With Safari updates, Apple aims to keep pace

Apple's update to Safari for OS X will tie the browser more closely to OS X Keychain, and include refreshed Top Sites, tweaks to article reading, and much-improved memory management -- but no big changes to the browser.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Once again, Apple's changes to its Safari browser on OS X represent keeping up with the competition instead of forging new ground.

At the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday, the company unveiled the next version of Safari, which Apple says will have significantly faster page rendering, better security, and will make it easier to read multiple articles on the same site.

The Safari 7 update introduces to the browser stronger connections to OS X's password-management tool called Keychain. Leveraging the iCloud browser syncing that debuted in last year's Safari, iCloud Keychain is an encrypted password creation tool that suggests new passwords automatically. In addition to Web site log-ins, iCloud Keychain stores credit card numbers, account info, and Wi-Fi passwords, said Apple's head of Mac software engineering, Craig Federighi.

The new bookmark sidebar in Safari 7. James Martin/CNET

Safari 7 will change the Top Sites home page, so that it includes bookmarks, Reading List, and "shared links." The update to Reading List lets you keep scrolling when you reach the end of one article, seamlessly loading the next one. Shared links makes it easy to post to social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. Notably, Facebook was not one of the partners shown, which could indicate a cooling of the relationship between the two companies.

The new Safari's Nitro JavaScript engine will get Just-In-Time rendering, making it faster; and Apple has split browser tab processes so that when one tab crashes, the rest of the browser doesn't. Other optimization improvements include shared memory rescue cache, background tab optimization, and better per-tab power management. You'll be able to have more tabs open simultaneously, "and do more on your system," Federighi said.

Apple claimed that Firefox and Chrome run 30 percent slower than Safari 7, using benchmarks provided by JSBench.

Further improvements to the browser include more CSS3 and HTML5 support, ICC profiles which will give the browser better color management, Acid3 test compliance, inline PDF management, and blocking of third-party cookies. Those changes, however, bring it in line with the competition.

Last year's update to Safari 6 brought interface and feature changes, but the improvements tended to follow the leadership of other browser vendors. Safari 6 followed the competition to abandon its single-purpose search bar in favor of a unified search-and-URL location bar. As with Chrome, and optional in Firefox, the combination bar cleared up a significant chunk of the ever-dwindling browser screen real estate and made desktop Safari look more like its mobile sibling. Safari 6 also debuted tab syncing via iCloud, another feature also available from competitors with their own proprietary syncing systems.

Safari 7 is expected when OS X Mavericks debuts later this year.

 

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