Prepare thy hoses. The recent announcement of the Safari 5 Web browser got me thinking--just how much of Apple's latest software iteration is already replicated in Firefox? In Google? I've never been a fan of the Safari browser myself--even the few times I would ever let my pristine hands be blackened by an unholy Apple device. But one has to give the company credit, in that they sometimes do come up with some pretty neat ideas.
Has Apple managed to improve Safari 5 leaps and bounds beyond its chief rivals, Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome? In short, no. A number of the new tricks and tidbits are already a part of one browser, or both, in some capacity. Some, that is, but not all. Just to make sure that you're getting the best-in-class experience on the Web, I've put together a short list of ways that you can embed or mimic the spirit of some of Safari 5's features in either aforementioned alternative Web browser.
I realize this is a little bit different than the usual freeware software roundup. And, yes, I realize you're about to flame me to bits for suggesting that anything touched by Apple is, in even the smallest of ways, better than a PC-based piece of hardware or software. Let's head this off at the pass by agreeing that cool features are cool features regardless of platform; I'm out of iPhones to break to prove my loyalty, faithful readers!
Following the recent launch of Apple's Safari 5 Web browser, users have been reporting that Netflix streaming no longer works. We expect this to be sorted out rather quickly, but in the meantime, there's a pretty simple workaround - use a better browser. Oops, did we just say that?
We kid (kind of). For those of you who want to stick it out with Safari, you can take matters into your own hands until an official fix is in. The problem stems from the browser agent string, which Netflix doesn't yet recognize as a supported browser. All you have to do is change this back to Safari 4.1 and you're golden. Here's how:
Click the Gear icon (Settings) and select Preference > Advanced. Check the "Show Develop menu in menu bar" box. Now click the Paper icon (Menu) and select Develop > User Agent > Safari 4.1 -- Mac (yes, you select this option even on a Windows machine).
That's it, you're now ready to one again stream Netflix movies and TV shows to your browser. Just be aware that if you later plan to surf a Safari 5 optimized site, you'll want to switch this back.
Apple on Monday released the final version of Safari 5, and with it a 30 percent performance improvement over the previous version, the Cupertino company claims. But raw performance is only part of the story - Safari 5 comes packed with features, including over a dozen HTML5 elements, such as embedded full-screen Web video, closed captions, Geolocation, and more.
"Safari continues to lead the pack in performance, innovation and standards support," said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "Safari now runs on over 200 million devices worldwide and its open source WebKit engine runs on over 500 million devices."
Offering a sort of Ad-Block like experience, Apple's latest browser also includes Safari Reader, which "removes annoying ads and other visual distractions from online articles." Just click the Reader icon in the Smart Address Field and the article will apper in a continuous, clutter-free view, Apple says.
See a full list of changes (and download information) here.
A handful of hackers will leave CanSecWest's security show a little richer than when they arrived after participating in the annual Pwn2Own contest. Charlie Miller, for example, won $10,000 for hacking Safari on a MacBook Pro without having physical access to the rig. You may recall that Miller, a principal security analyst at Independent Security Evaluators, walked away with $5,000 last year for exploiting a hole in Safari, and $10,000 for hacking a MacBook Air in 2008.
Safari wasn't the only software to fall. Peter Vreugdenhil won $10,000 for hacking Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 browser, while Nils, head of research at UK-based MWR InfoSecurity, collected the same amount for exploiting Firefox on Windows 7-64 bit (Nils declined to provide his last name).
Both Ralf Philip Weinmann and Vincenzo Iozzo will share a $15,000 prize for hacking Apple's iPhone. They did so with an exploit written two weeks ago designed to steal the contents of the SMS database.
"The payload executes and uploads the local SMS database of the phone to the server we control," Weinmann said.
Ok, Safari fans. If you're still holding out for a few of your favorite features to appear in Mozilla's Firefox before you're convinced to make the switch, the cosmetic add-on Fission might be enough to get you to jump ship. This little add-on doesn't clone or skin your Safari browsing experience, nor does it actually build anything extremely useful into the browser that's otherwise lacking between the two competing platforms. But that's OK--not every add-on should move mountains just as long as it provides some kind of neat feature that you wouldn't be able to find normally, right?
Well, that's the definition of Fission. All this little add-on does is move the typical loading status bar from your tabs to Firefox's address bar. That's it. Though, I admit, I kind of like having this larger area serve as the status for my page loading efforts. There's a lot more space to work with (in case you're suffering from a page that's taking forever to load.) More than that, it's a lot easier to see the "snap" of the bar filling up, giving you an easy visual reference--beyond the loaded page itself--whenever your browser is done rendering content.
Will Fission win any awards for its unique fix? Likely not. But it does make Firefox just a touch bit prettier (provided it doesn't break any of your themes), and we can all be grateful for that.
