Apple Debuts 'World's Fastest' Web Browser, Safari 4 Beta

Apple is upping its ante in the browser war between Microsoft, Firefox, and Google with the release of Safari 4 beta. Apple announced availability of the browser Tuesday touting it as the world's fastest - able to render core Web applications such as JavaScript more than four times faster than Apple's previous Safari 3.2 browser. Apple claims Safari 4 is 30 times faster than IE 7 and nearly three times faster than Firefox 3 at executing JavaScript. When it comes to loading straight HTML Web pages Apple says it is three times faster than IE 7 and Firefox 3.

Among the ways Apple's Safari 4 browser differentiates itself from its competitors is by incorporating signature Apple Cover Flow technology into a new Full History Search feature. This feature allows you to review browser Web page history in a way similar to browsing songs/albums in the iTunes store and on the iPhone and iPod (see above image).

top sites feature of apple's safari 4 beta
This is a look at the Top Sites feature in Safari 4. The feature allows you to see your favorite Web sites at a glance in one single window.

Apple's Safari 4 beta browser is available now for download for both the Mac and Windows OS. System requirements include a PC running Windows XP SP2 or Vista. Mac users must be running Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.6 or Mac X Tiger 10.4.11 on at least an Intel Mac or G3 system or better.

"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," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior VP of Worldwide Product Marketing, in a press release.

Speed and performance increases are a direct result of a new JavaScript engine called Nitro. Apple is using the open source browser engine WebKit for rendering Web pages - the same engine used in Google's Chrome browser and the Google Android browser.

To read PC World's first look review of the Safari 4 beta browser click here.

Here is a breakdown of new Safari 4 beta features from Apple:

Top Sites, a display of frequently visited pages in a stunning wall of previews so users can jump to their favorite sites with a single click

Full History Search, where users search through titles, web addresses and the complete text of recently viewed pages to easily return to sites they've seen before

Cover Flow, to make searching web history or bookmarks as fun and easy as paging through album art in iTunes

Tabs on Top, for better tabbed browsing with easy drag-and-drop tab management tools and an intuitive button for opening new ones

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

Other improvements include:

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.

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