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Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 05:30 pm PT (08:30 pm ET)

Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: Safari 5.2 gets a simplified user interface with new sharing features


Safari turns 9

It's hard to believe that Safari just turned nine years old. Prior to launching its own browser, Apple bundled Netscape Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer for Mac (apart from a brief experiment in 1996 with its own OpenDoc-based browser components named Cyberdog).

With both Netscape and Microsoft treating the Macintosh platform as a secondhand project, Steve Jobs initiated the Safari project so Mac users could have a first rate, competitive web browser. Apple hired Netscape's Dave Hyatt in mid 2002, who had worked on the Mozilla browser since 1997, creating the Chimera/Camino browser as well as co-founding the Phoenix/Firefox browser with Blake Ross.

Rather than using Mozilla's open browser code (which he was intimately familiar with, and which was derived from Netscape), Hyatt and the Safari team leveraged the largely unknown open source KHML web rendering engine to rapidly deliver the first version of Safari within months.

Resurrecting the web

As Safari's developer, Apple rapidly became an important contributor to the HTML standards process, with Safari leading the effort to work toward standards compliance, highlighted by being the first to past tests such as Acid2. Apple is also a primary contributor to the HTML5 specification.

HTML timeline


Apple was required by KHTML's licensing terms to share its improvements to the web and JavaScript rendering engine, which it did under the LGPL WebCore and JavaScriptCore projects. But Apple also went further and also made its own complete layout engine available as open source too, under the name WebKit.

WebKit allowed other vendors to quickly develop entire browsers for their own devices and platforms, sharing the same type of standards compliance that Safari had helped to initiate on the Mac. Apple launched its own WebKit Safari browsers for OS X and Windows, followed by a mobile version for iOS.

Other vendors, ranging from Nokia to Google to RIM to Samsung, have also used WebKit to deliver Safari-like browsers. Apart from Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 browser, virtually every mobile device and smartphone now uses a WebKit browser, giving WebKit nearly 100% market share among mobile devices.

Thanks to Google's proliferation of its WebKit based Chrome browser on Windows and Macs, WebKit now also makes up about 24 percent of desktop users' browsers, compared to Microsoft's 53 percent share with Internet Explorer and Mozilla's 21 percent share with Firefox.



Apple's next version of Safari in Mountain Lion also incorporates some unique new features that are lacking in other WebKit browsers such as Chrome, including new privacy and website alert features. The next segment Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion will describe how these work.