Safari is gaining support for extensions for new window and tab pages

The upcoming macOS 11.3 software update brings new customization options to Safari, including third-party extensions for the browser’s New Tab and New Window pages.

Safari in macOS 11 brought the ability to choose a custom background for your start page. After opening a new tab or window in Safari, hit the icon in the top-right corner to choose a provided image or select one of your photos. Setting an interesting background rather than a search engine or a favorite web page makes opening new tabs more interesting than before.

With macOS 11.3, Apple has added new customization options to Safari. Specifically, you can now override a new window or tab page with third-party extensions from the App Store.

A Mac screenshot showing Safari's Start page with a custom background and a shortcuts menu

It’s unclear whether this new Safari feature could also come to the iPhone and iPad.

Here’s how it works

Filipe Espósito, 9to5Mac:

We have discovered that new extensions will let users change the default pages of a new window or new tab. Since this option is based on new extensions, we haven’t been able to try it out as there are no compatible extensions available yet.

Shouldn’t be a problem for MacRumors reader “neilio” who took it upon himself to test how this works by recompiling a version of Journal’s Chrome extension using the Safari Web Extension Converter feature in Xcode. Running the recompiled extension in Safari 11.3 produces a popup asking the user whether they would like to use the extensions for “new window and tab pages”.

The dialog offers two buttons: “Use for New Windows and Tabs” and “Now Now”.

A screenshot showing the recompiled Journal for Chrome extension running in Safari. A popup is shown asking the user whether they would like to use the extensions to customize Safari's new window and tab pages.
Image credit: Forum user “neilio”/MacRumors

The user can also adjust permission for that in the Safari preferences, on a per-site basis.

Similar extensions on other browsers

Other browsers already have similar customization options of their own. In both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, for instance, you can change new tab pages with extensions. As for Chrome, there are additional extensions for customizing things like the bookmark manager.

This new feature in macOS 11.3 appears to take advantage of the new WebExtension API, which Safari already supports. WebExtension API is a universal browser extension platform support by major Chrome, Firefox, Edge and other etablished web browsers.