Apple launches Safari 5 for Mac and Windows

The updated browser plugs in more HTML 5 features and gets a performance boost from the Nitro JavaScript engine

Apple has released Safari 5, updating the browser with a speed boost, expanded search options and a new Safari Reader feature that supports the latest HTML 5 technologies.

The free browser update for Mac and Windows was launched at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco on Monday. Apple said it has made improvements at the back end, employing the Nitro JavaScript engine to achieve a 30-percent improvement in speed over Safari 4.

This performance boost makes Safari 5 twice as fast as Mozilla's Firefox 3.6 and three percent faster than Google's Chrome 5.0, according to the company. No comparison was made to Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) 8 or to IE9, which is still in developer preview stage.

In another move meant to speed up browsing, the new browser includes a DNS prefetching feature, which improves the caching of previously viewed pages to load them more quickly.

Further changes include the addition of Bing as a default search engine option, alongside Google and Yahoo. There is also a new Safari Reader button, accessed from the URL bar, that lets the viewer see articles on web pages as scrollable text, without the accompanying graphics and clutter. The text in Safari Reader can be magnified and shrunk, as well as sent to print or email.

In addition, Apple said that the Safari Developer Program will now support CSS3 and JavaScript as well as more than a dozen HTML 5 features. These features offer developers the option to create extensions to the browser for full-screen video playback, forms validation or geolocation services. A new Extension Builder aims to make it easier for developers to create, install and package the extensions.

"Safari continues to lead the pack in performance, innovation and standards support," said Philip Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing at Apple. "Safari now runs on over 200 million devices worldwide and its open-source WebKit engine runs on over 500 million devices."

Microsoft reacted to the launch of Safari 5 by showcasing a speed comparison demo video on the official Windows Blog website. "Apple investing to make the Windows experience better is a good thing for the web and a great thing for close to a billion Windows customers. It's great to see Apple taking advantage of modern hardware through Windows, just like Internet Explorer 9," Microsoft Internet Explorer general manager Ryan Gavin said in the blog.


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