iOS 8/OS X Yosemite: Safari catching up with Chrome

os x yosemites safari plays catch up

Apple has introduced a range of improvements within Safari on both OS X and iOS that mean the multi-platform browser is catching up with Chrome for performance.

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Optimizing experience

In one key addition, Apple has at last included tools to help developers optimize sites for the Safari browser, Navigation Timing API. Support for this was introduced in the fourth Safari beat for OS X and iOS 8 last week. Now, it's likely most readers have never heard of this, but inclusion of the tool is a big deal if you want a faster browsing experience -- it allows developers to optimize their sites to work faster with Safari and is already supported by Chrome and Firefox.

The Navigation Timing API is a specification developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). Navigation Timing enables developers to monitor critical performance metrics such as DNS connect, response, wait time, load time and other data points. "The result will be fast-loading websites and mobile sites," said Frank Cioffi of Catchpoint Systems. These tools weren't available in Safari until now.

Catchpoint Systems CEO, Mehdi Daoudi has been lobbying Apple to include this in Safari: "Every single day, I’m tasked with giving my end users the best possible Web experience," he writes. "To do so, I need to know how my website actually behaves out in the wild so accurate ways to measure how my website performs are absolutely critical."

Big impacts

Web developers will now be able to optimize sites for Safari, as they'll be equipped with real-time data to help them identify and repair any problems on their sites.

"The effect will have an especially big impact when looking at mobile users, as Apple’s combined presence across smartphones and tablets means that Safari comprised a whopping 59.1% of mobile browser traffic as of April of this year," writes Catchpoint Web performance engineer, Leo Vasiliou. "And as we all know, with mobile browsing overtaking desktop in the past year and continuing to grow, the ability to glean insight into the mobile users’ experience is invaluable to those of us who are committed to optimizing everyone’s web performance."

With the consistent growth of real user measurement as a tool to optimize user experience on the internet, and navigation timing being the primary method for achieving that goal, the possibility for developers to understand the experiences of Safari users (who account for over a quarter of all internet traffic) should lead to faster performing sites for Apple's faster performing browser.

This is just one among many developer focused improvements to look forward to in Safari, of course.

Apple has made a range of improvements to WebGL; has introduced numerous advanced HTML5 video technologies to help users access Web video without the energy waste; while new WebKit features let you create websites with engaging, adaptive layouts that work in Safari on iOS and OS X.

This is all good so far, but the key take away here is that Apple's model for its operating systems remains one in which it empowers developers to build great software on its platforms -- it likes partnerships. Support for the Navigation Timing API also shows that Apple listens to its customers.

It will be interesting to see what solutions we will see emerge from within Apple's developer community now they are equipped with these powerful tools -- WWDC 2014 will turn out to be a much bigger deal to end users than we previously thought.

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