Review: Safari web-browser for Windows

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As part of WWDC last night, Steve Jobs unveiled possibly the most important piece of news of the night to consumers – Safari, Apple’s very own web-browser, was to become available on Windows.

Quite why any self-respecting Windows user would want to taint their hard drive with El Jobso’s machinery, and quite why Apple are interested in placing their software on Windows in the first place, no one knows. But then, the same thing was said when they announced iTunes would be available on Windows, and there’s no way in a-black-turtleneck-and-jeans heaven the iPod would have seen anywhere near the amount of success had this not been implemented.

So, we know Safari already owns 5% of the market share in web browsers – but will this new availability of the browser for Windows-users increase the popularity? Read on below for my review – and yes, I’ve tried not to wear my Bill Gates-adoration on my sleeve *too* much here, to give you the most unbiased review I possibly can.

Downloading the software is easy, and takes no time at all, however I wish the same could be said for actually rendering the home page. From the moment of clicking on the Safari icon, to taking me to the first page – apple.com, natch, is a process which takes eight seconds.

Considering the speed which my computer takes to point me to Google on both Firefox and Internet Explorer – under a second – this is extremely disappointing. Of course, this could be due to the no-doubt millions of downloads the browser has had, thus the added millions accessing apple.com, slowing the loading speed.

According to Apple, Safari 3 is double the speed of Internet Explorer and 42% faster than Firefox, however I find these figures to be highly incorrect. Not just is the home page slow to render, but after typing in URLs, it’s the same, if not slower, to whisk me off to the site than Firefox is.

Having actually owned a Mac for three years, and accustomed to using Safari regularly (although admittedly I preferred Firefox on my Mac), I can’t say I can notice too many differences. The one major flaw that jumps out at me is that when typing in a URL, several selections come up which I most definitely have never entered before, so are obviously paid-for adverts. Not cool, Apple, not cool at all.

The key features for Safari on Windows include tabbed browsing, SnapBack, and the muchly-adored pop-up blocking, standards users expect from their web browsers these days.

There are however some new features to Safari not seen before in previous versions, such as the ability to drag tabs out of the main browsing window, thus turning it into its own browser window (flawless, and one feature I could definitely become accustomed to), and the private browsing which doesn’t automatically save Google searches and page histories using the caching features.

Speaking of Google, it’s got a Google search-bar built in, (evidence of that Google-Apple love-in we’ve been seeing recently), but no Google toolbar, which will really be the make-or-break feature for some people. Personally I can’t stand the toolbar so this won’t be missed by me, but I know Google purists who would miss this incredibly, particularly the GMail and Googler bookmarks buttons.

One thing I noticed instantly was that there was no home button built into the toolbar. Sure, you can click on ‘View’, then ‘Customise toolbar’, and add it yourself, but really…a web browser without home built in automatically?!

Those downloading Safari on Windows are no doubt familiar with the web browser already, but for any newcomers, having the ‘OK’ and ‘Cancel’ buttons reversed in dialogue boxes could be dangerous – think of how many mistakes they’ll make!

RSS feeds are built in automatically for news of interest, but I’m sure those techy enough to actually download the browser already have Bloglines or Google’s own RSS feeds.

The browser may’ve already been live for less than 24 hours, but reports have emerged that it’s already been hacked. Only time will tell how the browser will fare against the already-popular IE and Firefox, but I’m betting it won’t overtake either.

Apple announced last night that Safari will be of high importance for developers creating applications for the iPhone – obviously when creating these apps it’s important for Apple to be on the Windows platform as well as Mac OS.

One thing I’m interested in is how far Apple will take this, whether Safari will be bundled together in the iTunes installation, or even with QuickTime. These two programs will obviously be in much greater demand than Safari for Windows, so it makes sense for Apple to offer them together.

An official response has yet to be heard from Microsoft, but we expect it shortly. Meanwhile, with the several security vulnerabilities already been revealed, it seems a case of the ol’ Trojan Horse to me, the perfect way for Apple to rile up Microsoft, and Microsoft users.

Safari for Windows: for those who want a streamlined, slim web browser without all the bloat of IE and Firefox. In other words, for simpletons who don’t want to maximise their browsing time.

Safari 3 for Windows

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Katherine Hannaford

4 comments

  • At first sight the safari looks civilized compared to Firefox or IE. However it flatters to deceive. The start page takes a longer time to load compared to firefox & most disappointing is the fact that some pages just won’t display on this browser.

    So i’m a little heartbroken for i just love the look of Safari, but relieved that i can continue living with my firefox. I wish firfox does something about the way it looks though.

  • Katherine,

    I thought Jobs preferred dubious stock options?

    ;o)

    But I digress. Most Mac users I know wouldn’t touch Safari with a ten foot pole, so why would any PC user? Utterly inexplicable.

  • “In other words, for simpletons who don’t want to maximise their browsing time.”

    OUCH!

    I suspect that the selections that pop up in the location bar from the start are not paid for, per se, but are default bookmarks (I usually get rid of them). You get similar in Firefox, IE, and others, usually pointing to ‘useful’ sites and other places related to the browser manufacturer.

    They might be sponsored but I’d be surprised. What Apple is making money from is the Google search bar.

    As for the speed – to be fair you probably need to test a fresh install of all three browsers, as you will probably find stuff in the cache of Firefox and IE7 that will make it seem that commonly visited pages load quicker. Either that or visit completely new sites. Apologies if you’ve already done this, though. I can’t vouch for Safari being quicker on a PC as I’ve not yet tested it.

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