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I mostly talk about video games and the world wide web


Safari 4 Web 2.0 Beta Podcast Blogosphere

In an effort to remain consistent, I'm going to write a quick update on the release of Safari 4, or rather Safari 4's Beta, as seems to be the new software custom.

Weirdly enough a good portion of Safari 4's UI seems to have taken a page from Chrome, though it's obviously stylized to Apple's standard (which is perhaps more appealing than Chrome's look). In fact the layout of the browser is almost an exact mirror of Chrome's, with a very minimalistic navigation bar containing front/back buttons, the URL bar and two settings buttons. Safari opts to have the refresh/stop button in the URL bar similar to the iPhone version of Safari whereas Chrome places is next to the back/forward buttons. The tabs in both browsers are at the top of the application in lieu the standard windows application header.

Also in what is perhaps an answer to numerous complaints, the tabs in Safari, at least when using the Windows Classic theme, utilize the color scheme and look of Windows rather than duplicating what the program looks like on the Mac.

Also, in keeping with my update during Chrome's release the Javascript engine, a very important feature of any browser, has been reworked.

Running the same speed test (which, again, is by no means any sort of official benchmark) I found the old version of Safari I had (3.2) took 300ms to run. The new version has improved upon that quite a bit as it completed the test in a scant 64ms. For reference sake, Chrome is still much faster (version runs it in 28ms) and Firefox 3.0.6 is much slower (clocking in at 258ms).

Other interesting aspects of Safari 4 are nice, but largely cosmetic. Apple's take on Chrome's 'Most visited' page speaks volumes about the two companies. While Google's version is simple and utilitarian, Apple's accomplishes the same thing with a good degree of style thanks to some simple graphical additions. Your 'Top Sites' are displayed as if on a curved surface, complete with a reflection. It's gratuitous and perhaps unnecessary, but looking at it next to Chrome's simple, flat version is almost jarring.

Also not to be outdone, Safari implements its own version of iTunes' coverflow for the browser history and bookmarks. Instead of a simple link you get a bunch of screenshots that you can flip through. I'm not entirely sure what I think about that as it seems mostly unnecessary for such a thing to exist, but it doesn't really hinder the browser, and you can still use the bookmark list if you like (you can even shrink the coverflow graphics so you can't see them any more).

Mostly I'm excited about the Javascript thing though. I'm really looking forward to see what happens with Firefox 3.1 since it seems they've now stumbled their way to third place in that regard.
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#1 - Jon R Reply
The big leap forward in JS engine performance has mainly come from the introduction of JIT compilation. Chrome's V8 was the first engine out the blocks, so Webkit responded with "SquirrelFish Extreme", now renamed Nitro, which they claimed was even faster. Mozilla also have a next-gen JS engine project called TraceMonkey. It's included in the latest 3.1 beta, but disabled by default. After enabling it, FF was getting results of ~45ms, so they're clearly still competitive. Opera are also working on a new JS engine called Carakan.

IE 8 doesn't boast any significant JS enhancements. The IE team's response to this arms-race amongst their competitors was to claim JS speed isn't that important overall, and that DOM performance is a more important factor for real work Ajax apps (an area where IE is still fairly strong). They may well have a point, but I still think they'll be looking to claw the gap back with IE 9. With the browser wars hotting up again, they need to prove they can keep pace.

Feb. 25, 2009 (3:44am EST)

#2 - Mike Reply
Yeah I knew about TraceMonkey though I haven't had a chance to use it, but it's cool they're keeping up. Sadly MS is at least partly right about AJAX though I am curious if they have any plans for IE8's javascript. It's weird that IE6 hung around forever and then suddenly IE7 and now IE8 came out within a short time of each other. I can't see any disadvantage to adding a speedy JS engine to IE8 or IE9 anyway.

Feb. 25, 2009 (7:38am EST)