8 big improvements in Apple’s High Sierra Safari browser

Faster, more private, and standards-focused Apple browser gains new lease of life

Apple, High Sierra, Web, Web browser, Safari, macOS, Mac, OS X
Apple

Coming soon in High Sierra, Apple has packed the next edition of its Safari 11 browser with interesting new tools and features you’ll need to know about, with speed improvements alone once again making it a strong competitor to Chrome. Enterprise users can also look forward to friction-free cross-platform video conferencing with the release.

Performance enhanced

Apple claims its browser “significantly” outperforms Chrome and Firefox in benchmark tests. Speaking at WWDC, Apple’s Craig Federeghi claimed the browser to be an impressive 80 percent faster in JavaScript performance, promising performance will be even further enhanced when High Sierra ships.

No to Auto-Play

One of the most popular improvements, Autoplay Blocking prevents websites from automatically playing video at you when you visit them. Apple has already taken steps to curtail this kind of obstructive experience – Sierra lets you disable the volume of such clips on a tab-by-tab basis. High Sierra takes this one step further, allowing you to prevent every site from doing this, or enabling sites on a per-site basis. For example, if you enjoy the video on a site you can set it to Allow All Auto-Play, Never Auto-Play, and/or Stop Media with Sound. Settings for this feature are stashed in Safari Preferences>Websites.

Intelligent Tracking Prevention

Spiced with a little machine intelligence, Apple has moved to prevent wholesale tracking of user browser activity. Intelligent Tracking Prevention uses built-in machine AI to reduce cross-site tracking by identifying and limiting cookies and other website data. This doesn’t prevent any reputable ad services, but does help protect your privacy online. If you’ve ever used Ghostery then you will know just how prevalent such tracking tech has become online.

Apple explains a little more about how this works on its WebKit blog:

“Many users feel that trust is broken when they are being tracked and privacy-sensitive data about their web activity is acquired for purposes that they never agreed to.”

Site-based settings

Safari has also introduced a collection of website management settings. These include things like content blockers and Reader Mode, as well as Page Zoom, Auto-Play, Camera, Microphone and Location sharing settings.

Reader Mode

Reader Mode is interesting – though it is likely to be quite bad news to traditional website advertising models.

You can enable this for every site you visit, or just for some. When enabled, when you visit that website you’ll automatically access it in Safari’s Reader View. This strips most extraneous elements from the story you are looking at and provides you with a clear, easy-to-read rendering of the page you’re on. 

Web RTC

Safari also introduces support for Web RTC, which will enable Web-based video conferencing through the browser. A company called BlueJeans is building solutions that will work with this implementation, enabling immediate video conferencing with zero downloads across all major browsers. The potential of the standard goes much further than this, as explained here.

HEVC (H.265)

Apple’s next OS supports HEVC (H.265). In plain English this means Mac users can look forward to video streaming and playback of 4K video files at high quality, while reducing the size of these files by around 40 percent in comparison with H.264. This means it will be possible to stream high quality video over existing networks.

Web Assembly

“Your web apps are smaller and load faster when written with the new WebAssembly format,” Apple states.

WebAssembly (wasm) is being developed as a cross-browser open standard. It aims to support the creation of Web apps that work as efficiently as traditional desktop apps by exploiting common hardware capabilities.

It doesn’t replace JavaScript.

“The JavaScript / WebAssembly dynamic duo work in partnership, allowing JavaScript to stay focused on taking over the world, while WebAssembly accelerates computation-intensive tasks,” WebKit.org explains.

Try it now?

If you are a developer you can already access Safari 11 in beta as a Safari Technology Preview. The full version ships in fall, with macOS High Sierra.

Also read:

Developers: How do you plan to make use of the new Safari features in your apps? Please drop us a line to let us know.

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