Get the Original: Because Steve Says So T-Shirt
Your one stop Mac spot

Warning: file() [function.file]: php_network_getaddresses: getaddrinfo failed: Name or service not known in /homepages/30/d186991128/htdocs/MacBlogzStaging/wp-content/themes/macblogz/header.php on line 101

Warning: file(http://download.finance.yahoo.com/d/quotes.csv?s=AAPL&f=sl1d1t1c1ohgv&e=.csv) [function.file]: failed to open stream: Success in /homepages/30/d186991128/htdocs/MacBlogzStaging/wp-content/themes/macblogz/header.php on line 101
AAPL: 0.00 ( . )

Blog

Safari 4: Three Steps Forward, One Step Back

With the new Safari 4 release, Apple aims to increase its web browser market share while innovating new features and cool new enhancements to what it calls “the fastest browser on the planet.” Indeed the new browser is speedy, but with every step forward Apple takes towards open-standards and accelerating its javascript engine, the more it misses out on global market share with a need for a plugin directory.

If you missed the opening animation that Safari 4 played when you first opened the new beta, most of it was done with HTML 5 and CSS 3 web standards. Apple has always been on the forefront when it comes to pushing for open web standards. Mobile Me and iWork.com both use a heavy dose of Ajax, coupled with frameworks like Sproutcore and high level data-interchange formats such as JSON. As Adobe spends its time fruitlessly developing and trying to further the necessity of Flash, Apple seems to shun the idea altogether. Out of all the platforms and all the web browsers available today, Flash arguably performs the worst in Safari on Mac OS X. With Safari 4, Apple has once again made it clear that open standards are where their intentions lie, and the necessity of Flash remains solely in the ubiquity of its video format, which Apple seems poised to take over as well with its own H.264 format.

Safari 4 brings in a host of new features and visual enhancements. The Top Sites feature was ripped straight from Google Chrome in which a user can see his most visited sites “at-a-glance” – and the same goes for the new “tabs on top” feature in which users can tear off tabs into new pages, or click the “+” sign to open up a new tab, which conveniently displays your “top sites.”

safari4

Cover Flow is a new addition to Safari which lets users navigate their site history through a visual slideshow of images. As Apple puts it, “Cover Flow offers a highly visual way of reviewing your site history and bookmarked sites, presenting full-page previews of the websites that look exactly as they did when you last visited them.” Even though this feature is nice and provides some slick eye candy, it’s not very useful, and barely performs on Windows machines with the new Safari 4 running, at least not fast enough to be enjoyable. It seems that even though the addition of Cover Flow was most likely cakewalk for Safari’s developers, the resources could have been spent on more important additions to the browser. Like the diversification of plugins available that can extend Safari’s usefulness.

Safari is built upon Apple’s WebKit browser engine, and at this point it’s safe to say that Apple’s javascript engine (newly renamed to Nitro instead of SquirrelFish) is the fastest around. As Apple claims in the Press Release, Safari is the “first browser to support advanced CSS Effects that enable highly polished web graphics using reflections, gradients and precision masks. 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 web standards that are specifically designed for dynamic web applications.” And in terms of speed, Safari blows away Firefox on OS X. The sheer snappiness and accelerated load times remain the sole reason we religiously use both Firefox and Safari together.

Overall, Safari 4 is a good step forward on the visual side of things, and the newly crowned “Nitro” javascript engine is incredibly speedy. But the lack of extendible plugins and cross-platform stability make it a bit too shaky for most to use as a primary browser, even if were not in beta. Additionally, the developer plugin Firebug remains a daily necessity for us, so it looks like while Safari got a little bit faster, sadly we still have to use both.

Comments [10]

10 Comments to “Safari 4: Three Steps Forward, One Step Back”

Scott Paterson @ February 24th, 2009 at 3:44 pm
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

Accept most of the points you raise here, however I think the argument about lack of plugin architecture for Safari is a moot point for 90%+ of Mac users. Yes web designers and power users will have need for the widgets that can be added to browsers like Firefox but in practice most users will be happily oblivious of the use of these tools. As usual Apple are out to target the majority and not the minority, they want the experience to be seamless, reliable and consistent for all. Not allowing users to plugin potentially flaky third party addons is one way of attempting to ensure this.

