Safari is Apple's default web browser optimized for use on its custom silicon. Ease of use, speed, and privacy are the tentpole features of the platform. Other features include Intelligent Tracking Prevention, third-party extensions, and Tab Groups.
● Content Blocking
● Password Manager
● Reading List
● Tab Groups
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Safari is the default web browser across all Apple devices and is designed from the ground up for privacy and efficiency. Apple claims that its browser is faster and more battery efficient than any other available on macOS.
Users can download other browsers on Apple products, but only macOS supports fully-functional third-party browsers. Apple requires third-party browsers to use WebKit on iPhone and iPad, so users don't get the entire experience on those platforms.
Safari's basic feature set focuses on speed and ease of use, though there are some in-depth controls if users look for them. Customization options, shared Tab Groups, and Focus Modes can provide plenty for a power user.
Apple also touts privacy as a primary feature of its browser. As the web became more and more reliant on ad revenue, many agencies began tracking users' activities across the internet in an effort to show them relevant advertisements. The invasion of user privacy has become a business model for many internet-based companies, and Apple has been fighting against it.
With each new Safari software update, Apple has added more user-facing protection to expose tracking features of websites and keep user data where users choose.
Users can take it a step further and attach specific Tab Groups to different Focus Modes for even more customization. This means when Safari is opened with a Focus active, it will show the relevant Tab Group.
macOS Ventura also introduced Shared Tab Groups, which let users share a set of websites and interact with them in real-time. Active users are shown in each tab with an avatar icon, and any participant can open and close tabs.
Intelligent Tracking Prevention
Intelligent Tracking Prevention is a feature that does exactly what the name implies — it prevents trackers from following users across the web. Tracking methods are numerous, and new ones are implemented daily, but Safari is constantly updated to combat active tracking.
Users might encounter hidden pixels, trackers embedded in images, or social media buttons on any webpage they visit. These trackers are used to generate an advertising profile so companies like Google and Facebook can show users relevant ads.
This controversial feature has caused a lot of trouble for companies that rely heavily on user data. Facebook has campaigned against Apple for its tracking protection features, saying that it damages small businesses.
When using Safari, each tab is completely isolated from the others so that any malicious code executed from one tab cannot affect other tabs or apps outside of Safari. The code would be unable to perform its task and crash the tab or force the system to warn users about the webpage executing an action.
Websites use a device's signature to render a page correctly. By requesting the current OS, screen size, model, browser, and IP address, a webpage can more easily render its content tailored to the device.
However, this data has become a tool for tracking by creating a unique "fingerprint" of the user visiting the webpage. Instead of allowing a page to access all of this information, Apple offers the site a simplified profile with a random identifier. This allows the site to get the necessary information to render the webpage while keeping the user private.
Using information available from Contacts and Calendars, Safari can surface auto-fill suggestions when a user is presented with a field. Auto-fill also extends to passwords stored in the iCloud Password or third-party password services.
If a password is being requested for the first time when signing up for an account, Safari will automatically generate a strong password and store it in the cloud. When requesting a password with auto-fill, the user will be asked to authenticate with biometrics like Face ID or Touch ID.
Credit card numbers can also be saved for syncing. Protected data like credit card numbers and passwords are stored with 256-bit AES encryption.
This system also implements an iCloud+ feature called "Hide My Email." Instead of suggesting a user's primary email, it will generate an alias for that website. This help determines which websites are spamming mail or enables a user to stop mail entirely by turning an address off.
Speed and battery optimization
The following tests were performed to compare Safari to other browsers.
- Motionmark- up to 2.0 times faster than Chrome on macOS when testing animation rendering
- Speedometer- up to 1.4 times more responsive than Firefox on macOS
Apple also says that using Safari will make your battery last longer than competing browsers on macOS.
- Up to 3 hours of additional browsing compared to Chrome and Firefox
- Up to 4 hours of additional video streaming compared to Chrome and Firefox
Safari on iOS and iPadOS
There are some differences between how Safari works on macOS versus iOS and iPadOS. The iPhone version of the browser is mobile-first, while the iPad gets the desktop website experience. However, neither platform is as open for extensions and control as the Mac.
Users can install extensions from the App Store to block certain content or customize their browsing experience. For example, content blockers act as the advertisement and tracking blocking toolset found within the App Store.
Extensions are only available for Safari and do not work with third-party browsers, even though they all use WebKit.
Safari on Mac
The Mac is more open to user customization and control through miniature programs across the operating system. Because of this, Apple has allowed third-party extensions to run within Safari.
As of macOS Big Sur, users can install popular add-ons from other browsers. Those web developers who want to submit these extensions for use on Safari will need little to no conversion.
Since Apple Silicon and Universal Apps have been widely adopted, there is little notable difference between how Safari operates on an iPad or Mac — at least at first install. The Mac still has wider access to extensions thanks to its ability to install notarized apps from the web.