updated 04:30 pm EDT, Mon March 24, 2008
First Look: Safari
With the release of version 3.1 of Safari for both Mac OS X and Windows, Apple's browser has grabbed bragging rights for the fastest, most compatible, and fullest featured browser on any platform. Given these claims, Safari 3.1 seems like the hands-down winner. Since Safari is free, Mac OS X and Windows users have nothing to lose by trying Safari. The real question is whether Safari lives up to its extravagant claims.
HTML speed comparison tests by Apple
Safari 3.1 -- 135.6 ms
Opera 9.26 -- 678.0 ms
Firefox 18.104.22.168 -- 945.2 ms
Safari 3.1 -- 617.8 ms
Opera 9.26 -- 823.6 ms
Firefox 22.214.171.124 -- 2,406.0 ms
Internet Explorer 7 -- 10,205.2 ms
While the results of this test may vary on different computers, it does justify Apple's claims that Safari 3.1 is 4 times faster than Firefox and at least 6 times faster than Internet Explorer 7. More surprising is that Opera has always claimed to be the fastest browser, yet Safari 3.1 handily beat the latest version of Opera on both Mac OS X and Windows.
Besides speed, Safari 3.1 also claims greater compatibility with Web standards, being the first browser to pass the Acid2 benchmark from the Web Standards Project (http://www.webstandards.org/files/acid2/test.html). Some new features of Safari 3.1 include compatibility with CSS3 web fonts, support for CSS animation, HTML 5 media support, and improved support for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). By supporting emerging Web standards. Safari 3.1 insures that you'll be able to view practically any Web page.
In addition to supporting new Web standards, Safari 3.1 has also fixed 13 flaws involving cross-site scripting bugs that malware programs, such as a Trojan horse, could exploit to infiltrate a computer. Out of this total, 10 flaws affected both the Macintosh and Windows editions while the remaining 3 flaws were specific to Safari for Windows.
One minor fix to the Windows version of Safari is that you can now resize the window by dragging on its edges rather than just dragging the resize corner on the bottom right corner of the window. Although a relatively minor fix, this makes Safari feel like a real Windows application rather than a transplanted Macintosh program.
Safari now behaves like a regular Windows program under Windows XP/Vista
Although Safari has caught up to rival browsers in speed and features, it still lags behind other browsers in certain areas while surpassing them in others. Like most browsers, Safari offers tabbed browsing, but while IE 7 and Opera display a blank tab on the screen so you can click it to open a new tab immediately, Safari (like Firefox) still buries its New Tab command under the File menu or through the Command+T keystroke like Firefox.
Safari still offers two unique features not available in other browsers. First, Safari can email the entire contents of a Web page, which can be handy by letting you email the actual Web page instead of a link that might go dead in the future. Second, Safari offers Web clips, which lets you define part of any Web page to display as a widget in Dashboard.
The Mac OS X version of Safari can email an entire Web page
If you use a Macintosh, Safari's greater compatibility means you can rely on Safari for your browsing without having to load another browser, like Firefox, to view an occasional Web page that won't open correctly in Safari. If you use Windows, Safari not only gives you a faster browser than IE 7, but also gives you the familiar pull-down menus that IE 7 abandoned.
Whether you use Mac OS X or Windows, Safari has now made itself the browser to beat. With greater speed and compatibility, there's little reason to use other browsers any more. Since Safari is free, you have nothing to lose by trying it on your own computer. Chances are good that once you try it, you'll stay with it.