Apple’s Safari browser is getting a massive makeover this year on Mac, iPhone and iPad. Here are six of the best new features coming to the web browser in 2021.
Google Chrome is still the planet’s dominant browser, with only the built-in Safari on Apple devices offering any resistance. However, whether it’s new design features, some catching-up on others and some massive privacy boosts, Apple is sure to tempt web users back to the trusty compass icon when iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey arrive later in 2021.
New compact Toolbar
Safari has a nice new look in macOS Monterey. Tabs are pushed up alongside the URL toolbar and they appear to be a lot more compact. That’ll free up some real estate on smaller displays like the MacBook Air. Search and URL bars remain unified.
Following in the footsteps of Google Chrome, Safari is adding tab groups, enabling users to access a different browser workspace for work, play and everything in between. Tab Groups will be available from a dropdown menu within Safari Sidebar currently housing the Reading List and Favourites. Simply hit one of the Tab Groups to expand it across the window.
Safari Extensions coming to mobile
The ability to customise your web experience with third-party experiences like Honey, Grammarly and Momentum has long been a part of Safari on macOS, but Apple is bringing Extensions to iOS and iPadOS 15 too. The announcement comes as Apple recently confirmed it is working with Google and Mozilla to standardise web extension code for all browsers. This is an interesting one. Web extensions on mobile devices could add a lot of clutter to the Safari experience, but we’ll see how it plays out in practice.
Safari will hide your IP address
It’s not quite a built-in VPN, but it isn’t far off. Safari and Mail will no longer automatically showcase your IP address, Apple’s Apple’s manager of user privacy software Katie Skinner revealed during the event. From now on, across the board in iOS, iPadOS and macOS Siri will automatically mask the users’ IP address from those seeking to build a profile on users.
“This means they [trackers] can’t utilise the user’s IP address as a unique identifier to connect their activity across websites and build a profile about them,” Apple said in a news release following the event.
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Safari Privacy Relay
This is a big ‘un folks. Even browsing in incognito mode doesn’t stop your network provider discovering your browsing habits, even if it keeps the activity out of your device’s history. That changes with Safari Privacy Relay, which is part of the forthcoming iCloud Plus service. This encrypts all of your activity to ensure no-one can intercept. Here’s how it’ll work:
“Private Relay ensures all traffic leaving a user’s device is encrypted, so no one between the user and the website they are visiting can access and read it, not even Apple or the user’s network provider. All the user’s requests are then sent through two separate internet relays. The first assigns the user an anonymous IP address that maps to their region but not their actual location. The second decrypts the web address they want to visit and forwards them to their destination. This separation of information protects the user’s privacy because no single entity can identify both who a user is and which sites they visit.”
Safari Privacy Report
As part of the new App Privacy Reports, Safari will now surface all of the shows you all the cross-site trackers that are being blocked by Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari.
The updates to Safari will roll out later this year alongside the major operating system updates. They’ll likely be available to test throughout the summer with the public beta versions Apple will roll out in the coming weeks.
If you’re concerned about your digital privacy you should check out our best VPN guide, which details the best data protection tools we’ve tested that are still on the market.