All posts tagged ‘safari’

File Under: Browsers

The Curious Case of Web Browser Names

Chances are your web browser is open all day, every day. Whether it’s Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome or Safari, the browser is the single most important piece of software most of us use. Given its central place in our lives, some history seems in order. If you’ve ever stopped browsing long enough to wonder why Safari is named Safari or where in the world the word “Mozilla” comes from, we have some answers for you.

Martin Beeby, a developer evangelist at Microsoft, has put together a nice little history of web browser names. Some are obvious — Internet Explorer came about because it was “a name that gave people a clear idea of what the product did” — some are less so, like Opera, which was apparently chosen because, among other things, “the Opera is fun.”

With the exception of Opera and IE, none of Beeby’s name origin stories come directly from the companies behind the browsers, so take all of these with a grain of salt. For instance, no one seems to know the exact origins of “Safari”, though the Beach Boys’ album seems like a reasonable guess — surfing the web, Surfin’ Safari… get it? The WebKit blog is named Surfin’ Safari, which might lend some credence to that story, but the name also nicely ties in with the notion of exploring the wild and connotes some of the same images as “explorer” and “navigator”.

Perhaps the least obvious name in the bunch is Firefox’s parent company Mozilla. Beeby cites a well-known story that the name that was derived by combining the words that were its original goal — “Mosaic Killer.” Webmonkey has heard another version of that story that claims the word “Godzilla” was the inspiration for “Mozilla,” a Godzilla-like force that would destroy Mosaic.

Beeby doesn’t offer any stories for less well-known browsers, like Konqueror, which, as the story goes, was going to “conquer” what IE and Netscape had “explored” and “navigated” respectively. The allusion didn’t really pan out, but, when Apple came along and ported KHTML to form WebKit, the developers did name their early efforts after a famous conqueror — Alexander.

For more details, and to learn where the names Firefox and Chrome come from, be sure to read through Beeby’s post.

File Under: Browsers, HTML5, Mobile

Mobile Safari Gets More HTML5 Love in iOS Update

Apple recently updated its iOS software for iPhones, iPods and iPads. While there were plenty of new features for users (which you can read about on Gadget Lab), the updated version of Mobile Safari has quite a few nice new tricks for web developers.

Mobile Safari has long been at the front of the mobile pack when it comes to HTML5 support, and the latest version adds several more welcome new features. We now get support for WebSockets, better @font-face handling, better HTML5 forms and even support for the bleeding edge DeviceOrientation API — that’s the API that lets you access the accelerometer from inside the browser.

So far it doesn’t appear that Apple has fully documented the new features, but Maximiliano Firtman, the author of Programming the Mobile Web, has been testing the latest version of Mobile Safari and offers a nice overview of what’s new in iOS 4.2.

If you’re developing mobile-optimized site, or just want to play with next generation HTML features like WebSockets, check out Firtman’s overview of what Mobile Safari can and can’t do. If you’d like to see what Android 2.2 is capable of, Firtman has a similar overview of Froyo’s support for HTML5 and its related APIs.

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File Under: Browsers, JavaScript

Mozilla Asks, ‘Are We Fast Yet?’

The above charts show the performance of JavaScript engines across different architectures. The tests shown are the common SunSpider and V8 JavaScript benchmarks, with output measured in milliseconds. The tests are run once a day, and the graphs show the last five weeks or so of results.

Go to the real site and click on all the clicky bits.

The green line is Google V8, the red line is Apple Nitro, and the orange and black lines are Mozilla’s two engines, JaegerMonkey and TraceMonkey, respectively. The purple lines reflect Mozilla’s new approach of running the engines concurrently. As you can see, it speeds things up.

But the answer to the question being asked by the URL is “No” — Google is currently either on par with Apple Safari or slightly better, depending on the test and the architecture. Mozilla is improving, but still has a lot of catching up to do.

This testing tool is maintained by Mozilla’s JavaScript team. I found out about it earlier today when John Resig, the guy behind jQuery and a Mozilla employee, tweeted the link. It’s an effective motivational tool, especially since it shows how slow Mozilla’s engines were only a month ago, and how quickly the team is gaining on the leaders.

A couple of caveats: The tests aren’t run in the browser, they are run from the command line. Also, a Mac Mini in doing the testing, so Internet Explorer isn’t represented. From what we’ve seen of IE9′s pre-release code, the browser is incredibly fast. We’re curious to see how its JavaScript engine stacks up.

Also, no Opera. Opera’s Carakan engine is also blazing fast, but it’s not represented here.

Check out the page’s FAQ for more details. Also, the code for the test is open source, so if you have philosophical issues with these methods, build your own testing environment.

Update: Here’s a much more detailed post about Mozilla’s performance on JavaScript benchmarks by Rob Sayre.

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File Under: Browsers, HTML5

Is Your Browser Ready for HTML5?

The HTML5 era is already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed yet. Browsers vary in their levels of support for the emerging standard, and developers are pushing the envelope with hacks, experiments and proof-of-concept demos.

