Behind The Week’s Headlines: Apple goes surfing Safari with its Web browser

Is it just me, or has anybody else ever wondered why there aren’t more Web browsers out there? Think of all the Web browsers you know of and you’ll come up with exactly two: Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. Some of you will also come up with Mosaic, which in the opinion of most is ancient history.

Those of you who really know your stuff will also be able to list Chimera, Lynx and HotJava.

But the reality for most of us is that there are only two: Netscape (now owned by America On-line) and IE, both of which are based on the ground-breaking NCSA Mosaic.

Perhaps it’s just that Netscape and Microsoft have put so much money into their browsers that there’s no competition that could keep up. But so many of us are spending our lives on the Internet these days, which requires a close personal relationship with your Web browser, and that constitutes a huge market. It just seems like some developer somewhere could come up with something different and a get a piece of that huge Web browser pie. Perhaps I’m just naive and, speaking of pie, perhaps it takes a company like Apple to mix things up a bit. Although it seems there are essentially only two Web browsers in use out there, perhaps soon there will be three.

Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs used his recent Macworld Expo keynote speech to announce the release of Apple’s own Web browser called Safari. Jobs claimed Safari is faster than any other browser. It’s “”three times faster than [Internet Explorer] on the Mac,”” he enthused. (Sounds good Mr. Jobs but doesn’t that depend rather vitally on processor speed, SRAM/DRAM and the speed of the Internet connection?) In fact, specifics of the system that would be using Safari not withstanding, the big selling point Apple is trying to make with Safari is speed, speed, and more speed. On its Web site, Apple has posted a chart of independent benchmark results claiming the Safari beta is faster than Chimera 0.6.0, way faster than Netscape 7.01 and way, way faster than Internet Explorer 5.2.2.

Until now, IE for the Mac had been bundled with Mac computers. Apple started this practice in 1997, when it made a deal with Microsoft. That agreement expired last year.

“”It’s a very minimal”” user interface, Mr. Jobs added. “”We want the contents of the page to be the star here.””

Apple also claims that its engineers have completely rethought bookmarks.

When you add a bookmark in Safari, a naming sheet lets you edit the bookmark name and file it away directly into a library folder. So it differs from IE and Netscape because when you do just about anything with those bookmarks you are presented with a rather large and cumbersome bookmarks menu. Safari also lets you drag a Web address directly into the bookmarks bar, for one-click access to a Web site. As you move an address to the bar, the other addresses shuffle around into order.

Safari, like Netscape and IE, is available as a free download.

James Buchok is a former editor of Computer Dealer News. jbuchok@mts.net.

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