I want to trace the development of the web browser back to the earliest point.

The code that would become WebKit began in 1998 as the KDE HTML (KHTML) layout engine and KDE JavaScript (KJS) engine.

-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebKit

KHTML itself came into existence on November 4, 1998,[5] as a fork of the khtmlw library

-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KHTML

Anyone know where I can find the earliest repos?

  • 3
    The oldest I could fit on github was 1.4, and dates back to 2011 : github.com/WebKit/WebKit/tree/webkitgtk/1.4
    – Olivier
    Sep 11, 2023 at 16:08
  • 4
    You could check out CD-ROM images of contemporary Linux distributions that used KDE. Archive.org has a lot of them. Sep 11, 2023 at 16:15
  • For Mozilla family see here: unix.stackexchange.com/questions/40852/…
    – vaughan
    Sep 11, 2023 at 18:07
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    I rather like this question, since, while specific, it's also valuable for the more general question: how do you find historical versions of open source software. In theory, it's all been version controlled from near the beginning, but in practice it's not obvious how to find that beginning, or if that beginning even still exists in any meaningful way.
    – Dranon
    Sep 11, 2023 at 19:32
  • 3
    @Dranon many projects were not version controlled, or not publicly version controlled, and published only through tarballs of releases published on Usenet or FTP sites; those can be quite difficult to track down now. Some current projects with public repositories are still not really publicly version controlled (and perhaps not really version controlled at all, at least as most people understand VCS-backed development); see for example Bash where the repository only tracks release artifacts, not separate meaningful changes. Sep 12, 2023 at 7:45

1 Answer 1


As luck would have it, in 2016 one of the KDE developers reassembled the 1.1.2 release of KDE, i.e. the endpoint of KDE 1.

From that rerelease you can find the KDE 1 version of khtmlw.

As per the modification dates, some of these files have been updated to build in the [then-]modern world. But checking the commit history, commit bffedd0 appears to have been the final change made to khtmlw for KDE 1, back in 1999. So you can clone the repository and check out that commit to undo the modern alterations if desired.

Commit history otherwise seems to extend back to Apr 13, 1997 so all intermediate versions between then and 1999 should be available.

  • 1
    Further history of khtml can be found on github.com/KDE/kdelibs khtml directory, from Nov 4 1998 to Aug 9 2017 (up to KDE 4), and then on invent.kde.org/frameworks/khtml from Dec 18 2013 up to now (KDE Frameworks 5, it will no longer be developed on KDE Frameworks 6, which will only be able to use Qt WebEngine).
    – ninjalj
    Sep 13, 2023 at 14:24

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