Safari may not be the most popular web browser of choice, but it still dominates a significant segment of Mac users. It has come a long way since its debut in 2003. For a web browsing experience that is most comfortable on macOS, this is unlikely to ever be beaten.
Apple continues to innovate in small steps, introducing a mix of under-the-hood features and front-end bells and whistles with each version. Versions of Safari are often released along with a specific new version of macOS itself, but are usually compatible with several older versions as well.
Safari 14 was introduced along with macOS Big Sur and is also compatible with Catalina and Mojave.
1. A new customizable home page
Probably the quickest noticeable change you come across is the new home page, the collection of useful information that comes on a new tab by default. Apple continues to slowly optimize this page over time, but it looks better than ever in this version of the browser, with customizable backgrounds and easy toggling between sections via the settings menu.
It still has sections like your favorites or frequently visited pages, but you can now also view details from your privacy report (more on that later).
To toggle any of these sections, right-click Settings icon In the lower right, click the section you want to show or hide.
You can also choose from a small selection of built-in background images or choose any other image that you have access to.
2. Improved tab design
Since Safari 12, the browser supports website symbols (favicons) in tabs in addition to the title of each page. Safari 14 now enables this by default. These can help identify the source of a tab at a glance. As an example, take a look at some of our favorite favicons.
Website icons are also used to shrink the smallest possible tab size even further by replacing the title at tiny sizes. This should help the tab addict among us who don't think about keeping at least twenty open in a single window at a time.
Apple has given further consideration to identifying tabs using tab previews. Hovering the mouse pointer over a tab for about a second will open a small popup with a preview of the page in question. At the push of a button, this can help you spot a page when the title or favicon isn't enough.
3. Chrome Extensions via the Web Extensions API
Safari 14 has better support for the Web Extensions API. In short, this means that more third-party extensions written for other browsers like Chrome and Firefox should be easily portable for use with Safari as well – that's the theory, at least.
Extensions are available in the App Store with a one-click installation process and can be configured in the Safari settings. Signing up to a common ecosystem for browser extension development should mean a lot of development effort. This allows extension developers to focus on creating even better add-ons that more users can benefit from.
4. More data protection
Safari 14's new privacy report focuses on one important aspect of web privacy: trackers. Trackers are typically used by advertisers to exchange data about a user's web browsing behavior. They are extremely popular with marketers, but less so with some everyday users who may be suspicious and fear that their data is being misused.
Apple has long used a system called Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) to identify such trackers and prevent access to personal information. The privacy report is a great way to show how good they are and how popular the tracking is on the websites you visit.
Click to view the privacy report for the website you are viewing Shield icon to the left of the address bar in the main toolbar. This will bring up a small window with the trackers currently blocked on the visible side.
If you click on Information symbol At the top right of this popup you can see the full report across all websites. This allows you to view summary information for the past 30 days, including the total number of trackers prevented. You can also view lists of which websites you have used the most trackers on, and which trackers have been used the most on how many websites.
You can access the full data protection report either through the Data protection report Menu item from Safari's main menu or by clicking the privacy report notification on the home page.
5. Under the hood
Aside from the changes that we can all see and appreciate, browser updates usually contain a lot more that most of us never appreciate. Nevertheless, they are there and gradually improve your entire web experience.
Safari 13 was the first web browser to support HTTP / 3. Bet you didn't even realize you were using HTTP / 2 over the whole time! This new version of the HTTP protocol, which supports surfing the Internet, offers many detailed changes, all of which can be summarized as "making things faster". While it will take some time for the websites we visit to migrate to the new protocol, some are already and it's nice to see Apple taking a leadership role in accelerating the internet.
Further speed improvements have been made to the way the browser works. Whether or not you notice this depends on how heavily your browser is being used. The general tab closing and scrolling has been improved, and frequent PDF readers may find that such files load faster than before. There are also a few more CSS features that Safari 14 supports that offer the least potential for better looking websites.
6. Say goodbye to Flash
It may seem impolite to leave, but this guest has not been welcomed in so long that few will shed a tear. Adobe Flash, the long-ridiculed proprietary technology for rendering animation and applications, is no longer there. Nothing will visibly change except the inability to use an old lightning bolt that is still twirling around, but nonetheless, many will be pleased with this change.
Safari's journey continues
While it's not Apple's best-known offering, Safari continues to receive small tweaks. In particular, a friendlier homepage and privacy efforts show that Apple is committed to making Safari users a little happier with each version.
Photo credit: Patrick Ward / Unsplash
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About the author
(5 articles published)
Bobby is a technology enthusiast who has worked as a professional software developer for nearly two decades. He loves video games, works as a staff writer at Switch Player Magazine, and is immersed in all aspects of online publishing and web development.
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