Apple Releases Safari 5

Well Apple’s Safari web browser just got updated today.  Safari 5 first became available via Apple’s software update and now is live on their website as well.  There had been rumors swirling about that perhaps the new version of the web browser would be announced at WWDC.  It may not have been part of Job’s iPhone 4 super fan party, but word of it did slip out quietly later in the day.

I’ve played with it for a little bit now, and it does feel snappy.  I’m not sure it actually feels faster than Chrome (which I had been using), but then again I haven’t run any tests on it.  Still, my initial feeling is that it certainly is a speed improvement over the previous version of Safari.

Apple also boasts vast improvements with HTML5, but seeing as how HTML5 isn’t an official standard yet it’s really hard to say if there’s any real improvement in that area.  It would require some actual development work to see how it plays with the HTML5 standards (even though those standards haven’t been set in stone yet).  I’m sure it’ll all be worthwhile, but so far there’s not much to say in that area.  I guess it’s good that Apple is focusing on it now before it becomes a widely adopted standard, but at the moment it’s not much of a selling point to the vast majority of users.

Something that has the potential to be quite interesting is Apple adding developer extensions to the browser.  This is going to allow developers to create their own extensions (much like with Firefox or Chrome) that will work with Safari.  While it seems Apple is still going to exercise some control be using digitally signed certificates, it certainly is a much more open move than they have been with the browser in the past.  All of these extensions will be sandboxed so that extensions won’t be able to access other resources or data on the users hard drive.  It’s a good step towards extension security.  Right now it’s such a new feature there isn’t anything out there yet, but it’s something to watch.  Hopefully developers will be quick to start releasing useful extensions for the browser.

Finally, a new feature that I am the most interested in so far, is their “Reader”.  In the address bar, while you’re reading an article on a website, the Reader icon will appear.  Clicking on this brings up a PDF like view of the web page, bringing up the text and related pictures, but not any of the other cruft that populates a webpage, in theory making it easier to get at the meat of what you’re trying to read by eliminating all the other distractions.  It also has controls for zooming, printing, or e-mailing of the information on the webpage.  It seems like it’ll be rather useful, especially on some sites that make reading articles fairly difficult by littering them with advertising that goes throughout the text.

Safari 5 seems to be a lot more under-the-hood style of improvements opposed to Safari 4 which was much more of a cosmetic release.  Safari 5 holds a lot of promise and it’ll be interesting to see what people do with the new improvements.