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Wednesday, Jan 09, 2013 3:02am
Anniversaries: Safari is 10 years old, iTunes turns 12
In the midst of a CES that is more about Apple than ever before -- despite the obstinate refusal of the company to have any presence at it -- two of Apple's reinventions that formed a core part of the OS X experience have had birthdays this week. Ten years ago on Monday, in January 2003, Apple created its own Internet browser: Safari. Twelve years ago Wednesday, iTunes was born from the purchase of SoundJam MP and debuted at the 2001 San Francisco MacWorld.

Safari debuted on January 7 at the 2003 MacWorld San Francisco event, based on Apple's own fork of the open-source KHTML rendering engine, which Apple called WebKit and continued to make open source. It would be more than six months later before the program would have its official 1.0 debut, and formally replaced Internet Explorer with the release of OS X 10.3 in October of that year.

Now long forgotten, Apple had previous attempted its own web browser in the form of Cyberdog, which utilized technologies ahead of its time but was discontinued around the time that the Internet really came into the semi-commercial form as users know it today. Internet Explorer for Mac was the de facto browser in OS 8.1 and up until OS X 10.3 as part of a five-year agreement with Microsoft that stretched to about six years in total.

Since then, Safari has become the dominant web browser for the Mac platform, even in face of robust competition from browsers like Firefox (developed by Mozilla), Chrome (developed by Google), Opera and many other smaller competitors, most of whom also use the WebKit engine -- which is also the core of nearly every available browser for iOS. Safari is also the dominant (and default) browser in that market, but despite being ported to Windows has not made significant inroads with the PC audience, in part because of a focus on the market by both Microsoft itself (continuing with Internet Explorer) and Mozilla's Firefox browser, which continues to raid share from IE slowly over time.

The music management, storefront and library software known as iTunes -- the first software to win a special Grammy award for its contribution to the music business -- began life 12 years ago as a simple MP3 playback engine called SoundJam MP that was particularly prized for its ability to be "skinned" into different shapes and styles. The program was originally developed in 1999 but purchased by Apple in 2000, with the original developers still at Apple today.

The first iTunes version was released on January 9, 2001, which augmented the original SoundJam with a new, simpler interface and the the addition of the ability to burn CDs. It did not, however, have SoundJam's stream-recording ability or skinning feature. Casady & Greene, the original marketers, continued to offer SoundJam for another six months after iTunes debuted, but discontinued it later that year at the request of the developers.

Version 2.0 of iTunes made the jump to OS X and added support for the original iPod, adding smart playlists and a ratings system in version 3.0. The iTunes Store was added in April of 2003 to version 4, and v4.1 saw the program expanded to support Windows. Both the store feature and the management of music, movies and other forms of media continued to grow in incremental steps, leading to the frequent criticism that the program has become bloated. In response, Apple has "broken up" the functionality of iTunes in iOS, with the iTunes program simply acting as a storefront for media purchases (a separate "Music" application handles the library and playback of music files).

Along the way, Apple introduced support for the AAC codec, generally seen as an improvement on MP3, and fostered the growth of what become known as podcasting by adopting support for podcasts early on. The program eventually become more than just the sync engine for the iPod line of products, forming an entire eco-system that continues to allow the iPod and its successor the iPod Touch to dominate the music-player industry. The iPhone and iPad eco-systems of apps and media are also built in part on the success of iTunes.

In 2011, Steve Jobs was awarded a posthumous Special Merit Grammy shortly after his death for the enormous contribution to the music industry he had made, starting with iTunes itself (which the industry initially regarded with deep suspicion) and then later for other efforts such as persuading the industry to give up on Digital Rights Management locks on music files, which Jobs believed punished honest users rather than hindered pirates. The 2012 edition of the Grammy Awards further named Jobs to a Lifetime Achievement Award, accepted by Apple VP Eddy Cue.