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Apple’s Safari browser.

After firing up Safari for the first time, there are certain aesthetic details that the Mac user will note first, like the brushed metal appearance and the spare navigation buttons, not to mention a “bug” button that looks vaguely like a deer tick has been smacked against the screen. But the appreciation of these pleasant visual details melts away as the surfing begins, to be replaced by sheer stupefaction. Apple has mentioned that Safari is fast, that Web pages load quicker than they do on other browsers, and that Jaguar’s rendering abilities allow for more efficiency and speed. Even to call that an understatement seems an understatement. It’s so fast that despite my vow to maintain a level of objectivity, I could only utter, again and again, the same three little words: “Oh. My. God.”

After downloading the browser in a matter of minutes from the Apple site, I was struck by how well Safari fit with the Mac look. Like the company’s cleanly designed laptops and iPod, the browser can’t be mistaken for a Redmond-produced application. Even its icon, a small compass that seems like it was lifted from the fantasy game “Myst,” is funky and simple. The window itself is stripped down to mere essentials, with perhaps the least loaded menu bar ever to fight in the browser wars.

Several features were immediately dear to my heart. First, the “bug” button is large and well placed, and a tap on it will let you send a note to Cupertino about the beta browser’s flaws. Since Apple promises a fuller, less buggy version later in the year, the bug is comforting. Somehow, despite my discomfort at seeing that little tick and making mental connections to Lyme Disease, the critter’s presence shows that Apple is committed to following through on its upcoming release, that it values user feedback enough to put the bug in such a visible spot.

Second, navigation is streamlined via the few buttons and a fabulous “snap back” feature that lets you jump to your starting point. No more tiresome trudging through past pages or searching through history lists for Safari users. One click and the living is easy. Also, Apple has built in a powerful, automatic pop-up ad blocker that works very well, even at those homegrown sites where one pop-up seems to spawn another to the point where quitting is the only option.

However, let’s get back to the real reason for heading out on Safari–the amazing, jaw-dropping speed. If I could use more adjectives without sounding like a shill for Apple, I’d do it. The COMPUTERUSER site loaded in approximately one second, and more image-laden sites took only a second or two more. Finally, I could watch all the “Star Wars” spoofs on without finding something to do during loading, and shopping on has never been more zippy and painless.

Safari is not without its rough patches–after all, it’s still in beta. Some sites, like, don’t support the browser yet, but widespread adoption should convince them of its worthiness. For my part, I was convinced pretty quickly of that after firing it up–in fact, it took one second exactly.

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