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Apple Brings In-Browser Apps as "Extensions" to Safari

Safari extensions

Apple's newest incarnation of its Web browser, Safari 5.0.1, has a new extensions feature along with it, bringing a whole new level of in-browser widget power, including HTML5 goodness.

The new Safari 5.0.1 version includes the usual raft of performance improvements, UI adjustments and bugs, including that pretty enormous "auto-fill" security loophole from the other day. Its biggest treat is the addition of Safari Extensions and the associated Extensions Gallery. This has been available to developers for a month or so, but is only now hitting the average Apple consumer—the delay was predesigned so that coders could leverage the new tech to get things ready for the general public.

But what have they got ready? The Extensions are next-gen plug-ins to the browser itself—think of them as in-browser apps—that essentially let you pick and choose among a bunch of available extras to enhance how Safari works, so it better suits your needs or wants. Still confused? It's stuff like "toolbars that display live web feeds" to "sophisticated programs that filter web content," according to Apple. But there're a bunch of big-name Extensions that also give you a flavor of what you can do: The MS Bing extension, for example, which keeps tabs on your search efforts, by automatically suggesting searches, complete with context sensing for maps and so on, when you simply select some text in a normal web page.

Twitter's got an official extension too, which lets you quickly tweet about a page you've surfed to, as well as delivering a live feed of trending topics—adding in an always-on aspect to Twitter that almost brings the already near-real-time service up to completely real-time relevance (since users don't have to hunt for a separate Twitter app). News-minded Safari users may also like the New York Times extension, which sits in the browser and live-updates as news hits the Times' Web page.

Extensions can be found by visiting an website, or via Safari's own Gallery menu item, so they're easy to find (and Apple can manage the code, somewhat akin to how it manages the App Store in iTunes, so that it can keep potentially troubling or malicious extensions away from the end-user). Is this like a Safari-specific app store? You betcha! The code that extension developers can use includes HTML5 too, so Apple's again gently pushing the "HTML5 is the future of browsers" agenda. Mind you, with YouTube's recent HTML5-friendly adjustments, perhaps this battle against Adobe Flash is largely won ...

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.