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Safari 3.1 Enhances Performance and Web Standards Support

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Boasting about blazing performance, Apple has released Safari 3.1, the latest version of the company's free Web browser for Mac OS X and Windows. In its press release, Apple claims that Safari 3.1 is 1.9 times faster than Internet Explorer 7 and 1.7 times faster than Firefox 2, at least on a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo-based iMac with 1 GB of RAM running Windows XP. What, you're not running Windows XP as the primary operating system on your iMac? Luckily, on the main Safari page, Apple presents other benchmarks run under Mac OS X 10.5.2 claiming that Safari loads pages up to 3 times faster than Firefox 2, and executes JavaScript up to 4.5 times faster than Firefox. JavaScript performance is an increasingly big deal as more and more sites provide interactivity in their interfaces by using JavaScript. Unfortunately, nowhere does Apple compare Safari 3.1's performance with that of Safari 3.0, so there's no telling how much of a speed boost current Safari users might see.

Apple also made a big push to support cutting-edge Web standards, enhancing Safari 3.1 to support CSS Web fonts that let designers specify fonts that will be downloaded on the fly as needed, CSS animations, HTML 5 media, and HTML offline storage. Improved too is Safari's support for dynamic SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) images. (See the Safari Product Overview PDF for more details.) Along with those features, Safari 3.1 includes fixes for a number of security vulnerabilities. Of course, since lots of other browsers don't support these standards, Safari's support is merely a welcome paving stone on the road to future Web improvements.

Of particular interest to us is HTML 5 offline storage support, which should help to enable Web applications like Google Docs or Zoho Writer to provide optional offline access to data, storing it in a local SQLite database. Google has started to address this problem with Google Gears, an open-source approach to offline storage that, on the Mac, works only in Firefox. The two are similar, but incompatible, though there may be ways of bringing them together.

Safari 3.1 is available via Software Update or as a 40 MB standalone download. Panther users need not bother clicking through, since Safari 3.1 requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later. Presumably due to the fixes in Safari's underlying WebCore and WebKit frameworks, which are used by a wide variety of programs, the update does require a restart.

 

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