10 Jun 2010 11:00 | apple-safari google-chrome

I know several people that have only switched to Google Chrome because it supports the same extensions that Firefox supported. People are deserting Firefox and moving to the new, lightweight browser developed by Google. Then Safari 5 jumps on the bandwagon.

That's right - Safari version 5, which was released earlier this week, also includes "Safari Extensions". As part of Apple's new Safari Developer Program, they are inviting developers to get involved and to begin developing extensions for their browser.


Google Chrome's extensions are simple to create. Once you know the basics of how to create a Chrome extension, you can learn the rest really quickly as it is built upon people's existing knowledge of HTML and CSS.

It looks like Apple's seen this idea and taken it on board as well. You can create Safari extensions using web standards such as HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript.

Apple likes digital control.

iTunes and the iPhone App Store is all about legally paying for music and applications, and being given a digital signature just to play it on a few devices you own. Usually this kind of approach would lead people to pirate the content instead, but due to the ease of access to Apple's services, that hasn't been happening. Apple has sold millions of songs and iPhone apps since the iPhone App Store was created!

It looks like they're moving the same techniques in a slightly different direction, and signing Safari extensions with a digital certificate. This certificate, which comes free with the Safari Developer Program, protects extensions so that only the person with access to the certificate can upload new versions of the extension. That prevents others from tampering with your extensions, and prevents others from pretending to be you and releasing a dodgy version to your extension's users.

I might add, that Google also uses a similar technique to ensure the validity of the extensions in their extensions gallery.

But not yet!

The Safari Extensions Gallery isn't available yet. The apple web site claims that it will open "later this summer" (this winter for us Aussies), which means that whilst developers can begin creating extensions and testing them in their own sand-boxed environments, no-one will be able to start using them just yet.

What else does Safari 5 have to offer?

Safari Reader

Safari 5 automatically detects when there's a news article on the page, and gives you a clutter-free mode to read it in.


Even Greater HTML5 Support

Better HTML5 support including:

  • Full-screen view and closed captions for HTML5 video
  • Location services (HTML5 geolocation support)

Smarter Address Field

Safari 5's "Smart Address Field" works similarly to the address bar of most modern browsers, and provides URL suggestions when you enter only a part of the website's address.

Hardware Acceleration for Windows

Safari 5 claims to be able to "tap into the graphics processing power of your PC while browsing the web", allowing media and interactive graphics to perform better than it did in Safari 4.

I've noticed that Safari for PC is a bit slow when it comes to rendering some CSS3 transitions, compared to Google Chrome. It'll be interesting to see if Safari 5's new 'hardware acceleration for windows' feature removes that problem (I'm yet to test it).

Improved Web Inspector

And a great new feature for all Wikidot site owners - the improved web inspector.

The new "Timeline" pane gives you information about how Safari 5 interacts with your website. Loading, scripting and rendering timelines show you how and when HTML is parsed, and when JavaScript is executed.

If you're interested in improving loading times by pinpointing which images are causing the most lag, or to determine if James Kanjo's chatroom is somehow slowing down your site's loading time (although I'm sure that's not the case!), you can find that information out quicker and easier than before.

Downloading Safari

If you'd like to download Safari and try it out, you can get it from the Apple website:

However, I'll be sticking with Google Chrome - at least until the Safari Extensions Gallery is unveiled and I can see what is possible with Safari 5 Extensions.

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