on the decision, CTO Håkon Wium Lie said "The WebKit engine is already very good, and we aim to take part in making it even better. It supports the standards we care about, and it has the performance we need. It makes more sense to have our experts working with the open source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium, rather than developing our own rendering engine further.” Opera will contribute to the WebKit and Chromium projects, and has already submitted a first set of patches to improve multi-column layout.

The moves also responds to the need of improving compatibility with mobile devices, where the company has usually been a strong contender but faces a growing threat as mobile content is widely designed for WebKit alone -- no doubt thanks to the prominence of Chrome and Safari on Android and iOS, respectively. The latter prohibits browsers based on engines other than the Apple-supplied version of Webkit.

With Opera throwing the towel on Presto, the market will be reduced to three major engines: WebKit, Microsoft's Trident, and Mozilla's Gecko. Mozilla developer Robert O'Callahan expressed disappointment with the decision, claiming it will make their job of promoting web standards harder.