Browsers Have Changed.  Have You?

| Analysis

Browsers are critical software these days, not only for the benefits they provide but for the hidden perils and developer agenda. How we select a browser is important, but all too often, it’s the least informed choice we make on the Mac. In this first-of-its-kind review of reviewing, reader feedback is solicited.

The most important thing to appreciate about a browser is how it serves the user. If the user has never had a security snafu or a compromise, a browser is likely deemed “good enough” and then the browser choice is based on other factors, such as look-and-feel, features, loyalty to, say, Apple and so on. All browsers for the Mac are free, and it’s not a bad idea to ask ourselves why.

On the other hand, if one has had a browser betray them or if one has a heightened sense of security gained from the workplace, especially the government, then one may be willing to forego the niceties of browser design and features and pursue a browser that allows one to lock it down in a very formal, well understood way.

How a modern browser treats you, protects your privacy, your data, the security of your OS and your location (if desired) is ultimately about the agenda of the developer.  That’s a change from the early days when browsers simply struggled to do what they do well. In that regard, over time, our browser choice has been that of a boiled frog. Let’s examine the boiling process.

Browser Momentum

From my experience as a tech columnist, most Mac users have never had a visible, quantified security problem with their browser. As a result, they use Safari because:

  • It’s provided by Apple. Period. End of discussion
  • They can’t figure out how to change the default browser
  • Apple makes the OS, so Safari and security updates go hand-in-hand
  • It’s free and good enough

The result is that Safari has a lot of momentum amongst Mac users. Getting a Mac user to change browsers is generally like pulling hair. There has to be a significant event (a software betrayal) or perhaps a special set of features essential to a job to be done — or certain Websites that require a specific browser — that will make a user change browsers — or routinely use two browsers.

Market Psychology

Apple is a large, successful company. The company intends to say that way by keeping customers comfortable and happy. As a result, Apple’s philosophy with security is to keep it behind the scenes and not bother the user about it. Going overboard in touting the security of Safari is just an invitation to make the customer nervous.

On the other hand, there are customers who aren’t pleased with Apple’s happy-go-lucky approach to security and want a developer to have a formal, public approach to security and to back that up with identifiable features. As far as I’m concerned, there are the only two kinds of browsers out there today: those that secretly serve the developer and those that explicitly serve the user.

By that, I mean is that, today, there’s always a temptation to capture information about what the user is doing for financial gain. Various browsers have features to block tracking history and keep search information a bit more private, but ultimately it boils down to whether the developer either wants some information no matter what or whether the developer is steadfastly devoted to the user’s privacy.

Browser Selection

Based on the discussion above, I don’t believe that most Mac users build a comparison chart and “check the boxes” when it comes to selecting a browser. Instead, they succumb to peer pressure, go with the flow, and use the Mac OS X built-in browser, Safari. It helps that their iOS device is also using (mobile) Safari, so there’s the familiarity thing.

On the Windows side, the legendary security snafus of Internet Explorer in Windows XP gained enough exposure that rank and file Windows users became aware of them and switched to Firefox in droves, driving IE’s market share way down. That’s what it takes to get people to switch browsers.

Browser Technology Details - Yawn

With all the above in mind, and the fact that I am getting ready to do a review of Opera 11, it’s a serious conceit that a list of features, along with a subjective evaluation of those features, is going to be informative and persuasive. I can imagine a review entitled, “Opera 11, the Best Browser Ever,” and the only result would be a long list of reader comments and complaints as to why Safari (or Firefox) is good enough — or even better in many ways.

One problem is that our browser experience is very superficial. Most of the time, it does the job, but when it fails, we shrug and move on. But developers don’t get to shrug. Only developers sweat the details of plug-in security, CSS compatibility, sandboxes, Acid3 tests, HTML5 support, and certificates. As a result, most users can’t really say that they have enough in-depth knowledge to strictly evaluate a browser, and if we did get into the nitty-gritty details of those features above in a review or the comments section, most readers would soon tire and tune out.

Essential Browser Features

Previously, I asked via Twitter what the most important features of a browser are. Despite what I’ve said above, I suspect that most Mac users, especially those who are more technical, flatter themselves that they’ve made their choice based on some objective criteria — whether or not they’ve done extensive testing.

The issue here is that browsers have been developed for almost 20 years now. (My first browser was the Mac browser by Tim Berners-Lee on a Mac IIci (Mac OS 6) in 1992 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It was was buggy in the extreme, and I switched to Mosaic in 1993.) Browsers are very mature and sophisticated today, so the basis for selection is buried by the fact that they’re all very good. All that’s left to differentiate browsers is the agenda of the developer, the specific features that appeal to certain users, and, if anything, a certain sense of rugged individualism or heightened awareness by the user.

