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Around 9 months ago Apple introduced “Safari for Windows”, calling it the fastest web browser that too twice as fast as IE7 or Firefox 2. Since
then, Apple has released couple of minor upgrades for Safari 3 that are mainly bug fixes and the browser is still in beta stage.

After putting up the Safari 3 beta to the test to compare it with Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2 on Windows. What I found didn’t impress me very much. Although Safari offers slightly faster page loading, the beta is extremely unstable and suffers from interface deficiencies that make its value on the Windows platform questionable at best.

A few glaring oddities that I have observed are:

1.Stability: The most glaring flaw of Safari 3 on Windows is its utter lack of stability. Safari hangs and freezes frequently, and once it
completely locked up the system, it requires a hard reset. Also Unlike Firefox, Safari 3 can’t automatically restore the previous browsing session after a crash.

Note: Because of this reason, I would suggest not to test it on any production system. The Firefox 3 alpha build I reviewed last week is far more stable and robust than the current beta build of Safari 3.

2. Cross Platform Oddities: There are a few other interface problems that further detract from the Safari user experience. When you launch the bookmark manager by clicking the book icon in the bookmarks toolbar or by selecting Show All Bookmarks from the Bookmarks menu, the bookmark manager loads in
the currently active tab. When the bookmark manager is closed, the page that was previously displayed in that tab is reloaded. I can’t fathom why anybody would want the bookmark management interface to replace the actively viewed web page. To compensate for this bizarre interface blunder, I frequently find myself opening a new tab or window before using the bookmark manager. The absence of a bookmark sidebar is also really frustrating. In Firefox, I frequently find myself dragging links from a page into my bookmarks hierarchy using the Bookmarks sidebar. In order to do the same thing with Safari, one needs to use two separate windows, which is really inconvenient.

Safari’s built-in RSS support also leaves a lot to be desired. When a web page’s header specifies multiple associated RSS feeds, Safari will automatically show the first one by default when the blue RSS icon is clicked in the URL bar. Unfortunately, Safari doesn’t provide any easy way to access he other feeds. Firefox handles this better, displaying a menu of available feeds when I click the yellow RSS icon in Firefox’s URL bar.

3. Security vulnerabilities: Although the Safari 3 web page claims that Safari was designed to be “secure from day one,” a number of security
vulnerabilities have already been found. Although some of these vulnerabilities were discovered by security prima donna David Maynor, who is infamous for his exaggerated Apple WiFi vulnerability claims, other researchers with more credibility (particularly Thor Larholm) have found serious security bugs as well.

In under two hours, Larholm was able to find a URL protocol handler injection vulnerability that facilitates remote command execution. Larholm points out that Safari doesn’t properly handle URL validation in iframes, which can be used to manipulate programs associated with protocol handlers in
unpredictable ways. Larholm demonstrates how to exploit thisvulnerability by providing a page with an iframe that will crash Safari when loaded and can launch an arbitrary executable if Firefox is set as the default browser. Larholm’s exploit uses the gopher protocol and Firefox XPCOM components for process instantiation, so it won’t be able to launch another executable if Internet Explorer is set as the default browser, but it will still crash Safari.

I never heard of any third-party browser plugins being released specifically for Windows Safari and there’s practically little or no talk among the blogging community about Safari browser on Windows.

So did Safari manage to win any browser market share during the nine month stint ?

Navtej Kohli