posted by Kroc Camen on Tue 24th Feb 2009 14:55 UTC
IconApple released the Safari 4 Beta today. Features: Tabs on top. "Top Sites" 'Speed Dial' feature. "Smart" address/search fields. HTML5 Canvas. HTML5 Audio/Video (though no Ogg). Acid 3. CSS Animation/Gradients/Masks/Reflection. CSS Web Fonts. New "Nitro" Javascript engine - "Up to 4 times faster than Firefox 3.1". 'Native' look and native font rendering on Windows Vista/XP. I can think of only one thing: "Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!"

It appears that Apple have leap-frogged Google Chrome’s Mac UIattempts and basically implemented what Google Chrome wanted to be on Mac already, with a lot of extra Apple polish. If there were a case for ripping UI off, this would be it. That said, should we complain when it’s done so well?

Just check out the features. I can only describe it as an immense list of awesome. And this is for a browser that only has a mere fraction of the browser marketshare. Clearly Apple have their hearts set on something to put this much effort into their desktop browser.

The web is the platform, and Apple know that if they can’t define it entirely themselves, then they must do their best to make sure everybody else plays fairly. Safari 4 is meant to be an IE6 killer. IE cannot stand up to anything on the market now.

For me, as a web designer (and particularly one developing in HTML5), Safari 4 adds more amazing capabilities to websites than I can even think what to do with. It will be years before we've got our heads out of a spin and really knuckled down to subtle and elegant uses of CSS animation, audio/video and gradients.

All of which has been doable in flash; but when you can rotate a video, apply CSS/SVG filters to it, and have it sit in the page as a natural element along with everything else in the page - that changes everything. Now you can use videos as backgrounds. You can layer videos, manipulate their every design with Javascript, all in a lightweight manner that doesn't crash your computer daily.

Apple want an open web where proprietary products and plugins don't hamper their product designs. Flash being omitted from the iPhone was both the best thing Apple did with the iPhone and also a glaring sign of just how inappropriate Flash is for mobile devices. Flash already makes my PC/Mac crawl and crash often and an iPhone is a good 20x slower! Proprietary plugins just blunt interoperability and cripple diversity of Internet-enabled hardware. Much of what people use Flash for (a glorified Javascript replacement) can now be done with HTML5/SVG/CSS in Firefox / Safari / Anything other than IE.

But can we learn it and put it to use?

If you go to college to learn to be a builder you are not taught how to be a cowboy, yet if you want to learn web design, you are.


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