The Safari Ecosystem

Safari & OmniWeb 5Today was a good day to be a user of Apple’s much praised Safari. First, Apple released a new update to it, pushing the version number to 1.2 and, most significantly, adding full keyboard navigation, thereby allowing users to fully interact with Web pages without mousing (if they so desire). This is the latest in the very slow conversion of Apple’s philosophy on keyboard versus mouse access to user interfaces; the company is incrementally acquiescing to the generally accepted principle that, more often than not, using a keyboard is much faster, at least for advanced users.

The All Seeing Safari Substitute

In other good news, the excellent Macintosh software publisher The Omni Group has released a beta release of their much-anticipated OmniWeb 5.0, which savvily uses Safari’s very own rendering engine at its core. This is a brilliant move on the Omni Group’s part in that it sidesteps the enormous task of creating a rendering engine, allowing the company to focus on delivering user interface innovations, which they seem to revel in.

OmniWeb 5.0 boasts an alternative method of accessing tabs that is far more visual, and it even allows users to substitute Safari’s resident Google search with their own search domains. I’m very enthusiastic about this last feature, which will allow the use of Google-challengers such as Vivisimo, which, in spite of its horrible name, actually does a great job of thematically grouping search results.

Good for the Goose, Gander

This is exactly the kind of software ecosystem that I think yields the very best products: system software vendors (Apple) releasing their own high-quality software (Safari) while making key components of that software (Mac OS X’s WebCore kit, which brings Safari-like features to many applications) available to third party vendors (The Omni Group) who use it to produce leading-edge software variations (OmniWeb 5.0). It’s a balance of proprietary innovations and a willingness to open up APIs to eager entrepreneurs that Apple is not always so great about creating, but they deserve credit when they do it right.