Apple Debuts Safari 5 to Extend Web Browsing

Apple incorporates new HTML5, developer tools, performance and reader capabilities in the latest iteration of its Safari Web browser.

Apple's new iPhone 4 stole the headlines this week, but it wasn't the company's only big news coming out of its Worldwide Developers Conference. On Monday, Apple also officially released the Safari 5 Web browser for both Mac and Windows users.

The new Safari 5 browser debuts as competition in the market for new browsers using the latest HTML5 technologies continues to heat up. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) recently released Chrome 5, while Mozilla Firefox is nearing its 3.6.4 release. In the meantime, Microsoft is working on IE 9.

A key weapon for all the browser vendors in their push for more users is the performance measure. According to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Safari 5 has a 30 percent increase in JavaScript performance over Safari 4, which debuted a year ago. At the heart of Safari 5's JavaScript speed is Apple's Nitro JavaScript engine, which was first included in Safari 4 and now has been improved.

Beyond just JavaScript engine improvements, Safari 5 includes DNS prefetching, a technique that helps to accelerate the Web browsing experience. Mozilla has had DNS prefetching capabilities since at least the Firefox 3.5 release.

For developers, Apple is expanding its support for HTML5 standards in Safari 5, building on the initial video support provided in the previous version. Among the new HTML5 standards supported in Safari 5 are geolocation for browser location awareness, draggable attributes and HTML5 forms validation.

Developers will also now be able to more easily extend Apple's Web browser thanks to the new Safari Developer Program. That effort includes the Extension Builder, which Apple is using to offering to developers as a simplified method of writing extensions for the browser using HTML 5 standards.

Going a step farther, Apple is also making extensions safer for users to run. Safari 5 will run extensions in a sandboxed environment, meaning they won't crash the entire browser if they fail. Google has implemented a similar method in its Chrome browser.

Both developers and users will also now benefit from improved visibility into how Web pages actually work within the browser with the new Timeline features in Safari 5's Web Inspector. According to Apple, the timeline feature will provide users with information on loading, scripting, and rendering times demonstrating how Safari works with a particular Web application.

Apple is also aiming to improve the readability of Web content with the new Safari Reader feature, which allows users to click an icon to trigger an optimized view of the Web page.

"Safari continues to lead the pack in performance, innovation and standards support," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement. "Safari now runs on over 200 million devices worldwide and its open source WebKit engine runs on over 500 million devices."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: browsers, Firefox, Google, Apple, Safari

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