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Safari refinements justify setting the browser as default in macOS Big Sur

If Safari isn’t your default Mac web browser, it should be when Apple releases macOS Big Sur. Here’s how Apple developers have readied the browser for adulthood and the demands of the workplace.

Although it’s just 17 years old, Apple’s Safari web browser sure is looking like a full-grown adult. With macOS Big Sur improvements on the way, there’s no doubt that Safari can handle responsibility. Safari should be your default browser if you’re using a Mac. Here’s why.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, confirmed Apple’s commitment to its web browser at 2020’s digital-due-to-the-pandemic WWDC. “This year we’re building on Safari’s amazing performance, elegant design, and pioneering privacy protections to deliver the biggest update to Safari since it was first introduced.”

Safari is a performance beast, as Federighi noted. Apple reported performance running JavaScript is better than ever, and the browser boasts 50% faster page loading than Google Chrome. In the real world, that means you’ll spend more time reading content you seek instead of waiting for pages to load.

Not only is Apple’s browser fast, it also uses less energy. Thus, your Mac’s battery will last longer, which means you can work longer from your back porch, kitchen table, or local coffee shop without having to stay in range of a power outlet.

SEE: macOS Big Sur: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

At a time when everyone, from marketers to government agencies, are tracking users and their data, Safari prioritizes privacy. At WWDC Apple’s Federighi celebrated the fact Safari is the first browser to introduce private browsing, cookie blocking, and intelligent tracking prevention. With Big Sur, Apple Safari will give users more visibility into the ways websites track them, while also alerting users to the ways the browser is protecting them. A new Privacy Report button in the toolbar enables learning how each site a user visits is treating the user’s privacy. Besides monitoring unwanted tracking of the user’s web activity, Safari also securely monitors the status of passwords stored within the browser for additional protection. 

Safari’s start page already learns from user behavior and adds helpful shortcuts to commonly visited sites, which speeds access to frequently used resources. With Big Sur, users will also be able to customize the browser launch page. Big Sur introduces the ability to add favorites to the start page and add curated wallpapers and personalized background images simply by dragging the images onto the Safari page. It’s easy, and there are no multiple menus to navigate in search of the corresponding buried Settings pane. Such personalization assists configuring branding elements that could prove handy when hosting Microsoft Teams and Zoom sessions and sharing out one’s display and fulfilling other sales and marketing actions.

With the Big Sur release, you’ll be able to access your Reading List directly from the Safari Start Page, too. If you aren’t using Reading Lists, you should. How many times have you come across an article that presents intriguing information or statistics for your industry or professional role, but you didn’t have time at that moment to review or digest all the information? Take a moment to add those items to your Reading List, and then get caught up when appropriate. 

Siri, which is receiving its own robust improvements, presents suggested sites, too. The feature will continue in the Big Sur Safari release, so there’s no worry that functionality will be lost. 

But that’s not all.

If, like me, you regularly read and review foreign news, articles, and reports in order to keep pace with world news, industry trends, and career information, you may find your high school and college foreign language skills have developed rust. With Big Sur’s new inline translation capabilities, you’ll be able to read translated text as you scroll. Viewing the translation feature in operation during the WWDC demonstration by Beth Dakin, Apple’s Manager of Safari Engineering, I felt as if I was witnessing the equivalent of the Babel Fish real-time translation phenomena famously celebrated within Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. (For the record, I happened to be wearing my Hitchhiker’s T-shirt while watching WWDC 2020, and I even wrote “Babel Fish-like” in my notes to ensure I remembered to mention feeling that sensation.)

With Big Sur, Apple’s making a more aggressive push by encouraging Safari extension adoption, too. Extensions, built properly, can provide powerful assistance when surfing the web. Whether you’re seeking to add a task to your to-do list (Todoist), confirming you’re writing properly (Grammarly), or simply blocking unwanted ads (Adblock Plus), extensions quickly extend Safari’s capabilities in very useful and time-saving ways, hence the name: Extensions.

Apple is making it easier for developers to support Safari by extending the web extensions API, which simplifies porting extensions from other browsers. Apple is also building a new category in its App Store to showcase Safari extensions, which will make them easier to find. The change is welcome, as locating reliable extensions currently requires scrolling through a seemingly haphazardly curated list.

Safari’s extension behaviors are more secure than competing options. Whereas other browsers’ extensions can access each page users visit, as well as the text users enter, Safari permits users to specify which sites extensions can interact with and when.

All told, macOS Big Sur’s coming Safari improvements are welcome and timely. All you need to do is set the browser as your default to ensure you’re working with the browser that’s come of age.

Also see

safari-fig-a-wwdc-2020-craig-federighi.png

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, speaks at WWDC 2020.

Image: Apple Inc.


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