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Apple has released their latest, greatest, fastest, and coolest new browser yet -- Safari 3.1 (big brother to the MobileSafari Touch browser built into the iPhone).

Safari is based on Apple's open-source WebKit (a branch of the Konqueror/KHTML engine), the same foundation Nokia, Google's upcoming Android, and even Adobe's AIR runtime get their render on with.

In addition to faster rendering and Javascript, what makes this latest release so exciting is built-in support for the new HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language) 5 draft. Apple VP of Marketing Phil Schiller tells us:

"Safari 3.1 for Mac and Windows is blazingly fast, easy to use and features an elegant user interface. And best of all, Safari supports the latest audio, video [as tags -- yes!] and animation standards [CSS animation FTW!] for an industry-leading Web 2.0 experience."

And (looking at you Google Gears!) local SQLite databases for offline functionality.

These features, while nice for the desktop, seem perfect for an upcoming rev of Safari on the iPhone as well. Being able to easily code rich media sites that support enough interactivity to avoid the more complex Flash will give a lot of much-needed power to entertainment web-sphere. Offline data access, of course, opens things up wide for software-as-services WebApps like browser-based office suites. (Picture collaborating on an online spread sheet, taking off on an airplane with the browser keeping your portion of the data live and available, and then syncing back up with the team when you land).

Lighter? Faster? More Standard? To steal Dieter's catch-phrase -- Yes Please!

Already rocking Safari 3.1? Head over to Webkit's Surfin' Safari blog for the latest Acid3 (standards compliance test) results and sample some of the new features!