Good news Safari goers, Apple's Safari 5 browser just popped out

Safari 5 brings HTML5 expansions, a faster JS engine, CSS3 improvements, and extensions.

It also packs an easy-to-use RSS feed reader, shown here with our RSS feed.
Apple brings HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3 improvements, plus extensions and a new RSS reader

Last year at its Worldwide Developers Conference Apple officially launched Safari 4, the latest version of its web browser.  This year Safari 5 was widely expected to be announced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs during his keynote, but was nowhere to be found.

Instead, Apple quietly launched the latest version of its browser last night without much fuss.  Safari 5 can be downloaded here, direct from Apple.  The installer takes up 31.03 MB.  It is available for both Windows and Mac (sorry, no Linux).

Testing Safari 5:

The new browser offers a number of compelling new features.  Among Apple's biggest claims is that the browser is much faster.  It utilizes a new JavaScript engine called Nitro, which Apple says runs scripts 30 percent faster.  Apple claims its engine is twice as fast as Firefox 3.6 and 3.0 percent faster than Google Chrome 5.0.

Rather than take these claims for granted, we downloaded Safari 5 and took it for a spin versus Firefox 3.6.4 and Chrome 6.  If you're wondering why we used Chrome 6 instead of Chrome 5, we did so because it's easily obtainable (you can download it here), so we felt it was a more fair comparison.  As to our testing methods, all three browsers were run through three synthetic benchmarks under an identical environment.  We prefer synthetic benchmarks for browser comparisons as custom comparisons like page load times are more subjective, more prone to human error, and prone to difference due to connection variability.  Our results were as follows

SunSpider Benchmark
1. Chrome 6.0.408.1       489.6ms +/- 3.9%
2. Safari 5.0 (7553.16)   600.4ms +/- 1.1%
3. FireFox 3.6.4            1396.6ms +/- 14.6%

JSBenchmark (by Celtic Kane)
1. Chrome 6.0.408.1       355 ± 0
2. Safari 5.0 (7553.16)   252 ± 0
3. FireFox 3.6.4              100 ± 0

Futuremark Peacekeeper Benchmark
1. Chrome 6.0.408.1      5162 Points
2. Safari 5.0 (7553.16)  2606 Points
3. Firefox 3.6.4             1939 Points

The results pretty much speak for themselves.  Apple is absolutely correct in saying that Safari 5 is twice as fast as Firefox 3.6.  In fact, our Javascript benchmark times (Sunspider, JSBenchmark) showed it to be between 2.3 and 2.5 times as fast.  However, Safari 5 is still a good deal slower at scripts then Chrome 6.


Returning to the general features, one major shift is that the browser now features Microsoft Bing as one of its default search options (in the upper right search bar).  Depending on how you look at it, this is either a sign of Microsoft and Apple's increasing friendship or a sign that Google and Apple are no longer as close.

Yusuf Mehdi, a Senior Vice President of Microsoft's Online Audience Business Group states, "Needless to say, we are excited that Bing will be included as an option in Safari because it will make it easier for you to search and get the benefits of Bing."

At his WWDC keynote, Jobs praised Bing, stating, "Microsoft has done a really nice job on this, it’s an HTML5 presentation, it’s great."

Speaking of HTML5, many missing features of the standard have been implemented in Safari, including fullscreen playback and closed captioning, geolocation, sectioning elements, draggable attributes, form validation, Ruby, EventSource, AJAX History, and WebSocket.  These should help Safari be able to handle the most advanced web apps.

As discussed before, Apple supports the use of a proprietary video codec -- h.264 for HTML5.  While this is quite a good codec, it is not free, so if you're doing a big video web app, you will have to pay licensing fees.  It should also be noted that Jobs is reportedly a major stockholder in MPEG-LA, the organization that sells licenses.

Returning to the features, the browser features a new RSS reader, which offers significant improvements in reading in a clear, uncluttered environment.  To "Reader" button will appear on some pages in the same place that the "RSS" button is -- inside the URL bar on the far right.  If the page supports the feature, you will enter Reader mode (if the button says RSS, for example on DailyTech, you can instead click to view the RSS feed, as in Safari 4).

This new feature stitches together articles -- even if they span multiple pages -- and removes a certain level of distractions, such as certain ads.

Rounding out the features, the browser also has improved CSS3 and, at long last, extensions.  Apple offers a new extension builder which allows for development, installation, and packaging of extensions in an easy to use environment.  Extensions are run in their own sandboxes to prevent nasty crashes from taking down the browser or malicious extensions from hurting the system.


In all Safari 5 looks relatively compelling.  Apple, which currently holds 4.77 percent of the market, looks relatively competitive thanks to key improvements to its browser.  It still has a ways to go to match Firefox in terms of number and quality of extensions.  And it still has a ways to go to match Google's Chrome in pure speed.  And unlike Firefox, it uses proprietary video codecs.  Overall, though, it's among the most full-featured and fastest browsers and worth a look.

Tests run on a MacBook Pro with an Intel Core2 Duo 2.8 GHz T9600 CPU, with 4.00 GB of RAM, a NVIDIA Geforce 9600M GT GPU, and Windows Professional 64-bit Edition (Boot Camp)

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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