Apple Adds Touch Bar Support to WebKit

Safari Technology Preview

Safari Technology Preview Adds Touch Bar

Apple is adding a new feature to its Safari Technology Preview that could change how you use the web. In release 19, Apple’s beta version of its web browser adds support for Touch Bar to WebKit.

If you’re not familiar with Safari Technology Preview, it’s essentially Apple’s answer to Google Chrome’s various channels. Rather than create a fussy toggle system between stable, beta and developer, the beta Safari app lets web developers and designers preview incoming technology in a sandboxed environment.

WebKit is the underlying framework that pushes Safari along. It’s open source and extensible, which broadens Touch Bar support even further.

In the changeset addressing Touch Bar support for WebKit, Apple added a litany of features that web developers can tap into. A lot of what’s been added are features related to editing text (underline, bold, text color, etc.); other unique features, such as form autofill, are also included.

Touch Bar is a unique new interface tool for the desktop, but doesn’t always work as designed. Some websites take advantage of Touch Bar, while others have features that don’t seem to register for Safari (embedded video is a culprit; sometimes Touch Bar has playback controls, sometimes it doesn’t).

Many features added to WebKit are for editing the Touch bar itself.

It’s good for Safari, but might prove itself handy elsewhere, as well. Google uses a forked version of WebKit called Blink, which powers Chrome. If you’re a Chrome user with a Touch Bar-equipped MacBook, you know it’s not supported. It has no playback controls, navigation features or, well, anything: Touch Bar just sits there dormant.

Part of the reason Chrome hasn’t supported Touch Bar is that Apple kept the latter close to the proverbial chest until its release, so we’d like to think it being implemented in WebKit means it will someday find its way to Chrome. (Another hurdle: Touch Bar scrubbing lets users shuffle past YouTube ads… we’re sure Google’s no fan of that.)

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