Apple just released Safari 4.0 Developer Preview to its developers. The new browser comes with several new features, including:
- CSS support for masks, gradients, reflections, and specifying a named canvas.
- Rudimentary support for the WAI-ARIA (Rich Internet Application) and cross-site XMLHttpRequest specifications.
- The ability to send messages between documents
- Storage of data either locally or just for the user’s session
- The option of running web applications outside of a browser or when disconnected from the network
- Canvas pixel manipulation
Safari is still playing catchup to Firefox on some fronts. For example, Firefox has supported WAI-ARIA since version 1.5. However, the Safari team seems to be pushing the limits with features like the ability to support masks via CSS. Safari’s features seem to be focused on what would be cool to do with a browser, visually. While Firefox appears to be aligned with keeping up with bleeding edge Web standards.
Features like CSS masking are not currently standards. In fact, they haven’t even been officially proposed to be included in the CSS standard. Although Dave Hyatt of the Safari WebKit team has stated these will be proposed to CSS. Apple’s not playing by the rules reeks of Microsoft’s past Internet Explorer shenanigans, like building proprietary browser features, like ActiveX and styling calls that were OS specific. However, there are big differences between how Microsoft approached Internet Explorer and how Apple is choosing to innovate.
So what is Microsoft doing while Apple and Mozilla innovate? They’ve created a knock-off of Flash (that’s so late 90’s). They fixed a several rendering bugs — the equivalent of replacing square wheels with round ones to move from IE6 to IE7 (meaning, it never worked well to begin with). They are working a new version of Internet Explorer (version 8) that has some self-proclaimed new and exiting features. Although, like me, I think you’ll be underwhelmed by them.
- Activities — Shortcuts to post content on a blog or to get directions. This can already be done through plugins on Firefox.
- WebSlices — RSS-like content subscription. Actually a cool feature, but will is it based on standards or will be submitted as one?
- Favorites Bar — Cosmetic, like switching from Avon to Aveda…big whoop!
- Automatic Crash Recovery — Firefox has been there, done that.
- Improved Phishing Filter — New and improved excessive popup messages, something Microsoft has perfected. Just copy Firefox and let’s be on with it.
I’m excited about the true innovations that Mozilla and Apple are doing. I’m also also pleased to see the vigorous push for creating standards, while allowing enough wriggle room for these browser developers to experiment with new ideas and techniques — ideas and techniques that will ultimately enable us to engage the Web in ways we have yet to imagine.