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First Look: Safari 3.1

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.

In Apple's own recent tests, Apple claims that Safari loads Web pages up to 1.7 times faster than Firefox 2 and up to 1.9 times faster than Internet Explorer 7. In running JavaScript code, Apple claims that Safari is 4 times faster than Firefox 2 and 6 times faster than Internet Explorer 7.

HTML speed comparison tests by Apple

Javascript speed comparison tests by Apple

To test out Safari's Javascript speed claims yourself, visit the Javascript speed tests ( and test Safari 3.1 against your current browser. Running this Javascript test five times and taking the average resulted in the following times (where the faster browser is the one with the lowest loading times):

(Macintosh browsers)
Safari 3.1 -- 135.6 ms
Opera 9.26 -- 678.0 ms
Firefox -- 945.2 ms

(Windows browsers)
Safari 3.1 -- 617.8 ms
Opera 9.26 -- 823.6 ms
Firefox -- 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 ( 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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. lancelott

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Nice to read an unbiased

    ^ The title is sarcasm...

    But really, all kiddin' aside Safari REALLY is awesome. I only use IE7 when submitting school reports (my college's e-compass portal can be stupid sometimes, even with firefox) and for that I have a tiny VMware Win XP Virtual Machine always waiting (in suspended mode of course) in one my iMacs "spaces".

    But Safari really beats any other browser I've tried in speed and elegance. (I've used FF extensively, IE6 and 7 specially at work, Flock and Opera)

  1. JeffChrz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Two requests

    1. Add a new tab button already! 2. Fix the bug you'll find when you do Southwest Airlines' online check-in for more than one passenger. You can only select one passenger to check in, instead of multiple passengers. Firefox doesn't have this problem.

  1. Frogmella

    Joined: Dec 1969


    New tab

    To open a new tab, just double-click on a blank part of the tab bar. Not a button admittedly, but just as easy.

  1. ZinkDifferent

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just wait....

    ...until this version of Safari gets pushed out to iPhone in most likely the next firmware update. Safari was pretty neat on iPhone, now it'll be unbeatable as browsers go, on the mobile platform.

    Plus, the inclusion of CSS web fonts, animations, and HTML media support really means that those holding out hope for Flash (Blech!) on iPhone, should just give up - Apple is implementing a media and interactivity rich authoring framework on iPhone to rival, if not surpass Flash (surpass, because it's standards based - and SEO friendly).

    I really wish the morons carrying the Flash torch would just give up.

  1. slapppy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Only two issues for me

    I like Safari so far. It's my default for Mac and Windows. I like how it renders sites very nicely. Only problems so far is crashing with Flash content on occasion and slow animated gif.

  1. Monde

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Flash has it's place

    Flash has it's place. Present web standards are closing the gap, but there are still interface aspects of flash and it's handling of media and database that still give it an edge. In the hands of the right designer/animator, that is.

    Been trying out Safari over the last couple of days. It is faster and has done well at any site I've visited. Much better than the iteration that came out conjoined with the release that graced the Windows world. I had to un-install it. Between the crashes, poorly rendered pages and interference with other programs I was beginning to wonder what they were smoking up at 1 Infinite Loop.

  1. simdude

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Although I usually don't like most of Microsoft's stuff, the bird's eye view is pretty cool. Much closer than the Satellite images given by google and others.

    So why post this here? Works in Firefox and not Safari. Not, that's probably due to Microsoft coding the page this way on purpose, but there are a lot of sites like this. If Firefox can figure out a way to deal with it, Safari should too. I prefer Safari, but if I had to pick only one browser, it would be the slower Firefox because it still gives me less problems overall. Fortunately, with 4 GB of memory, keeping 2 browsers running isn't a big deal.

  1. simdude

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I just enabled the Develop menu in 3.1

    (defaults write IncludeDebugMenu 1)

    which allows Safari to report itself as a different browser. Sure enough, the maps page loaded fine when I pretended to be IE. Microsoft is purposely preventing Safari from working properly here even though once I got it working, it was faster on this page than any other browser I've tried. You guys suck Microsoft.

  1. MiMiC

    Joined: Dec 1969


    it must be just me...

    Safari crashes on my G5 daily. So much to the point, i'm thinking about going back to Firefox.

  1. themacjedicali

    Joined: Dec 1969


    mimic crashes?

    Hey mimic what do you mean "going back to firefox"? Use the tool that works for the current task at hand and quit limiting yourself to one solution in an attempt to kid yourself into thinking that any one program can do everything 100% perfectly! If it doesn't work for what your doing right now, use something that does. Programs don't give a c*** about your illusion of loyalty so don't use what don't work! And if it crashes "daily" then why would you have to "think" about using firefox? That assumes you are just so blindly die hard into safari that you will use it no matter what its problems. goodness effin gracious man get a life. no im not mad, just wanna wake you up a bit!

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