Apple releases Safari 5, despite no mention at WWDC

The latest version of Apple's browser boasts a speed boost, extensions capability, and a Web page de-cluttering feature

While the iPhone 4 announcement was grabbing all the headlines at WWDC, Apple also announced Safari 5, the latest version of its browser. Unlike Safari 4, which mainly featured cosmetic enhancements, Safari 5 is all about improving performance and adding new features. Apple's auto-update application began making it available to users today.

Apple has obviously decided to focus on speed with this release, as two of the biggest upgrades are performance boosters. For starters, there's the Nitro JavaScript Engine, which can run JavaScript up to 30 percent faster than Safari 4. And there's DNS prefetching, which Apple has cribbed from Google's speedy Chrome browser. This technology looks at links on a Web page you're viewing and starts resolving some of the IP addresses of those links so that when you click on one, the browser can start fetching data right away instead of having to figure out the domains first.

[ Apple has its work cut out for it: InfoWorld Tech Watch looked at the latest browser market share numbers and saw that in business use, Safari has less than one half of one percent of the market. ]

In the Flash vs. HTML5 battle, Apple has thrown in with HTML5, and Safari 5 is no exception: Apple is touting more than a dozen HTML5 enhancements, including geolocation and video, that allow for better interactive content "without the need for third-party plugins" (ahem Flash).

But not every upgrade is technical, nuts-and-bolts stuff. Apple is heavily promoting the new Reader function, which many users are likely to enjoy. Simply put, Reader detects if a user is reading an article, and then pulls article from any wrapper it might have -- ads, frames, navs, and so on -- and presents it as a single view, sans clutter. Multipage articles are stitched together to form one continuous page that the user then scrolls through.

Finally, in a nod to Firefox's JetPack project, Safari 5 introduces Extensions, a way for users to create their own browser enhancements. Developers use the Extension Builder feature to make their add-ons, which then are bolted onto the browser; for security purposes, all extensions are fully sandboxed, and Apple provides a free security certificate.

This story, "Apple shows off Safari 5 at WWDC," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Killer Apps and follow the latest developments in applications at InfoWorld.com.

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