Here’s the feedback I got on what the desirable features of a browser are combined with a few of my own.

  • Passes standards tests, like Acid 3, with high scores.
  • Launches fast and renders pages fast.
  • Is intrinsically secure.
  • Has terrific and detailed control over user privacy settings and alerts.
  • Should facilitate the cataloging of articles of interest, and not just bookmarks.
  • Should have superior, graphical, intuitive tab management
  • Has a secure, stable plug-in architecture.
  • Has facilities for parental controls.

Other secondary features, such as how links are opened, the e-mailing of links, autofill, RSS support, options for search sites like Bing and Google, HTML editing, the display of the HTML source, and so on, are really subject to the tastes and needs of the individual user. But how hungry and how knowledgeable are we?

The Internet is such a large and complex place, the features we need in a browser are often buried, under the hood, in ways we’re not always aware of but which are critical. Take a look at Safari’s list of features. It takes your breath away, and it’s a longer list than be critically analyzed in less than 25,000 words.

Summary

When I think about reviewing a web browser, like Opera 11, these are all the things I think about. I’m not inclined to fall down a rabbit hole of features and checkboxes. I am aware that Safari does the job for most casual, non-technical users, that is, 90 percent of Apple’s customer base. Tests I’ve seen show that Opera 11 is just about as fast at rendering as Safari, and it scores 100 on the Acid3 test.

So here’s what I propose: an interactive project. Let’s talk some more, in the comments, right here, about:

  • What’s important in choosing a browser?
  • What do you want to see in a browser review?
  • Why are you still using Safari?
  • What would it take to get you to change browsers?
  • How happy are you with Apple’s security philosophy?

I’ll mull all this over before I start on the Opera 11 review. Anything less than the scope of all that I’ve described above would result in just another ho-hum review, that no one would read. I want more, and I suspect that you do too. Here’s your chance to become a part of this process. Shower me with comments.

Comments

Nemo

I abandoned Safari for two reasons:  (1)  Compared to Firefox and even Opera 11, when both have the appropriated extensions installed, Safari sucks at blocking tracking by Cookies and Flash Cookies (Safari won’t even clear self replicating HTML cookies) and sucks at allowing me to block and control javascript and sucks at allowing me to selectively control plugins; and (2) Firefox has a couple of extensions that I use for work, which are not available on other browsers.  And I won’t even consider Chrome because it is just about as bad as Safari with respect to the features raised in (1), supra.

So the desire to protect my privacy and certain other features provided by extensions have driven me to Firefox and Opera 11.

Lee Dronick

“On the Windows side, the legendary security snafus of Internet Explorer in Windows XP gained enough exposure that rank and file Windows users became aware of them and switched to Firefox in droves, driving IE?s market share way down. That?s what it takes to get people to switch browsers.”

What the latest figures on browser share? From I have seen Explorer use is down, but it is still #1.

My wife is back in college and a lot of stuff she needs is online. For some classes she needs to use FireFox because the pages do not support Safari. On the other hand some online classes don’t work with FireFox so she uses Safari for those. This situation is on the same college website.

Ross Edwards

Windows switchers to Mac, in general, use Firefox, though I admit I can’t remember where I read that.  I was no exception.  When Snow Leopard came out, I never bothered to reinstall Firefox, and once I acclimated to Safari, I didn’t miss Firefox—but if it were there, I would use it.

My employer’s VPN does not work with browsers other than IE, so unless some Mac browser is able to run whatever compatibility code is necessary,or IE comes back to the Mac (yeah right) I guess I have the choice of buying a PC (nope) or not telecommuting (yep).

geoduck

I’ve been thinking of changing. I used Netscape for a long time, past when it was fresh in fact, then switched to Safari. Safari has been “good enough” for along time. All the systems for work are optimized for FireFox so that’s what I use there.

I’ve been happy with Safari until the last few months. I’m getting more spinning beach-ball waits with Safari. I’ve found more sites that will work with Opera, Firefox, even IE8, but not Safari. Then with the security issues mentioned by Nemo above I think it might be getting to be time to make another switch.

I’d like to see you compare Opera 11 with the latest FireFox. Compare and contrast articles are IMO more informative than saying that “X does Y well”.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

There are a lot of good things about Chrome. Two things that I especially like are (1) they’ve tamed Flash so that the very rare crash doesn’t take down the whole browser, and (2) they have figured out windows and tabs. If Chrome remembered Spaces on the Mac, it would be even better.

