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Saturday, March 22, 2008

First Look: Safari 3.1 Adds Speed and HTML 5 Features

Now available also for Windows: Safari 3.1 is "The fastest web browser
on any platform, Safari loads pages up to 1.9 times faster than Internet
Explorer 7 and up to 1.7 times faster than Firefox 2... it executes
JavaScript up to 6 times faster than Internet Explorer 7 and up to 4
times faster than Firefox 2." Apple released Safari 3.1 on March 18,
2008 with an updated rendering engine that makes the fastest Internet
browser even faster. On top of that, Apple's new browser includes some
features that reflect the future of the HTML 5 specification: offline
storage, media support, CSS animations, and Web fonts. Under the hood
Apple has made some significant changes that it has pulled from the
latest builds of the open-source WebKit engine. WebKit is the framework
version of the engine that's used by Safari. It is also the basis of the
Web browsing engine in iPhone's Mobile Safari, Symbian's browser, the
Google Android platform, and Adobe's new AIR platform. To check out how
well Safari 3.1 handles Web sites, I ran it through some popular standards
testing -- and found that it leads the pack. In the Acid3 Tests, which
were created by the Web Standards Project to test dynamic browser
capabilities, Safari 3.1 scored 75 out of 100, significantly higher than
the previous version of Safari and other shipping browsers (Firefox 3
Beta 4 scored 68, while the most recent WebKit scored 92). However, the
big news is how fast the new version of Safari is... One of the drawbacks
of Safari has been the perceived "over-smoothing" or softening of fonts
on the PC. While this hasn't been completely fixed, Apple's Safari 3.1
allows Web sites to specify fonts outside the seven Web-safe font families;
these new fonts can be downloaded by the browser as needed. Unfortunately,
there are still prominent features that are part of rival browsers that
Safari simply can't match. For example, Safari doesn't have all of the
add-ons that Firefox enjoys, such as the Google toolbar... With the 3.1
release, Safari has become the fastest browser you can use. If that isn't
enough reason to make a switch, its strong adherence to Web standards and
rapid adoption of new technologies might make you think again.

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