Safari 4 beta arrives -- with hints of Snow Leopard?

The beta of the next version of the Safari browser has arrived! Peter Smith, my fellow ITworld blogger, has detailed review, with screenshots. I haven't actually tried it out yet; I switched to Firefox as my primary browser once Firefox 3 came out, and while I'm more than willing to be lured back, I've become heavily invested in the Foxmarks bookmark syncing service, which isn't 100 percent with Safari 4 yet. I'll definitely keep tabs on this and will check the browser out when it plays nicely with Foxmarks.

What's the bigger picture with the new Safari, though? It's part of a general revival of the browser wars; some might consider this fight confusing to the average user, but I think that innovations that end up going into the new updated browsers are generally a good thing. The fight is much less splashy than the great IE vs. Netscape battle of yore; but then, the stakes are lower, with no company depending on browser revenue for financial survival. Instead, browsers are pieces in larger games -- Safari is a big part of Apple's mobile push, for instance, since they can swear that they have full-fledged Internet browser on their smartphone.

Safari 4 may also presage some of the UI elements yet to come in Snow Leopard. While Apple is rightly lauded for its UI prowess, the truth is that the UI of OS X's core set of apps -- from the Finder to Safari to the bundled PIM apps to iLife -- has never quite been consistent. There are always some laggards and some on the cutting edge, and it looks as if Safari 4 is leapfrogging the rest.

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