As a straddler who uses both Mac and Windows, I like that Chrome feels the same on both platforms without being awkward on either. For web browsing activities, Chrome on a Win7 netbook feels just like Chrome on my MBP. Safari, by contrast, feels Apple-fied on Windows.

Yakir

I’ve used Firefox for years, mostly using Macs but also *nix and that other OS. Firefox just feels right, I like the available extensions, a couple themes, and my only complaint is it’s a bit of a memory and CPU hog.

But I have no interest in switching. The one thing I use Safari for is saving videos easily via the Activity window, I haven’t found an easy way in Firefox. But beyond that, I don’t use anything else.

I do have Opera and several other browsers in iOS, because of Safari’s 8 tab limit.

FlipFriddle

I guess one of the subjective reasons I have stuck with Safari is the way it renders type; it’s superior to Firefox for me. I tried to switching to Firefox for a while but I went back to Safari for a reason I can’t remember. I keep Firefox around for the odd occasion something won’t work in Safari. I guess in the end it hasn’t mattered much.
No matter what browser I use, Flash burdens my CPU on any of my Macs (and kills the battery on my MacBook) so Click to Flash is a must install.

webjprgm

I use Safari because when I first made that choice Firefox was slower, and it still seems slower.  On Windows FF seems rather fast, but on a Mac not so, perhaps due to plugins.  I keep FF around for Firebug when I’m building websites.

I also have some loyalty to Apple, so I’d prefer to use an Apple browser if it’s somewhere in the top few.

I don’t use Opera because it’s a small niche thing and I’ve seen some websites behave oddly in it, and I have no intention of supporting it in my own development projects.

I don’t use Chrome because, although it seems technically strong, I don’t trust Google.

webjprgm

No matter what browser I use, Flash burdens my CPU on any of my Macs (and kills the battery on my MacBook) so Click to Flash is a must install.

Yes!  Thanks! 

I guess I could point out ad blocking as a desirable feature.  I have an ad block plugin in FF, but I tend to use Safari.  For some reason I trust plugins less in Safari, because they are not Apple-provided while FF is 100% third-party (since it’s open source, etc.).  Ads slow the browser, put annoying flashing things all over, and occasionally some ads I really don’t want to see, either because they’re annoying or, on rare occasion, obscene.

Also, I like Chrome’s unified address/search bar, and keep confusing that in Safari.  But I like Safari’s button to return to search results after digging in a ways.  So these are small features that I see as “nice” and it would take several of them to stack up in favor of one browser to cause a switch.

Will

Used Opera 11 for a couple of days trying to acclimate to it after regular no-issue use over many years of Safari, my main browser. I find Opera 11 very slow in launching which is annoying. I also commend it for being full-featured, albeit much more complex to configure than Safari.

Josh

I’ve tried chrome, but unlike in Bosco’s experience it feels to akward for me.  For what ever reason it seems to ignore common keyboard shortcuts like Command-H and Command-M, which is a non-starter for me.  I prefer to use keyboard shortcuts to the menubar and mouse.

In a different way, firefox doesn’t really fit in either.  Many of the things it can do are done in a foreign (non-mac) way that takes concious effort on my part to use.

I use primarily Safari, with a smattering of Camino, Chrome and Firefox thrown in for sites that don’t behave well in Safari (the University of Minnesota HR site for example).  I also use Chrome for video I can’t get through the HTML5 <video> tag, either through YouTube5 Safari extention or UserAgent spoofing as an iPad. 

I uninstalled flash on both of my machines to see if I really needed it, and I probably launch Chrome for that purpose once or twice a month.

Dean Lewis

In the end, I think browser choice is mostly subjective. Even if there are features that are better in one or the other, we can see from just the comments so far that people base their final decision on how they perceive the font rendering, their personal security needs and/or beliefs, plug-in use, or even the requirements of their workplace over their own wants.

Personally, I use Safari the most and keep Firefox on my system for sites that that don’t render or perform properly in Safari. Sites I frequent tend to work in Safari just fine 90% of the time, even my banking/financial sites now. I don’t have the slowness or crash issues others seem to have, maybe due to sites I frequent. The real reason I probably use Safari more is because I don’t like the “feel” of Firefox (and even less so the “feel” of Chrome—I don’t like the combo address/search field; trying to explain it to clients has been a true hassle as they always look for separate fields). I can’t quantify or explain the “feel”—it just is.

strager

My main browser is Opera.  I have used Chrome (for a few months) and Firefox 2 (for most of its lifetime), and of course IE5 and Netscape in the stone ages.

