By Craig Buckler

What’s New in Safari 6 and Why Dropping Windows is a Mistake

By Craig Buckler

Outside the site, Safari rarely receives a mention on the web. It’s a solid, dependable browser. Safari is the default on Mac OS and the only “real” browser on iOS. But it’s never taken the world by storm despite being available on several platforms.

Safari 5 has been around since June 2010 and Safari 6 was launched with Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (more about that later). Let’s look at the new features for users…

  • Unified Smart Search
    Safari now matches Chrome and IE with a single address/search field. The bar analyzes bookmarks and history to determine where you want to go.
  • Enhanced Tab Functionality
    Tab View provides a swipe-able list of tabs. Opened tabs are saved to iCloud so they’re available on your Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod.
  • Social Sharing
    The Share button allows pages and links to be added to your reading list, bookmarks or sent to the web via email, Twitter or Facebook.
  • Improved Performance
    Thanks to multi-core JavaScript processing and hardware acceleration.
  • Privacy Controls
    Safari 6 adds the new “Do Not Track” feature.
  • Offline Reading List
    Page content can be cached so you can continue reading when you don’t have a net connection.
  • RSS has gone
    I use RSS and you may too. We’re in the minority and Apple has dropped the feature.

But who cares about that fluff — we want shiny HTML5 tools! Apple has obliged with an updated webkit engine which includes…

  • Web Audio API
    Sounds effects can be created and customized in JavaScript.
  • CSS filters
    Apply visual filters such as blurs, gradients, brightness, hues, inversion, etc.
  • HTML5 media synchronization
    Multiple events and effects which require precise timing can be synchronized.
  • Redesigned Web Inspector
    The tool now includes a snippet editor for code testing and a Safari Extension builder.

There are also a number of iOS mobile-specific features including web inspector remote debugging, support for file uploads (about time), and “Smart App Banners” which indicate when a native app is available.

Great stuff. Safari 6 is available on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and it’s also compatible with 10.7 Lion via the Software Update. However, Lion users do not get features such as sharing, notifications, Tab View or iCloud tab synchronization. A shame, but think yourself lucky…

What About Everyone Else?

Those on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and earlier versions cannot upgrade and are stuck with Safari 5. Could Apple fragment the Safari market in the same way Microsoft did with IE? Perhaps not to the same extent, but it remains a concern.

Apple has confirmed that Safari 6 will not be available on Windows. While they stopped short of stating it had been dropped forever, that seems likely.

Safari on Windows was never successful. The browser felt a little odd and did not adopt standard UI conventions. That didn’t matter — as I wrote back in June 2007:

It’s easy to test against any Windows or Linux browser. Free virtual machine software allows you install versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Konqueror and even Lynx.

However, the big unknown browser is Safari. It’s undoubtedly popular, but is impossible to test unless you have a Mac. Until now…

Apple has announced a version of Safari for Windows. This is an intelligent strategy from the company. Windows and Linux-based web developers now have no excuse for not testing their sites and more will become Safari-compatible.

I doubt many Windows users will switch to Safari, although I can see it being useful for Mac fans who use Windows at work. For now, it’s web developers who will benefit the most.

Apple are removing a vital tool from a large proportion of developers. While Chrome uses webkit, the browsers have differences. Even this week I discovered a site layout issue which affected Safari but not Chrome or other applications. Without the Windows edition, I would have presumed it worked.

Safari may not enthrall Windows users, but it enabled developers to make a site work on Mac OS and iOS. Despite their success, Apple’s browsers are dwarfed by others and, without testing, web sites and applications will inevitably break.

It may not be fair, but users will simply blame their device.

Have you tried Safari 6? Is Apple right to drop support for Windows and older OSs?

  • “It may not be fair, but users will simply blame their device.”

    Problem is, users think their iOSs are perfect and blame the website’s developer…

    • Perhaps but, over the longer term, an increasing number of sites will fail. Those sites can remain operable on Windows Phone, Android and devices using Opera which are far easier to test without dedicated hardware.