If you want to find out how well-equipped your browser is for the HTML5 future, just pay a visit HTML5test.com.

The page will check if your browser supports HTML5 parsing, canvas, file drag-and-drop, embedded audio and video, and all of the other elements required by the draft HTML5 specification, as well as specifications that are related to HTML5 but not actually a part of it, like geolocation and local storage.

You’ll be issued a score (out of a total of 300 points) that indicates the level of support for the stuff in the spec, as well as bonus points for support that goes beyond what’s required for HTML5 compliance. For example, your browser gets bonus points for each video codec and audio codec included in the browser. These are only bonus points, and not real points, since HTML5 outlines how audio and video files can be embedded on a page, but does not require a specific audio or video codec to be included.

Here’s how the browsers on my Mac stack up:

  • Chrome (dev channel) scores 217 points and 10 bonus points
  • Safari 5.01 scores 208 points with 6 bonus points
  • Firefox 4 beta 2 scores 189 points with 9 bonus points
  • Opera 10.6 scores 159 points and 7 bonus points
  • Internet Explorer 9 platform preview scores 84 points and 1 bonus point

If you’re wondering how these scores are being generated, the code behind the single-serving app was posted to Github by creator Niels Leenheer. He says he also incorporated the HTML5 parser tests created by Mozilla developer Henri Sivonen.

HTML5, the much-anticipated rewrite of the web’s lingua franca, is currently in open development, with the web’s standards body and all the browser vendors taking part. While some browsers won’t fully support HTML5 until it is officially standardized some time in the next year or two, developers have already begun building with it, and all major browser vendors are adding support into their latest releases.

There are multiple methods of checking for HTML5 element support when a user visits your page, as well as libraries like Modernizr, which let you take advantage of HTML5 elements while controlling how browsers with limited support handle your page.

The HTML5 specification is updated frequently, and browser support for the various elements is in constant flux. As such, the test numbers will go up and down as new browser versions are released and as the code that powers the tests is improved and is updated to reflect HTML5′s changing status.

Also, Leenheer has posted the next version of the test, which ups the total possible score to 315 points, at beta.html5test.com. Go there if you want to see what the page will be testing for in the future.

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File Under: Browsers

Apple Updates Safari, Turns on Extensions

The new Safari browser with the Twitter toolbar extension installed

Apple released an update to its Safari web browser Wednesday.

Safari 5.0.1 is available from Apple as a free download for Windows and for Mac OS X (Leopard or better). Mac users can also find it in Software Update.

This is an incremental upgrade, but it comes with one big new feature: Safari now has a real platform for third-party extensions, a feature that Firefox and Chrome have had for some time.

Safari 5 arrived in early June, and in addition to dozens of other enhancements (including the much-discussed Reader feature) it included a new architecture for creating lightweight browser extensions that enhance and personalize web pages and web services. Wednesday’s update now lets you install and run those extensions. Apple has also launched a new Extensions Gallery where you can browse the available extensions and download them.

All the major browsers — Safari included — have had a variety of plug-ins, add-ons and toolbars available for years. But Safari’s new extension architecture is much closer to the format recently adopted by Google Chrome and Firefox. This new breed of extensions can be written using HTML, JavaScript, CSS and other web standards. It makes for a much gentler learning curve for potential developers, and for an experienced web programmer, the effort required to create and distribute a standards-based extension is almost trivial. For users, these extensions are easier to maintain and less likely to slow down the browser.

Mozilla calls its lightweight extension project Jetpack, and it’s being incorporated into the newest Firefox releases. The next version of Google’s browser will let users sync their extensions across multiple installations of the browser.

Go to extensions.apple.com to see the gallery of extensions being promoted by Apple. Also, keep in mind that anyone can create and distribute a Safari extension, so distribution isn’t controlled like the App Store. For safety’s sake, Safari extensions are sandboxed inside the browser and signed with a digital certificate so you know you’re getting updates from the same person who created the original.

Apple is promoting a few big-name creations in the gallery. There’s an official Twitter extension, which integrates a simple toolbar Twitter client into your browser, one from MLB that displays scores and headlines, and an eBay manager sidebar for keeping a close eye on your auctions. There’s one on the way from Instapaper.

Of course, the irreverent extensions are more interesting. There’s Defacer, which hides “Like” buttons and other Facebook cruft you find around the web. Shut Up hides comments by default on blogs. A Cleaner YouTube removes visual distractions from video pages, promising to turn YouTube into “a clean and tranquil place” as if that’s even remotely possible.

There are around 100 extensions to choose from right now, and since the new extensions framework in Safari is so simple to develop for, we expect the list to keep growing quickly.

There is one other notable safety enhancement to Safari 5.0.1 — the form auto-fill vulnerability has been patched. This fixes a vulnerability that hackers could exploit to grab personal information from a user by forcing the browser to auto-fill a hidden web form with locally stored data. So, even if you may not care for extensions, you should upgrade Safari for this reason alone.

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