Former Apple Employee Recalls The 2003 Safari Announcement With Steve Jobs

safariicon

Don Melton is best known for starting the Safari browser and WebKit at Apple years ago. On his personal blog, Melton has been publishing old stories about Safari, including how the browser was almost named “Freedom” and how Apple hid Safari by pretending it was Mozilla.

In his latest post, Melton recalls the original Safari announcement at Macworld back in 2003. “There’s nothing that can fill your underwear faster than seeing your product fail during a Steve Jobs demo,” according to Melton.

Since he was in charge of Safari at the time, Melton got to sit in keynote rehearsals with Safari engineer Ken Kocienda and watch Steve Jobs prepare for the Macworld unveiling:

Most of the time during those rehearsals, Ken and I had nothing to do except sit in the then empty audience and watch The Master Presenter at work — crafting his keynote. What a privilege to be a spectator during that process. At Apple, we were actually all students, not just spectators. When I see other companies clumsily announce products these days, I realize again how much the rest of the world lost now that Steve is gone.

At one rehearsal, Safari hung during Steve’s demo — unable to load any content. Before my pants could load any of its own, Ken discovered the entire network connection had failed. Nothing we could do. The IT folks fixed the problem quickly and set up a redundant system. But I still worried that it might happen again when it really mattered.

Melton describes the anxiety of watching Jobs present Safari to the world:

On the day of actual keynote, only a few of us from the Safari team were in the audience. Employee passes are always limited at these events for obvious reasons. But we did have great seats, just a few rows from the front — you didn’t want to be too close in case something really went wrong.

Steve started the Safari presentation with, “So, buckle up.” And that’s what I wished I could do then — seatbelt myself down. Then he defined one of our product goals as, “Speed. Speed.” So, I tensed up. Not that I didn’t agree, of course. I just knew what was coming soon:

Demo time.

And for the entire six minutes and 32 seconds that Steve used Safari on stage, I don’t remember taking a single breath. I was thinking about that network failure during rehearsal and screaming inside my head, “Stay online, stay online!” We only had one chance to make a first impression.

Make sure to read Melton’s full blog post for more on the history of Safari. Here’s a video of the announcement (55 minutes in):

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About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath has been a staff writer at Cult of Mac for over two years. He is also a co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by places like the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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