posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Jun 2010 08:26 UTC
IconWe're a little late with this one, but hey, I have to sleep too. In the middle of last night, Apple released version 5 of its Safari web browser for both Mac OS X and Windows, and it contains some very interesting improvements, including an extensions framework.

Of course, like every other browser maker, Apple touts the performance horn. They've updated the Nitro JavaScript rendering engine, which is now 30% faster than the one in Safari 4, 3% faster than the one in Chrome 5.0, and twice as fast as the one used by Firefox. Support for various HTML5 APIs has been added as well.

Apple also implemented DNS prefetching, a technology pioneered by Google; it's been in Chrome since its launch in September 2008 (try navigating to about:dns). Basically, this technology scans the links on web pages, pre-resolving the IP addresses of the various domains associated with the content behind that link. It does all this in the background.

Just as the iOS 4 adds Microsoft's Bing as an option for the search field, Safari 5 gets the bing treatment as well. Like on iOS 4, the default is still Google, but in addition to Yahoo! you can opt to search with Bing as well. Speaking of Microsoft, Safari 5 also adds hardware acceleration on Windows.

Also new, and much-anticipated I'm sure, is the extension system. Firefox popularised the concept, and Chrome followed in its footsteps, so Safari couldn't stay behind for long. Extensions can be written in HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript, and will be sandboxed and cryptographically signed by Apple. You have to enrol into the free Safari Developer Program to develop extensions, although Ars notes that you don't need to go through Apple's official channels to distribute them.

That's the catch-up stuff, now let's look at the big new feature. Safari Reader kind of does what its name implies: it removes all clutter from web pages, displaying only the story. It removes ads and sidebars, stitches pages together when articles are spread out, and presents it all in a printable layout. The ads and various web pages are still fully downloaded, so web sites will still see the correct amount of page views and ad impressions.

Safari 5 is available for Mac OS X and Windows.

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