I prefer Opera over other browsers because tab management is very natural for me with Opera.  Chrome for some reason *sometimes* opens tabs on the far right, and *sometimes* opens it right of the current tab “group”.  This isn’t intuitive for me.  When closing the active tab I’m not sent back to the tab I used to be in some of the time (and I still haven’t figured out how Chrome determines which tab to show after I close the active tab!).  I haven’t used Firefox much lately, but it has some of the problems Chrome has with tabs (at least in 3), crashes too often for me, updates every day (very bad UX), and sometimes screws up font rendering (no idea why).

As was said before, Safari doesn’t feel natural on Windows, and the absence of a “uni-URL-bar” thing (maybe not in Safari 5?) is a big turnoff.

One of the main reasons I hate IE every time I use it is that it changes my focus *all the time*, and Ctrl-L doesn’t bring focus to the URL bar.

I think the number two feature I use in browsers is zooming.  Chrome is ABSOLUTELY ATROCIOUS when it comes to zooming.  Seriously, open two Chrome windows (with tabs from the same “group”; e.g. open www.google.com twice in a row and break off one of the tabs) and zoom in one.  It’s ridiculous.  Different sites (and sometimes pages, e.g. for images) need different zoom levels, and Chrome binds zoom level to a tab “group”, which crosses site boundaries.  Opera gets this right most of the time.  (Don’t know about other browsers.)  Chrome’s zoom level increments are also silly (logarithmic???) and they frustrate me constantly.  Opera gets this right, too (though I think something like 15% would be better than 10%, but whatever).

The third feature I really desire from a browser is mouse gesturing.  Chrome and Firefox gain support for this through extensions, but I like that every Opera install has gestures OOTB, and it’s had them for a while.

Hopefully my input helps with your research (and contributes to this discussion).  It’s really interesting to see what other people prioritize as their browser wants and needs.

BradPDX

I usually keep the following browsers on my Macs:
Safari (of course)
Firefox
Camino
OmniWeb
Chrome

(I’ve stopped using Chrome because I could not control Flash - which on a MacBook means greatly reduced battery life in the service of advertisements and fluff most of the time. Also, Google was just being stupid with the whole WebM thing and it pissed me off)

I continue to use Safari for the following reasons:

1. It’s very fast
2. No security issues have impacted me
3. I like the minimal UI very much
4. It syncs automagically with mobile Safari on my iPad/iPhone. Yay!
5. Very few real world annoyances - in daily use, I rarely have a browser-related issue.

Number 5 is an important point: what drives me away from a product is a regular series of “issues” of one sort or another. Page won’t display properly? Use another browser. Forms not working? Use another browser. Crashing at least once a day? Use another browser.

If I encountered things like that with Safari, I’d consider switching. But I haven’t, and I like the way it works and feels. It runs all day with many windows/tabs open all the time.

I am being naive about security? Perhaps. I also don’t put 5 locks on all my doors because in my neighborhood the odds of that being useful are nearly nil. We all adjust to perceived circumstances.

Just for fun, I am writing this via OmniWeb wink

Eddy555

I use Chrome on both WinXP at work and OSX at home. Chrome is just so fast, syncs my installed apps, bookmarks, settings through my Gmail account and is great to use.
I do occasionally use Safari on my Mac as some security software for my bank doesn’t support Chrome under OSX. When I do go back to it Safari feels noticeably slower to start and navigate through sites. Also there are very few plugins for Safari, whereas Chrome has tons and the ones I use are incredibly useful for Twitter, Facebook and Gmail checking.

Lee Dronick

Safari won?t even clear self replicating HTML cookies

I think that has something to do with the Top Sites feature in Safari. Sometimes it takes several empty cache and clear history to stop that. I am a big fan of Sweet Production’s Safari Cookies plugin.

How do Safari, FireFox, and Chrome currently compare in HTML5 and CSS3 support?

Jamie

I actually use six different browsers so that my activities don’t overlap, thereby making my sessions difficult to parse out and track. My banking etc. is done in one, one I use exclusively for my own web development, one for casual browsing, and so on and so forth.

I love Safari for my casual stuff as it syncs so flawlessly with my iOS stuff. It really is like magic, beyond a few initial settings it doesn’t require much input from me. You can’t beat the developer tools plugin for Firefox with a stick, seriously. So handy. I use Opera for secure transactions, bills etc. I have my eye on the Iron project as I like Chrome but don’t care for Google’s own brand of spyware, et. al. and etc.

