Technical Observations – On Safari

After our interlude, we now return to our series on internet browsers. This week we will focus in on the Apple environment’s biggest internet browsing software package: Safari. This browser

Initially making its debut in June of 2003, the Safari browser (originally delivered as, believe it or not, an optional download from Apple) was an initial hit with Apple fans. It is no longer a widely used browser on the desktop however; having been eclipsed by Internet Explorer/Edge, Chrome, and Firefox. Though it is still possible to download Safari for Windows, the network traffic coming from the Windows version of Safari is negligible.

It has a very strong base amongst iPad and iPhone users, and so captures a significant percentage of mobile network browsing, meaning that most websites in North America are built so that their mobile presence works well on Safari. However, the mobile versions of Safari can only be used by iOS users, and are unavailable on the Google Play Store of the Amazon App Store.

It is pre-loaded on every Apple device, and thus is the top browser for both the popular iPad and iPhone, two of the most widely used mobile devices in North America. This pre-loading scheme has been a subject of controversy, as Apple has not allowed third parties to run browser engines on iOS. Most iOS users, however, seem content with the experience and most continue to use it as the Browser of choice.

Because of the discrepancy in use between Desktop and mobile, the two separate “forks” of Safari have caused some issues. The mobile version is highly stable, well liked and has a lot of advanced controls. However, the desktop version lagged badly behind in several features, and Apple only recently has started putting effort into bringing the desktop version up to speed, adding features that are already standards in IE/Edge, Chrome and Firefox.

Safari has unfortunately had the dubious honour of being the first browser hacked at the famous PWN2OWN CanWest Security Conference in 2008. It has repeatedly fallen under successive attempts at various PWN2OWN yearly contests, being successfully exploited a total of eight times (that is not as bad as Firefox, but worse than Chrome or IE).

Safari is great for browsing the web on your mobile device. I would recommend sticking with it if you have an iPad or an iPhone. AU students who tend to use desktops or laptops may consider alternative browsers for the browsing experience.

A specific note for students in the Faculty of Science Math courses, where Math elements displaying properly in the browser is crucial. In this environment, I would suggest using Firefox or Chrome, as they will tend to render mathematical formulas better then Safari (even the mobile version) will.

Dakota Soares is an entrepreneur taking his BSc through AU, and has many interests including music, information technology, and chicken producing.

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