Apple details how superfast Safari upgrades help developers make web apps bigger and faster than ever before

Search in Safari on an iPhone
(Image credit: Future)

Apple might have finally agreed to allow things like game streaming apps into the App Store but there are still plenty of apps that are only available via web-based alternatives in Safari. Those apps need to be bigger and faster than ever before and making that possible means being at the forefront of web-based technology and performance. Safari has historically been pretty quick, especially on the iPhone, and now the team behind it has detailed some recent speed improvements.

Safari is based on the WebKit web browser engine and it's the WebKit team that has detailed some changes that have been made to the underlying technology to enable web developers to build the kinds of experiences that they wouldn't normally be able to do.

Specifically, the Apple WebKit team says that it has been able to improve performance by around 60% of late, although it did take multiple different updates to the Safari app over the course of months in order to make that happen. Regardless, the upshot is the same — Safari is now faster than ever, and that's good news for developers and users alike.

Faster than fast

According to the blog post on the WebKit website, the speed improvements were made thanks to the introduction of the Speedometer 3.0 benchmarking system which in turn allowed WebKit developers to get a better understanding of how its software performs.

Discussing the tool, the WebKit team said that "these tooling improvements allowed us to quickly identify bottlenecks" with those bottlenecks then giving the team something to aim for.

The blog post then continued to detail what Apple was able to do including building a "shared understanding of web performance so that improvements can be made to enhance the user experience."

So how successful was it? As it turns out, pretty successful. "With all these optimizations and dozens more, we were able to improve the overall Speedometer 3.0 score by ~60% between Safari 17.0 and Safari 17.4," the post explains. "Even though individual progressions were often less than 1%, over time, they all stacked up together to make a big difference." The post continued, adding that the team is " thrilled to deliver these performance improvements to our users allowing web developers to build websites and web apps that are more responsive and snappier than ever."

It's important to note that the improvements to performance when using Speedometer 3.0 don't just mean a better score for those running the tests, but rather real-world improvements that users of web apps across the world — and across Apple's platforms — can expect to be of benefit when running real apps.

It's also worth noting that outside the EU, all web browsers available for download via the best iPhone and iPad App Stores use the same WebKit browser engine at their core. That should ensure that these speed improvements will also benefit those who use other browsers on their devices, no matter which company makes them.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.