Likely not the ideal for the casual user, but it works great for me. I may be singlehandedly giving Camino and OmniWeb their meager market share points. wink

So far as usability goes in my experience, Safari, Chrome, and Opera are all very fast, very compliant, and decently extensible (though Firefox is still king there, to be sure) with their own cool features. These would be my top four, in no particular order as everyone’s needs are a little different.

KitsuneStudios

Chrome.

My needs are simple. Chrome is fast, stable, and the unified search/address bar works great.

BurmaYank

“... so unless… IE comes back to the Mac (yeah right) I guess I have the choice of buying a PC (nope) or not telecommuting (yep).”

You could run IE on your (Intel) Mac if you’d install Windows onto a virtual disk on your Mac via a PC emulation app like VMware Fusion, Crossover or Parallels Desktop, and/or an Apple BootCamp partition.  That would allow your Mac to interface with your boss’s VPN quite nicely.

iphonzie

For casual use, Safari does the trick for me. I use Click2Flash to avoid most crashing and CPU-hogging issues.

For web development, I use OmniWeb for three features: visual tabs in the sidebar; the ability to zoom a textarea out into a standalone text editing window (for editing code or other lengthy text); and the ability to modify code in the source view and preview the changes in the live browser. These go beyond mere convenience and make my work process much more efficient.

I use FireFox only when necessary. I find it ugly and un-mac-like. Also, it’s AppleScript support broke a couple years ago and nobody has gotten around to fixing it.

Chrome is nice, but adds no particular value for me. I made an effort to use it for a while, but found that it was, in fact, an effort, and switched back to Safari.

Asomatous

I have used Chrome from its early beta forms almost exclusively. I chose it because of the security it provided that other browsers did not. I had used Firefox prior to my switch but found it increasingly sluggish and frequently in need of updating. I tried Camino and have had Opera and OmniWeb on my computer for a number of years. I left Safari for both security and performance reasons. I maintain Firefox because some websites do not work well with Chrome or Safari. I would give Opera (or OmniWeb) more usage but find it has computability issues with a number of sites I frequent. Chrome may now be more of a security risk than it was based on Goggle’s data-mining tendencies. I mourn the absence of “objective” browser evaluation for users of all OS.

Red8

I’ve used Camino for the past 4-5 yrs, since I still run a lot of older powerpc macs and love the clean, simple interface. It feels more mac-like to me than does Safari.

geoduck

These comments have reminded me of a couple more things.

Safari: Top Sites. I hate Top Sites. It’s of absolutely no use to me and I wish I could eliminate the button from the screen. When it first came out I tried to use it. I really tried to like it but it was just FAR more trouble than it’s worth. It takes the whole screen to do what the History and Bookmarks menu do better.

FireFox: It probably works the best of all the browsers I use. The trouble is that it just strikes me as ugly (YMMV).

Opera: I used it and I kinda like it, I just never really got comfortable with it. This was a few versions back though so it might be different now. I did like how Torrent is built into it.

karl

webjprgm said: “I don?t use Opera because it?s a small niche thing”

It depends on where. Browser market shares are not uniform across the world. Go to gs.statcounter.com and check for Russia for example. Check also for mobile browser, and you will a very different picture.

The same for other browsers, they will have very different market shares depending on the countries.

JonGl

Years ago, I bought Omniweb for my family’s Macs. I still use Omniweb almost exclusively. I’ve tried every other browser out there—Safari, Firefox (and all its iterations/spin-offs), Opera, iCab and Chrome. I never last more than a few minutes with any of them. Chrome, sadly, seems to make things look weird, and that’s the same pages that Safari and Omni handle fine. I don’t know if that’s because of its Flash implementation, or what, but I’ve never been able to escape the impression that it is half-baked—and I really don’t like its tabs and menu structure. Firefox tends to start off well enough, but with time, it just begins to drag. Also, while the add-ons seem great at first, you get a few installed, and it seems after a while, that you are constantly updating add-ons. Plus, you have to find and pick the ones you like. But more-so for me, why should I have to install add-ons to get tabs on the side, where they are far more useful than on the top? (from Omniweb). Safari starts frustrating me as I load up tabs, and try to set privacy and security on a by-site basis—can’t do it. Plus, it forgets my browsing history (via the “Back” arrows) every time I quit it. Sure, with extensions it can remember what tabs and windows were open, but remembering that history seems beyond its abilities.