      If Apple really cares about HTML5, they shouldn’t remove the only tool available to developers who don’t use their platform.

  • I still remember trying out Safari for Windows when it first launched (5 yrs have already passed?)
    It was shiny, it had a different UI, but I never used it. Back then Firefox was the king. Now with Google Chrome, there is no need to use any other browser.
    Although kudos to Apple for bring the web into the future with webkit. Gecko (Mozilla’s rendering engine) got blown away thanks to webkit.

  • I am gutted! I developed my CSS3 maze in Safari, and I would have carried on. No bother now though, it works in Chrome.

    I hate this browser war! I make something good, and it doesn’t work in all browsers so I give up and go back to boring content only websites with little or no interactivity. I’ve made an animated djembe player that worked really well in IE but not so well in others. Even now Windows have decided to keep the pitch the same even though a sound file changes speed. I could have multiple animated drummers open all playing different rhythms at different pitches, all synchronised. I also made a guitar that relied on pitch-shifting to make the rest of the notes from six open string recordings, but that no longer works! I had to replace the 6 files with 45! I was hoping the others would join in but that reversed and now Windows doesn’t support it even though it was working for years. Good news for me then with the webaudio API and HTML5 media syncronization. I like the sound of that. Sounds like I can have fun programming my own projects again :)

    But we, as web developers, like to know that what we create will work cross-browser. Our really interesting projects get shelved because we get tired of seeing it work differently in each browser. The CSS3 perspective for instance. Worked only in Safari, now works in Chrome haven’t tested for a while in others but don’t think so. I’ve shelved my maze for a while, but I created that 2 years ago. The first cube maze I created in 2004 but only with IE filters. 8 years it took the others to catch up. (Safari overtook massively though, I can now be inside the maze!)

    Even media playes. HTML5 is now standard! Woohoo you might think, but slow down. The player is standard, but not the file formats! Still, a simple thing like playing a sound on a web page is not standard, although I’ve been trying to do it for 9 years or so!

    And now I can’t test in one of the most advanced browsers! How am I to develop things for the future? Get a Mac? On my income?

    It REALLY gets on my nerves! But then, they do not want to standardise things though, which makes it even worse.

  • Not tried 6, but I use Safari 5 on Windows constantly. Firefox and IE are too unstable to be useful, and my copy of Chrome is too cluttered with developer extensions to be an ideal ‘default browser’. I’ll continue to use it as such, and will be sorry to see it fall behind, but the big question is – will I buy a Mac just to test on Safari? I did a few years ago, but variations across browsers were bigger then, I had more sympathy for Apple back then – and it was simply thought the right thing to do at that time. Nowadays, most of us have accepted that there are such things as minority browsers that are too expensive to test for (i.e. early IEs of course, though the cost in that case was mostly time, rather than having to buy a new computer).

    If I thought the users would really just blame their devices, I’d say that was entirely fair – if Apple makes it harder for devs to make stuff that works for their users, Apple and its products should take the blame. Unfortunately, I suspect that users will blame the sites and apps, not their hardware.

  • Lucas Rolff

    I don’t think we should complain about Safari is not at windows, why is it a big problem that developers can’t build for Safari now? Safari isn’t used much, lets face it.. A bigger problem is that Microsoft doesn’t make IE9 for mac, so we actually was able to make a website work, without needing to buy a datacenter of storage-servers to install windows.

    • It’s not a bigger problem. IE has 30% of the market and can be run on 90% of the world’s PCs. In addition, it’s relatively easy to run Windows/IE on a Mac.

      Safari has 7% of the market and version 6 doesn’t run on all Macs let alone Windows. There’s simply less reason to test it and those who want to will find it increasingly difficult.

  • James Cocker

    In my experience this isn’t the case. Users will blame the website, not their computer. Even so, it doesn’t make sense for Apple to continue developing Safari on Windows just for developers, there are plenty of tools such as Adobe Browserlab & Litmus that let us test in multiple browsers.

