Safari debuted on macOS in 2003 as the default web browser running WebKit. It has been the default browser on iOS since its debut in 2007 as well. Apple has been reluctant to allow other browsers on its mobile platform, restricting all third-party browsers to WebKit engines.
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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 than any other available on macOS.
Apple Pay, saving and sharing websites, and extensions make up some of the primary features for Safari.
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.
Intelligent Tracking Prevention
When browsing the web, users will often come across social media buttons. These are embedded trackers to determine if your IP address has visited a webpage. By using Intelligent Tracking Prevention in the latest version of Safari, Apple stops these embedded trackers from associating users with specific web pages.
When using Safari, each tab is completely isolated from the other 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 for the device.
This data has become a tool for tracking, however, 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 keychain 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.
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
Apple has some distinct features for each platform Safari resides on. Instead of letting developers make utilities of any kind, Apple limits tools to particular categories for the iOS and iPadOS browser.
Content blockers act as the advertisement and tracking blocking toolset found within the App Store. These apps only interact with Safari and not third-party browsers like Firefox. Content blockers can be customized to prevent all kinds of web content, and are not always used exclusively for ads.
In iOS 15, Apple added the ability for users to install extensions, These extensions have to be built for mobile Safari specifically then submitted from the App Store.
Unlike content blockers, extensions can perform almost any function available to a browser. Popular extensions include dark mode controllers, Google Amp blockers, and redirect tools for Twitter and Reddit.
While the iOS browser experience is built around touch on a small screen, Apple has branched the iPadOS experience out further. Physical keyboards and trackpads can be used on the larger-screen devices, and the 4:3 aspect ratio found with most iPads let even more wide-screen content show at once.
Because of these differences, Safari will show desktop websites by default. It will attempt to translate hover actions and click results into intents used by the Apple Pencil or iPadOS cursor.
Content blockers and extensions work in the iPadOS 15 Safari the same way they do on iOS 15. The larger screen means there are more controls present on some extensions. One popular extension type on iPad is a custom start page.
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 will be able to execute 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.
The Safari start page has a lot of information at first glance. When using the default Safari experience, users will see their favorite bookmarks, frequently visited links, and Siri suggested links all on this page. Users can now customize this page further with a custom background.