Apple Finalizes Safari 4 - InformationWeek

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Apple Finalizes Safari 4

Added to the Web browser are Web standards like HTML 5, advanced CSS Effects, and enhancements that help JavaScript code run faster.

Apple on Monday put the finishing touches on and released its Safari Web browser as a free download for Windows and Macintosh computers.

Version 4.0, which debuted in beta back in February, adds several of Apple's interface enhancements including Cover Flow and its Full History Search. New to the open source WebKit browser engine is the addition of Web standards like HTML 5 and advanced CSS Effects. Similar to Apple's iPhone Web page views, Safari 4 adds Full Page Zoom for a closer look at any Web site without degrading the quality of the site's layout and text.

Apple said Safari 4 is the first browser to pass the Web Standards Project's Acid3 test, which examines how well a browser adheres to CSS, JavaScript, XML, and SVG standards that are specifically designed for dynamic Web applications.

"The successful beta release helped us fine-tune Safari 4 into an even better, faster version that customers are going to love," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior VP of worldwide product marketing during the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

One area Safari has been enhanced is in the area of speed. Apple said Safari 4 features what it calls a Nitro engine, which runs JavaScript up to 4.5 times faster than Safari 3. Apple claims independent testing shows Safari 4 executes JavaScript nearly eight times faster than Internet Explorer 8 and more than four times faster than Firefox 3. Safari also loads HTML Web pages more than three times faster than IE 8 and three times faster than Firefox 3, the company said.

The browser is also expected to improve its performance with the release of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, available in September. Apple said the 64-bit capabilities of the upcoming operating system help the Web application render images and run scripts even faster.

Despite the speed claims, the Web browser is one area where Apple has been lagging behind the rest of the field, according to recent independent market research figures. Microsoft's Internet Explorer lead continues to erode, although it still holds onto a 60% market share. Mozilla Firefox has captured 30% of the market and is on the rise, while Apple and Google trail Opera slightly with a 4% share of the browser market.

Schiller said Safari is currently used by 70 million users worldwide.

Safari 4 for Mac OS X requires Mac OS X Leopard v10.5.7 or Mac OS X Tiger v10.4.11 and Security Update 2009-002, and a minimum 256 MB of memory.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on increasing application performance. Download the report here (registration required).

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