Apple's Safari turns 10

The 2003 browser replaced Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the default for OS X

Ten years ago on January 7, Apple co-founder and then-CEO, Steve Jobs, introduced Apple's first, and so far only, browser, according to the former head of the Safari team.

Don Melton, who retired last year as Apple's director of Internet Technologies, has been blogging since mid-December about Safari's beginnings. On Monday, he noted the 10th-year anniversary of the browser.

On January 7, 2003, Jobs unveiled Safari. "So, buckle up. Got something totally new for you now," he said during the keynote of MacWorld, a conference and trade show that Apple once anchored.

Calling Safari "a turbo browser for OS X," Jobs went on to say, "We have done our own browser. And it's hot. It's the first major new browser in five years."

Before that introduction, OS X users relied on a Mac version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which debuted in 1996 and was the default browser of Apple's desktop operating system from 1998 until October 2003, when it was replaced by Safari at the launch of OS X 10.3, known as Panther.

The Mac edition of IE was bundled with OS X as part of a five-year deal Apple struck with Microsoft in 1997. The two companies' CEOs, Jobs for Apple, Bill Gates for Microsoft, announced a partnership of sorts, also at a MacWorld conference, in August of that year.

At its core, the deal was a $150 million purchase of Apple stock by Microsoft, a five-year patent cross-licensing agreement, and a final settlement of lingering issues from Apple's 1988 copyright infringement litigation that accused Microsoft of stealing its graphical user interface (GUI) to create Windows. (Apple lost the case.) Outlying components of the deal also committed Microsoft to ship a Mac-specific version of its Office suite -- dubbed Microsoft Office 98 Macintosh Edition when it was unveiled in January 1998 -- and create future editions of IE and development tools for the Mac.

When IE was added to OS X Panther, it replaced Netscape Navigator, a now-dead browser but the forerunner to Mozilla's Firefox.

When Jobs unveiled Safari, he touted its speed -- saying, "This is the fastest browser on the Mac" -- by comparing its benchmark scores to those of three other browsers: IE for the Mac, Netscape, and Chimera, which used the same Gecko browser engine as did Netscape.

Two of those three browsers are long defunct, as Microsoft dumped IE for the Mac in mid-2003 and AOL retired Netscape in 2008. Chimera alone survived, though it was subsequently renamed Camino.

Safari is currently in version 6, which launched as part of OS X Mountain Lion in mid-2012.

According to Web analytics company Net Application, Safari accounted for 5.2% of all browsers used last month. Rival metrics firm StatCounter, however, estimated Safari's usage share at 7.9%. In both measurements, Safari was a distant fourth to IE, Firefox and Google's Chrome.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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Tags web appsAppleMicrosoftMacintoshinternet

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