Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Apple releases Nitro-supercharged Safari 4 public beta

Safari 4 has been available as a beta browser for some time, though Safari 3 was the browser download of choice. With today's official public beta announcement, the main Safari download page takes you to the Safari 4 download link. Users wanting Safari 3 must click an additional link to reach that download page, now considered a historical release.

Apple said that its new Nitro JavaScript engine (based on WebKit) runs JavaScripts up to 4.2 times faster than its Safari 3 predecessor, 30 times faster than IE7 and three times faster than Firefox 3, at least according to Apple. Safari 4 was the first browser to pass the Acid3 web compatibility test with a perfect score a few months back while still in beta. And now it is the first final version of a browser to support this functionality. But while there are lots of new features, Apple missed putting more focus on security, which has been heavily criticized in the past.

Apple has added several new features to Safari. The hefty 25.5 MB package (excluding Quicktime) now includes a new preview of frequently visited pages called Top Sites, a full history search (Opera has had this for some time), Cover Flow -- to flip through the web history and bookmarks, as well as improved tabbed browsing.

Safari 4 also includes HTML 5 support for offline technologies that enable web-based applications to store information locally without an active always-on Internet connection. According to Apple, it is the first browser to support advanced CSS Effects which provide "highly polished web graphics using reflections, gradients and precision masks."