If you need plugins as you say continue to run both browsers ( in reality you would probably do this even IF Safari allowed them ).

Reply

Aviv @ February 24th, 2009 at 3:49 pm
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

@Scott: Well, I take your opinions into account, however, I think you’re wrong when you say that even if Safari offered me the plugins, I would use both browsers. That’s not correct… You see, Firefox is also very shaky on OS X. And the UI bonks out periodically, the tabs take a while to load up, and the rendering engine is just MUCH slower than what’s now being called “Nitro.”

In fact, there’s a tutorial here on how drastically ( http://snipurl.com/cl38h ) speed up Firefox, but it still lags behind Safari in terms of speed.

The bottom line is that Firefox’s stability and compatibility with web-apps is greater than Safari’s. For example, go into the editor in any Wordpress admin area and try and crop/resize an image in the visual editor, now go try the same thing in Safari…. This is a small example of how Safari’s quirks can throw a wrench into any deep web application productivity or browsing session.

I will give it to FF for their new UI which tries to be more consistent across platforms. However, the bottom line remains that Apple needs to open up a bit here. It’s not just that they preach open web standards, this is a WEB BROWSER, they need to be setting an example, not running it like a niche IM application.

Reply

Aviv @ February 24th, 2009 at 3:59 pm
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

I also am not particularly keen on the fact that the entire LOADING BAR was removed in favor of a loading.gif on the right of the URL. Talk about a split second moment confusion during what should be a natural interaction with a tactile button. I think if Apple wants to have as little “options” as they can, then the entire blue loading bar needs to come back within the URL bar.

Reply

hmurchison @ February 24th, 2009 at 6:05 pm
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

Actually Apple did not rip the idea for Top Sites from Google. Opera had a thumbnail landing page for your most visited sites way before Google Chrome was even known about.

Reply

Aviv @ February 24th, 2009 at 7:29 pm
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

@hmurchison: True. But I think Opera made some mistakes in the past when it was a commercial product and for the most part, Chrome made the “tabs and the bookmarks” publicly known… At least recently. But, you’re right, Opera had it first.

Reply

Michael @ February 25th, 2009 at 9:27 am
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

Simplicity is what makes Safari the browser it is. Plug-ins be damned. I don’t think Apple cares about ‘Safari’ market share at this point. All they are really interested in is making sure WebKit continues to gain adoption. This insures the proliferation of web standards, which is, in the end, what Apple is really pushing.

Personally don’t care for any of the new user-oriented visual features in Safari 4 and I thank god Apple left them as hidden switchable preferences. The performance enhancements and search functions however, are very much welcomed.

Reply

Aviv @ February 25th, 2009 at 10:28 am
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

@Michael: 100% agreed. The blue loading bar was driving me nuts, didn’t mind the tabs on top so much so I left them. But, I turned the blue-loading bar back on. Major oversight on Apple’s part.

Reply

Anonymous Coward @ February 25th, 2009 at 1:53 pm
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

Oh man, that was awesome. I just sprayed all over my MBP from my nose. The best part was when Michael said: “I don’t think Apple cares about ‘Safari’ market share at this point. All they are really interested in is making sure WebKit continues to gain adoption. This insures the proliferation of web standards, which is, in the end, what Apple is really pushing.”

As if Apple cares about ANYTHING besides market share and profitability. Don’t delude yourself into thinking they are more concerned about pushing Webkit or OSS or any other holy-cause-of-the-week for its own sake. THEY ARE A PUBLICLY TRADED COMPANY. The bottom line is the ONLY line. Wise up.

Reply

Bryan @ February 27th, 2009 at 4:28 pm
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

There are a few plugins that I would like to see come to safari 4. I was concerned about not having Firebug as well until i came across the Develop menu which includes something called “Show Web Inspector”. This does pretty much everything firebug does and more.

You have to turn this on in your preferences and it is awesome. Check it out.

The best thing about Safari 4 so far for me has been how snappy web pages load. I am definitely going to give Safari a try for a while.

Reply

Mark Wheadon @ March 13th, 2009 at 1:00 am
 Add karma Subtract karma  +0

If, like me, you find you need to back out of Safari 4 beta and go back to 3.2.1, then here’s how:

http://www.markwheadon.com/blog/2009/02/how-to-back-out-of-safari-4beta/

Cheers,

Mark

Reply