February 26, 2009 Apple might have the coolest personal communications device on the planet at the moment in the iPhone, but in the browser wars their Safari offering is struggling with statistics showing Firefox and Internet Explorer usage way out in front and even Google’s recently released Chrome overtaking it. In a bid to rectify that Apple has released a public beta of Safari 4 for OS X and Windows with claims it runs JavaScript over four times faster than its predecessor, 30 times faster than Internet Explorer 7, six times faster than Internet Explorer 8 and up to four times faster than Firefox 3.1 thanks to its new Nitro engine.

Cover Flow also makes its way into Safari 4 allowing users to flip through the web history or bookmarks, while the new Top Sites feature displays a wall of previews of frequently visited pages so users can jump to their favorite sites with a single click.

Safari has always been quick to support the latest standards and Safari 4 is no exception with support for HTML 5 audio and video tags allowing developers to integrate media directly into standard web pages and HTML 5 offline technologies so web-based applications can store information locally without an Internet connection. Safari 4 supports CSS 3 animations and is also the first browser to support advanced CSS effects that enable web graphics using reflections, gradients and precision masks. It is also the first browser to pass the Web Standards Project’s Acid3 test, which examines how well a browser adheres to CSS, JavaScript, XML and SVG web standards that are specifically designed for dynamic web applications.

The public beta of Safari 4 is available now as a free download for both Mac OS X and Windows with the Windows version sporting a new Windows-native look that uses standard Windows font rendering and native title bar, borders and toolbars so Windows XP and Windows Vista users feel at home.

Darren Quick