    • Most IT novices blame the easiest target. They don’t know what a browser is or the technicalities of web development. Browser emulators are no substitute for a real application.

  • Good point! Hadn’t thought about it that way. I run a small webdesign agency consisting of 3 full-time students in The Netherlands and everyone works on Windows (personal preference really). Buying a Mac just for Safari just isn’t an option.

    Yes, our websites will be untested in Safari and will break. Does anyone have any idea for a (cheaper!) counteraction to this?

    • You can still use adobe browser lab ( at least you’ll have screenshots of your website under any browser / platform you want.

      When will someone offer a service hosting simulators for every platform and browser , mobile or not (and not only screenshots) ? I think this is just something we need, and we will need it even more as mobile continues to expand. We just can’t always have a mac, a pc, an iphone, an android, a windows phone, a blackberry, a nokia etc etc…
      This would be the best and I would be willing to pay for it.

    • Wayferer

      You could use a virtual machine?

      • Have you tried it? It’s not easy – or not as easy as Windows/Linux which are designed to support a range of hardware devices.

        Even though you can install OS X on non-Apple hardware, you need to ensure it has a supported motherboard, graphics card, HD etc. It’s quicker – and possibly cheaper – to buy a Mac.

      • Can’t seem to reply to your reply Craig (that follows this one)

        Isn’t installing OSX on a non-Mac actually illegal?

    • Try There you can test website in a native OS X environment. It’s just $ 20,- per month.

      • Yes and that’s great. But these solutions aren’t as fast or as practical as a native browser on your PC. They’re fine for last-minute sanity checking but you’re not going to use them to develop a responsive HTML5 application.

    • I’ve bought an old second hand Mac just for testing. I used to use Safari on the PC for testing and the old G4 hardly ever got any use. It’s going to be busy now…

  • Drop it? Discontinue it completely. It’s an under performing browser, just like IE, and we ALL want that to go away.

    • Under-performing? Not on Macs or the iOS devices. And, for the record, IE isn’t bad these days, either.

      • Do you really think users care about an arbitrary HTML5 test score? They use whatever browser they want or — more likely — whatever’s installed. Neither IE or Safari is dead and both development teams are actively improving the browsers. That’s good for the web.

  • Psy

    Thats a pity. I’m a developer on Windows platform, and Safari renders webpages almost like a Mac, including the bold-ish, slighly bigger fonts, and helped me to develop better products for my clients without the need of expensive hardware just for test.

    • The great thing about Safari on Windows is that it used the same engine and font-smoothing technologies as the native Mac applications. I doubt it was identical, but it was close enough to be practical and discover issues.

      I suspect Apple’s decision was reached by looking at the number of actual Windows Safari users. What they didn’t consider is how many of those users were actively testing apps for the Mac/iOS platform.

      • Psy

        True. I believe one of the main reasons to bring Safari to Windows on the first place was to simplify things to web developers seeking to port their work to the iPhone, but now iPhone and webkit are a strong platform and other engines behave on a very similar way. Perhaps Apple feels that the objective was reached.

      • If Apple feel that objective was reached, they’re kidding themselves. Macs and iOS devices are popular, but they’re still a small minority sector. While Safari doesn’t cause the same number of issues as older IEs, there’s a world of difference between some testing and no testing whatsoever!

      • I agree that it is unfortunate. Our company uses PCs not Macs. But – iPads are very popular with our mobile people such as the sales force. We create web applications specifically for them. Not being able to test how the sites render in Safari from our laptops is going to be a problem. The windows version gives us a close-enough view of what it will look like on the iPad to be practical.

    • Psy, totally agree with you! I’m in exactly the same position. Now I’m going to have to fire up the ancient G4 to test for Mac

  • About 3 years ago, I actually bought a Mac just for testing websites. It did prove to be a smart move because I was able to find bugs that I would never have known about, but I wouldn’t do it again. The minor issues that were resolved because I own a Mac do not justify the cost of owning it, and honestly it feels like a computer for a kid or senior citizen. I spent quite a bit of time on it, but ended up giving it to my Mom (who is a senior citizen).

