Apple announces Safari 4 browser public beta; '3X faster' than IE 7, Firefox 3

Apple today announced the public beta of Safari 4, what the company is calling "the world's fastest and most innovative web browser for Mac and Windows PCs."

UPDATE: My first impressions of Apple Safari 4 beta, with screenshots.

Apple today announced the public beta of Safari 4, what the company is calling "the world's fastest and most innovative web browser for Mac and Windows PCs."

The Nitro engine in Safari 4 runs JavaScript 4.2 times faster than Safari 3, according to Apple. The browser adds a number of new features, including "Top Sites," a visual preview of frequently visited pages; "Full History Search," to search through titles, web addresses and the complete text of recently viewed pages; "Cover Flow," to easily flip through web history or bookmarks; and "Tabs on Top," to make tabbed browsing easier and more intuitive.

“Apple created Safari to bring innovation, speed and open standards back into web browsers, and today it takes another big step forward,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Safari 4 is the fastest and most efficient browser for Mac and Windows, with great integration of HTML 5 and CSS 3 web standards that enables the next generation of interactive web applications.”

Safari 4's new Nitro JavaScript engine executes JavaScript up to 30 times faster than Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 and more than three times faster than Firefox 3, the company says. Safari loads HTML web pages three times faster than IE 7 and almost three times faster than Firefox 3, Apple says.

Safari 4 includes HTML 5 support for offline technologies so web-based applications can store information locally without an Internet connection, and is "the first browser to support advanced CSS Effects" that enable highly polished web graphics using reflections, gradients and precision masks.

Apple also says Safari 4 is the first browser to pass the Web Standards Project’s Acid3 test, which examines how well a browser adheres to CSS, JavaScript, XML and SVG web standards that are specifically designed for dynamic web applications.

In the press release, Apple also notes that its WebKit architecture "led the introduction of HTML 5 and CSS 3 web standards" and notes that Google Chrome, the Google Android browser, the Nokia Series 60 browser and Palm webOS are based on the architecture.

More features:

  • Smart Address Field, that automatically completes web addresses by displaying an easy-to-read list of suggestions from Top Sites, bookmarks and browsing history;
  • Smart Search Field, where users fine-tune searches with recommendations from Google Suggest or a list of recent searches;
  • Full Page Zoom, for a closer look at any website without degrading the quality of the site’s layout and text;
  • Built-in web developer tools to debug, tweak and optimize a website for peak performance and compatibility; and
  • A new Windows-native look in Safari for Windows, that uses standard Windows font rendering and native title bar, borders and toolbars so Safari fits the look and feel of other Windows XP and Windows Vista applications.

Safari 4 is a public beta for both Mac OS X and Windows and is available immediately as a free download at www.apple.com/safari.

System Requirements, Mac OS X: requires Mac OS X Leopard version 10.5.6 and Security Update 2009-001 or Mac OS X Tiger® version 10.4.11, a minimum 256MB of memory, and is designed to run on any Intel-based Mac or a Mac with a PowerPC G5, G4 or G3 processor and built-in FireWire®.

System Requirements, Windows: requires Windows XP SP2 or Windows Vista, a minimum 256MB of memory and a system with at least a 500 MHz Intel Pentium processor. Full system requirements and more information on Safari 4 can be found at www.apple.com/safari.

UPDATE: In a first look, ZDNet editor-in-chief Larry Dignan says it's just another browser in his crowded stable.