Apple announced today that a beta build of its newest Safari web browser is now available for download. The beta release marks the fourth version of the browser, now in its sixth year overall. The beta version can be downloaded for Mac or PC (here), or more specifically Mac OS X Leopard and Tiger, as well as Microsoft XP SP2 and Vista.
As for aesthetics, 4.0 introduces dozens of new features, the two most important of which are Cover Flow and Top Sites. Cover Flow organizes and displays your bookmarks through images of a website the link is attached to, much like iTunes displaying your music collection through album covers. So, when flipping through your list, looking for that link to a Tom's Hardware article, it will display the link as a small web page. The "Top Sites" feature borrows a little from both Opera and Chrome. When Safari is opened, the browser will display your most visited web pages in a smal semi-circle. To go from there, you either type in a URL as normal, or click on one of the thumbnails.
As of last month, Safari was the number three browser on the block with approximately 8.3 percent of the market share. Internet Explorer and Firefox still dominate the landscape, with around 67.5 and 21.5 percent respectively. Will Safari 4 give Apple a boost in the market? Initially, yes. But unless a browser offers something far better than the competition, and consumers can actively see that improvement, most web surfers are going to stick with what they like and what they know. For now, that seems to be IE6/IE7 and Firefox.
But who knows, maybe Microsoft will abide by the European Union's wishes and include Safari as a default browser option. That would probably spike Cupertino's market share a little.
For a complete list of Safari 4.0's features, click here.