    • Simply buying a Mac is not a viable option for many organizations with Windows networks and infrastructures. They often do not have expertise to integrate and support the hardware/software. Especially when you consider how few Safari users there actually are compared to Chrome, IE, Firefox. Even the iPhone only has 20% of the mobile browser market.

    • Jasper Brown

      “it feels like a computer for a kid or senior citizen”

      You clearly didn’t use it much, then. I have nothing whatsoever against Windows, but this kind of statement is just silly.

      Open the terminal on a Mac; there’s Unix running there. It’s a top-notch development platform.

    • Carlos L.


  • Apple has definitely focused more and more on their own eco-system lately, throwing compatibility with other platforms under the bus. I wonder how long it will be until iTunes on Windows is dropped?

    This makes sense to me: Windows 8 is hostile to non-Microsoft browsers. Why should Apple devote resources in an area where they would be fighting to exist, when they have their own platform where they’re the boss?

    • They’d be mad to drop iTunes, but you never know.

      The tablet-specific version of Windows 8 RT is hostile to other browsers – although the regulators are looking at that. Windows 8 will happily run any browser written for it – just like Windows 7.

      Apple are promoting HTML5 as the only alternative to non-native apps. Yet, they’re now removing the only tool available to Windows developers. Safari offers Apple a huge commercial benefit even though it wasn’t popular with the masses.

  • Stupid decision really. On one hand I can see the business case for not spending the hours developing something so few people use and will never bring in any profit for Apple. That said, suddenly more sites will start breaking and eventually people will switch to Firefox and Chrome.

    • Hardly anyone uses Microsoft VisualStudio when you compare it to the number of Office users — it possibly even runs at a loss. But, by providing the appropriate development tools, Windows becomes more of a success which leads to even more Office users.

      On a Mac it’s possible to switch to Firefox and Chrome. But it’s not on an iPad, iPhone or iPod. Those users are stuck with Safari. (Alternative browsers are little more than re-skins with the exception of Opera which is limited and won’t run client-side code or complex apps).

      So we have a situation where a large part of the web development community cannot easily test web apps on Apple devices. That decision will come back and bite them.

      • Carlos L.

        Totally agree. I’m not an Apple fan/enthusiast. Its just “sad” for their own sake to do such a move. I have 6 browsers and every time I do web dev I test my code against those 6, IE and Safari included. So far my favorite browser is Chrome and the niceties it has for debugging my code (yeah! better than FF at least for me).

      • Anonymous

        Chrome is available on the ipad

    • Chrome on iOS is a Safari skin with a few extras which don’t affect rendering.

  • Rashidul

    Chrome is best :)
    BTW I’m not a Google Fan but a great product.

  • Anonymous

    Safari on Windows for me, cannot copy to clipboard, not even the text in the URL box.
    And mouse-wheel doesn’t work.
    Good riddance.
    Safari on Windows is pathetic.

    • I agree that, as a piece of Windows software, it’s a little odd. However, that’s because it replicates the Mac which is exactly what you need. Mac’s don’t usually have mice wheels so, if your application depended on them, you’d know there was a problem.

    • keith09360

      Well I don’t know where your problem is, but I have a Microsoft Mouse and keyboard. I just did a copy and paste from the URL box, as well as page text AND an image, they all worked fine. AND the mouse wheel worked as it is supposed to. You might try un-installing and re-installing the browser as there is no FAULT in the browser

  • Kris

    it’s Very good at Safari 6 will not run in Windows. Who care about this.

    one days someone tell me that my site is broken in Safari from Mac. I tried in Safari work fine.Later When I tried from online tool I realize that using Windows version of safari not make any sense in testing.

    • There are probably small differences between the two platforms but, assuming you have the same editions, the Windows and Mac versions are comparable.

  • Tim

    Haaaaaaate unified search bar in every browser that has it!

  • “Apple has confirmed that Safari 6 will not be available on Windows.”