While being number three in the browser wars is akin to fighting over table scraps, Google is probably happy at the news that Chrome’s combined platform use has pushed it ahead of Safari, by a whole 0.03 percentage points. (“We’re number 3! We’re number 3!”) Chrome’s elevation in status was reported by Net Applications, which tracks the browser habits of 160 million unique monthly visitors to the 40,000 sites it monitors. The results are for the month of November.
Let’s first put things into context: Internet Explorer (IE), in all its glory, dominates the browser market with a market share of 63.6%, and Firefox a distant second at 24.7%. That leaves 11.7% for everyone else. Chrome now owns a 4.4% share, closely followed by Safari at 4.37%. There are some who might argue otherwise, but does it really matter who fills out the remaining 2.93%?
Chrome’s bump up into third place comes on the heels of the introduction of betas for Mac OS and Linux--basically moving Chrome into two new market niches. Collectively, this added 0.4 percentage points to Google’s total: from 4.0% of market share in October to 4.4% in November. On a percentage basis that’s not an insignificant increase, but in the overall scheme of things it doesn’t seem all that much. Still, “We’re number 3!”
Chrome doesn’t appear to be posed to threaten the dominate browsers in these new markets anytime soon. Chrome’s share of the Mac OS market went from 0.32% to 1.3%--Safari seems safe for now. And on Linux Chrome went from a 3.81% share to a 6.34% share--and safe too is Firefox.
Vince Vizzaccaro, an executive vice president of Net Applications doesn’t see Chrome threatening the OS hegemony of IE or Safari, but does suspect that Chrome might one day give Firefox a run for its money on Linux: “With the emergence of Chrome, I'll be curious to see if Chrome will be to Firefox on Linux what Firefox is to IE on Windows...a forceful competitor.”
It may even be possible to see support for WebGL in native WebKit browsers in as little as 6 months. Safari and Chrome are probably on the forefront of this technology, as they are based on WebKit. Firefox, while based on the Gecko engine, has an extension capable of displaying a WebGL 3D canvas. As for Internet Explorer, don’t hold your breath. Microsoft still has yet to implement HTML5, let alone upcoming technologies.
It was found to have blocked 81% of live malware threats during the tests. The figure seems more imposing once you learn that the runner-up, Firefox 3, only managed to block 27% of malware threats. To boot, Microsoft’s browser also managed to block 83% of phishing URLs, with Firefox finishing second with 80%.
But Ars Technica has cast doubts over the veracity of the tests. The heavily lopsided nature of the results is not the only thing to blame for its skepticism. Amy Barzdukas, General Manager of Internet Explorer, told Ars Technica that the tests had been sponsored by Microsoft. Apparently, it ended up becoming the lone sponsor, as other companies didn’t respond to NSS Labs’ call for funding. Microsoft claims to have had no control over the results.
"We invited Google, Mozilla, Apple, Opera to participate, but they didn’t even bother to respond, except for Opera, which stated they “don’t really focus on malware," NSS Labs’ president, Rick Moy, told Ars Technica.
Happy day-after-Firefox-release day. If you're one of the 3.2 million Americans to download the latest release of the browser as of this column's writing, congratulations. You, like your peers, have recognized the value of upgrading to faster and better technology products! If that sounds weird, that's the point. It should. According to Net Applications, around twenty percent of users (out of a survey sample of around 160 million people) still use an older version of a Web browser, be it Internet Explorer 6, Firefox 2, or either Safari 3.1 or 3.2. You are not among them; I salute thee.
Click the jump to access the contents of this article 35 percent faster.
Both Apple's Safari and Opera Software's Opera browsers have come under a bit of fire by Thomas Duebendorfer of Google Switzerland and Stefan Frei of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The two recently published a research paper on "Why Silent Updates Boost Security," noting deficiencies in how both aforementioned browsers go about rolling out security updates.
According to the paper, just 53 percent of users surfing with a 3.x version of Safari have applied a new update within the past three weeks, and only 33 percent of users had updated to version 3.2.1 three weeks after it had been released. The paper noted that Opera will check for updates weekly, but installing them requires "serious user activity," as the update follows the same procedure as if the installing Opera for first time.
"Opera browser users apparently don't update frequently," the researchers wrote. "After three weeks of a new release, a disappointing maximum of 24 percent active daily users of Opera 9.x have the newest Opera browser installed. It's a pity that 76 percent of Opera 9.x users currently don't benefit from the security improvements and new features of new Opera versions with three weeks of its release."
The paper went on to say that engineering time would be better spent on increasing update effectiveness rather than working on new features.
"All in all, the poor update effectiveness of Apple Safari and Opera gives attackers plenty of time to use known exploits to attacker users of outdated browsers," the researchers concluded.