Apple's other WWDC news: Safari 5
Safari 5, a free download for Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 or Windows XP, Vista and 7 that comes a year after Safari 4 shipped, belatedly catches up with the competition in some ways but jumps past it in one aspect.
Its most obvious benefit, address auto-completion that remembers page titles as well as addresses--so you can now return to this blog's home page by typing "fast" instead of "voices"--appeared in Mozilla Firefox two years ago. The Mac version's overdue addition of a choice of built-in search engines (its search box is no longer locked to Google and can now be switched among Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing) still falls short of the options Firefox and Microsoft's Windows-only Internet Explorer offer. And in finally providing an official, supported way for developers to write add-on extensions, Safari is years behind almost every other browser but Google's Chrome.
Safari 5's new Reader mode, however, doesn't have too many parallels elsewhere. You'll see this option surface, in the form of a "Reader" button in the address bar, if you're on a page that Safari thinks contains an article. (It can be wrong in that guess; the Reader button appears on Slate's home page.) Click that button to see the text of the story and any illustrations set off in black text on a white background, with everything else on the page--including all the ads--pushed to a dimmed and easily ignored background, as you can see in the screengrab above.
Something tells me that management at news sites, this one included, may not appreciate this feature all that much--though if it persuades users to stop running browsing tools that block advertisements all the time, I suppose it would be an upgrade over current conditions. I've asked The Post's PR department for comment and will update this post when they get back to me.
The Cupertino, Calif., company also brags about Safari 5's support for HTML5 Web standards. But although it does a fine job of showing off how Web coding alone--without any plug-ins--can allow sophisticated graphic effects on pages, Safari 5 doesn't support the new, open-source WebM multimedia format that Google helped launch last month. Firefox, Chrome and Opera are all moving to include that free format in their browsers, but Apple, along with Microsoft, is instead sticking with a far more established, but potentially costly standard called H264.
Finally, Apple's new browser features a wide range of security updates that addresses cross-site-scripting attacks and other vulnerabilities. So if you were looking for any other reason to upgrade from Safari 4 to 5, that ought to convince you.
If you've gone ahead with that installation, let me know in the comments how Safari 5 is working out. And if you use another browser--especially in Windows, where Safari has historically been a poor fit--tell me if the new release has you any more inclined to switch.
June 8, 2010; 1:10 PM ET
Categories: The Web
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