    Do you have a source link or something for that? I’ve been keeping my eyes open for some kind of official confirmation and haven’t seen it yet, just speculation based on Apple’s website changes. If you’ve seen confirmation from Apple online somewhere, I’d love to have a link so that I can spread the word.

  • Francis Omoruto

    And here I was going to suggest that the IE and Safari teams get together and create a common browser with the best features of both!
    Sad indeed…

    • keith09360

      Umm IE designed and built by Microsoft, Safari by Apple, the chances of them ‘getting into bed together’ on a unified browser, is as likely as them getting together to build a common OS for all machines

      • To be fair, both companies have representatives on the W3C so it’s not as bad as you imagine.

        That said, there will always be differences. If developers cannot test Safari, that hurts only one company — Apple.

  • Hope Apple will reconsider, and sustain Safari for PC.
    I use it to verify MAC-compatibility.
    ( have a MAC, but it upstairs, and often in use by others.)
    I also like having a touch of MAC on my PC.

  • It seems to be the way of tech. The companies (all of them) seem to want us to always update (ugrade) to the newest, coolest thing. I am happy to stay with my current version that works – I hate all this updating. Then things do not work, are moved, or simply not there. It would be ideal if all browsers worked the same – but that is a dream world. I really hate companies that do things that force us to update – that is why I have discontinued all Microsoft products.

  • keith09360

    Hmm I’m not sure it is a great idea to drop Windows in Safari 6.
    As a Web developer we have to build sites so they work in most browsers AND platforms. While I have no intention of buying an Apple Computer, I still need to design the sites to be compliant. Without being able to install the latest version of Safari the task will be difficult – impossible. As far as the UI in 5 is concerned, I do not find it ‘odd’ it is different, as different as IE and Firefox, or IE and Opera, or IE and Chrome, or Chrome and Opera – certainly not ‘odd’. AND while I do prefer Windows, Safari is far more “compliant” with web standards than IE is. Perhaps you could send this feedback to Apple and persuade them to change their minds…

    • “no intention of buying an Apple Computer” – then you are the Apple of their eye because now you may well have to. So they can either develop support for Windows so you don’t have to buy an Apple PC (yes they are PCs) or they can save money by not supporting Windows and take your money for a Mac. I know which my money is on.

      • Realistically, few people will buy another PC just to test Safari. Even if cost were not an issue, few companies with Windows networks have in-house Mac expertise. Installation, upgrades and support simply isn’t available.

        Assuming developers are not tied to MS development technologies such as .NET, they are faced with a choice. Do they either:

        1. Use a Windows PC and support IE – a browser with 30% market share and installed on 90% of PCs.

        2. Use a Mac and support Safari – a browser with 7% market share (total for Windows, Macs and iPads).

        I think your money may be on the wrong horse.

  • Perhaps Microsoft should steal a march and bring back IE on the Mac. Last version was 5.something so if they ported IE6 to the Mac they would make everyone happy. ROFL.

  • Lillis

    Check your sites in Adobe Lab… works great!

  • Safari for windows doesn’t always render the pages the same as Safari for mac. Same goes for Chrome for windows and Chrome for linux.

    A page that displays correctly in one browser in a specific OS doesn’t mean it will be displayed correctly in the same browser in other OSes.

  • Mindy

    I developed a website for a client 1-2 years ago. He recently upgraded to Mountain Lion/Safari 6 and now the website rendering is off. I have a MAC, but do not have Safari 6. I know it’s still so new, but is there anywhere that I can test it online? I usually use a browser screenshot program to view my sites on IE, but haven’t been able to find anything to test on Safari 6.

    I’ve been pulling my hair out for the past 3 days trying to figure out the problem. If anyone on here has any ideas on why this website’s sidebar is floating to the middle of the page, I would be SUPER happy:

    • Nico

      You can compile webkit 536.25 and run it with Safari 5.1.
      You will have the same js engine and the same rendering.

  • diceman

    I use Mac OSX and virtualise windows and linux. Most pro developers invest to ensure they can support different platforms. For the same reason our office is full of all manner of mobile browsers to test on.

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