Apple macOS High Sierra kills AutoPlay in Safari, uses machine learning to improve privacy

At the 2017 WWDC in San Jose, Apple executive Craig Federighi announced updates to its consumer OS with new privacy initiatives, an improved focus on GPU, and more.

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Apple officially unveiled its latest Mac operating system, macOS 10.13 High Sierra, at the 2017 WWDC event in San Jose on Monday. The main updates to the OS centered on privacy improvements in Safari, Apple's web browser.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, took the stage at WWDC to explain how Safari changes the browsing experience for users in High Sierra. "Safari is the world's fastest desktop browser with High Sierra," Federighi said.

Federighi noted that Safari could achieve 80% faster JavaScript preference than Chrome as well.

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Safari's biggest changes came with its focus on user privacy while browsing. Safai will now block AutoPlay, so that users will not have to deal with videos automatically playing when they open a web page.

Intelligent Tracking Prevention is another new feature coming to Safari in High Sierra. Federighi explained that it uses machine learning to identify and track blockers, so that ads don't follow users across pages.

"Now your privacy, your browsing history is your own," Federighi said. However, the ultimate goal isn't necessarily to block certain ads, but just to protect user data. The web will still behave as it always has, Federighi said.

Mail is also getting an update in High Sierra, as it will use 35% less disk space to store messages. A new full-screen split view in Mail will make it easier to compose messages.

Photos is getting a new layout and improved facial recognition with neural networks, too. And High Sierra will support H.265 video.

Additionally, the new file system for storage that debuted last year, the Apple File System (APFS), will now be the default on Macs moving forward.

"It's time for a more modern file system," Federighi. "We're bringing the Apple File System to macOS as a new default."

Image: James Martin/CNET

Metal, Apple's "API for high-performance graphics," is getting updated, Federighi said. The new Metal 2 will make it easier for developers to build apps with improved graphics. Metal is being made for external graphics, and a new developer kit will make it easier to tune apps for Metal 2. The developer kits includes a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, a AMD Radeon RX 580, and a USB-C hub.

Metal for VR is also coming to High Sierra, Federighi said, for VR app development. SteamVR is coming to Mac, along with Unity and Unreal engines, as well.

macOS High Sierra is available in private beta for developers now, and it will be publicly shipping in the fall.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The new macOS 10.13 High Sierra includes a host of Safari updates including AutoPlay blocking, tracking prevention, and more.
  2. With High Sierra, Apple Photos is getting a facelift and improved machine learning, and H.265 video will be supported.
  3. macOS Sierra is available now in private developer beta, and will ship publicly in the fall.

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