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Apple unveils AI-powered Safari with iOS 18 and macOS 15

Apple unveils AI-powered Safari with iOS 18 and macOS 15

Apple is testing a version of its Safari web browser that includes UI tweaks, advanced content blocking features, and a new AI-powered tool called Smart Search. AppleInsider to learn.

Safari gets new AI tools in iOS 18

The software — expected to debut as Safari 18 later in 2024 — is currently undergoing evaluation alongside internal releases for Apple's next-generation operating system updates, iOS 18 and macOS 15, according to people familiar with the matter. If all the new features reach the release candidate stage, users will be treated to a new user interface (UI) for customizing common page controls, a Web Eraser feature, and AI-based content summarization tools.

Smart Search – AI-powered browsing and text summarization

Engineers evaluating the latest versions of Safari 18 can find a toggle for the new on-page controls menu within the browser's address bar. The menu integrates old and new controls on the page – and provides quick access to them, including the browser's new Smart Search feature.

Safari's new Smart Browsing feature could mimic features like Arc Browser's article summary

This feature is not automatically enabled in Safari 18 beta versions and instead requires manual activation from the page controls menu. Once enabled, the tool is believed to leverage Apple's on-device AI technology – specifically the Ajax language learning model – to identify key topics and phrases within a web page on which a summary can be based.

When selecting key phrases, Apple LLM identifies sentences that provide explanations or describe the structure of objects, depending on the text in question. Repeated words within the text and key sentences are recognized as text topics.

These early indications suggest that Apple is pushing to offer text summarization alongside Safari 18 later this year, though the exact implementation of this feature remains a mystery.

Apple's text summarization features could be a response to competing generative AI tools, such as OpenAI's ChatGPT. But Apple's on-device models and technologies like Private Relay can make the experience safer for users. It's also possible that Smart Search is the same AI browser assistant that one X user hinted at a couple of weeks ago.

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Web eraser to better block content

A feature that Apple is testing called “Web Eraser” can also be accessed from the new page's controls menu. As its name suggests, it is designed to allow users to remove or erase certain parts of web pages, according to people familiar with the feature.

This feature is expected to build on Safari's existing privacy features and will allow users to clear unwanted content from any web page they choose. Users will have the option to scan ads, images, text, or even entire page sections, all with relative ease.

Clear parts of a web page by blocking specific HTML like the feature in 1Blocker

The erasure process is said to be continuous, and not limited to the browsing session. This means that Safari will remember the changes even after you close the original tab or window.

When visiting a web page that contains previously cleared content, Safari will inform the user that the page has been modified to reflect the requested changes. The browser will also provide the user with the option to undo the changes and restore the web page to its initial, unchanged state.

As for where Apple got the idea for Web Eraser, it is possible that the company integrated the feature from the third-party application 1Blocker. The app features a similar method to clearing ads, where users click on ads to hide them.

The updated user interface will move essential tools to one easy place

The new Page Controls menu referenced in this article will attempt to provide Safari 18 users quick and easy access to many pre-existing options across different menus and the Share Sheet. For example, the menu works on pre-release builds of macOS 15, and also pulls the “Aa” menu common in current iPadOS versions of the browser. This includes zoom options, web page settings for privacy controls, content blocking options, extension shortcuts, and access to new AI and scanning tools.

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The new Safari menu will provide easier access to many features previously found in the Share Sheet and Address Bar

These various options previously existed on macOS, but were found by navigating through Safari's settings menu. Having all of these controls in one central location in the address bar will make these options more discoverable for end users. Other options such as searching for text on the page and Reader mode are also available in this menu.

All of this suggests that Apple intends to unify iPadOS and macOS Safari UI models when it unveils new OS versions during its Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

AI-powered visual search could be available in 2025

At the same time, Apple is also working on a more powerful visual search feature scheduled to be integrated sometime in 2025 that will allow users to get information about consumer products when browsing photos. People familiar with the tool say it's similar to the Visual Search feature, through which Siri can identify plants, pets, and landmarks from photos.

Visual search could get an AI boost and become available across iOS

Visual search can be implemented as a system-wide feature. So, instead of displaying search results in the Photos app, a user may be able to use visual search directly in Safari by selecting an image.

Since the development of this tool is still in its early stages, it is still unclear how Apple will eventually go about implementing it. It also remains to be seen whether the feature will pass internal testing.

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The iPhone maker has expressed keen interest in artificial intelligence and recently published research related to on-device language learning models. This goes hand in hand with widespread rumors about several other AI-powered software features, many of which are expected to debut later this year with iOS 18.

Another big year for safari

Since its inception, Safari was always meant to compete with existing web browsers.

Features like built-in password tools make Safari an excellent browser choice

Safari was originally added to macOS as a way to replace Microsoft's Internet Explorer for Mac, which was the default browser. Over the years, the app made its way to the iPhone, and has since received various upgrades over the years.

Newer versions of Safari provide users with personalized web suggestions, and allow for greater privacy protection through features like iCloud Private Relay.

This latest batch of improvements only betters Safari's standing against the competition, in an ever-growing landscape of creative AI tools and third-party ad blockers.

While Apple is testing many of these features during different development stages, it's important to remember that not all of these features are released. Apple has been known to delay features or cancel them entirely, so there's always a chance we won't see these new Safari features at all.

Along with Safari 18 and its associated improvements, we should also see a revamped calculator with Math Notes making its way to iPadOS 18. Free-form scenes and adaptive voice shortcuts are new features of the operating system, which are also expected to debut later this year. .

Apple is expected to introduce several AI-related improvements as part of iOS 18 and macOS 15, both of which are scheduled to be announced at the company's annual WWDC conference on June 10.