Apple Releases Safari 5.0.1, with Extensions

Apple updates its Safari browser with the Safari Extensions Gallery, which offers features from third-party developers that can be downloaded and run within the browser. Although Safari lags its rivals on the desktop, the mobile version occupies far more market share.

Apple released Safari 5.0.1 July 28, along with a Safari Extensions Gallery that offers downloadable features for the browser. The company had previously released extensions support to developers in June, giving them time to build the tool bars and Web filters that make up much of the Gallery's offerings.

Extension categories include News, Shopping, Search Tools, Social Networking, Entertainment, Productivity, RSS Tools and Translation. Whether a tool bar is displaying alerts for stories from The New York Times or a Gmail Counter button, it seems that many of the Web's major brands are already on board as extensions. Amazon and eBay have a presence, while baseball fanatics can download a tool bar that automatically updates information on the day's games.

In a certain way, the Extensions come off as the browser equivalent of mobile apps, introducing third-party functionality tailored to another facet of the Apple ecosystem. The Safari Extensions Gallery can be accessed from within Safari, or from a dedicated Apple Website. Apple claims that the extensions can be integrated into Safari without the need to restart the browser.

In addition to Extensions, Safari now offers Safari Reader, which offers multipage Web articles in a single scrollable format, full-screen playback and closed-captioning for HTML5 video.

The release follows Apple's June push of several Safari security updates.

Safari has traditionally lagged behind its competitors, with Net Applications estimating it holds 4.85 percent of the traditional browser market-ahead of Opera at 2.27 percent, but behind Google Chrome with 7.24 percent, Firefox with 23.81 percent and Microsoft Internet Explorer with 60.32 percent.

Nor has the desktop-based browser gained much traction over the past year; whereas Net Applications has estimated Google Chrome as growing from 2.84 percent of the market in August 2009 to 7.24 percent in June, Safari during that same period managed to inch from 4.07 percent to 4.85 percent.

Mobile, however, is something of a different story. According to Web analytics company StatCounter, Apple's Safari browser for the iPhone holds a solid second place in the smartphone browser market, with 22.3 percent. If both the iPhone and iPod Touch are included, then Safari wins with a 37.2 percent share.

For the third fiscal quarter, Apple reported sales of 3.27 million iPads, 3.47 million Macs, 8.4 million iPhones and 9.41 million iPods-all of which contributed to the company's overall revenues of $15.7 billion and a net quarterly profit of $3.25 billion. If Apple has one advantage in its quest to build the market for Safari, it may be the ability to leverage that bestselling hardware.