Add to that Omniweb’s workspaces feature, and the thumbnail tabs on the side, and the ability to select multiple tabs and open them in a new window, or separate windows, as well as the easy drag and drop between windows (or double-click to open a tab in its own window), and the ability to drag these things between workspaces, and you get a taste of what Omniweb is capable of. These are features I use every day—multiple times a day—things that make my browsing work for me—and none of the other apps even come close to working like Omni does in all these areas, or do it as elegantly as Omni does. Add ClickToFlash, 1Password support, Flashback, etc. and the other browsers’ fates are sealed. I ended up keeping Firefox just in case a page doesn’t work correctly, and Safari, because it seems I must, but all the rest have been deleted, and I don’t see them coming back—ever.

And contrary to common knowledge, Omniweb is still being maintained—mostly to keep its WebKit current with Safari, but that is enough for me.

Its only downside for me is actually a bug that only shows up for me on this web site. I cannot hilight text in the comments, and hover over the gear, and choose the “quote selected text” feature. It always complains that I don’t have any text selected. Apparently, when I click on the menu item, Omni deselects the text, and I get this error—that is the one complaint I have with Omni. But then again, I think I’m weird. wink

-Jon

Jan

It seems like I am only one here, who uses some browser simply because i like that one. In my case it is Opera. I don?t care about security Cause: There is 1.966.514.816 people so lets say 2.000.000.000. 8% are Macs 160.000.000. Lets say that 4% (6.400.000) of those peoples is using Opera. And i think this is pretty little target for hackers. (Yes, this will work only if Opera?s market share stay low) Beside of this i like idea of browser with built in features such as sync history, bookmarks etc. even cross platform - quite useful when you have Mac an PC/Bootcamp. Turbo is good too, specially on public wi-fi. And what i like most: Mouse gestures.There is more, flash block, add block… you name it… Yes, Safari, Firefox, Chrome… They have these things too, and if not, there are plug-ins available… But Opera have all of them right “out of the box” witch i found very apple-like.

silvio dante

Loving opera 11, its truly incredible and Very fast.  I don’t think I could go back to lesser browsers now.  As for killer features.  Opera Link, m2 mail, standards, widgets and extensions, use all of these all the time.

BurmaYank

Safari: Top Sites. I hate Top Sites. It?s of absolutely no use to me and I wish I could eliminate the button from the screen.

I’ll bet you have never discovered Top Sites’ “History” tab - I hated Top Site, too, until I discovered it.  It’s really quite nifty, IMHO!

2old4fun

I use Safari primarily for news reading because of the Reader function.  It cleans up the information to make it easier to read and removes the distractions on the screen.

Bazz

#1   Telling you who is looking at what your looking at as it happens and constant asking to delete cookies.

#5 Right to piss them off there and then!! NO IFS NO BUTS!
#6 Free is not free information to make Google RICH!
#7 Google Pays!

Terrin

I haven’t noticed Safari having a problem with cookies. However, Chrome is a nightmare. I have little snitch installed, and Chrome calls home like every five minutes. Safari and Firefox do not. Further, Chrome’s Javascript rendering is poor.

I generally prefer Safari over other browsers. I hate that Safari removed the tabs on top found in its previous beta. In the very least it should have kept it as an option. I have also hated Firefox because it doesn’t integrate with the OS as well as Safari. For example, with PDFs or opening movie files. Safari handles that stuff better at least on a Mac. Further, Firefox has always felt a little sluggish to me. To be fair, the new beta of Firefox seems to be quite a bit improved. Further, it puts the tabs on top. I’m testing it now.

And I won?t even consider Chrome because it is just about as bad as Safari with respect to the features raised in (1), supra.

tritium

I’ve used
Cyberdog
Netscape
Camino
Opera
iCab
Safari
IE (on windows)

I eventually settled on Safari. It was fast and I liked the tabs and it rendered most sites well. I haven’t compared browsers in a while. Perhaps things have changed. I suspect that the differences between browsers has shrunk. I saw a comparison between Chrome and Safari showing that for some tasks Chrome was faster than Safari by about 2 seconds out of 30 seconds or so for the total task. At that point it doesn’t matter except for bragging rights.

I still occasionally fire up Parallels to run IE for some site that requires it. When I run across that I mostly stop patronizing that organization.

CudaBoy

Pre Safari used Netscape and I.E. ...fine, but this is pre-broadband. Used Safari as an Apple drone until it was too slow opening certain pages and certain multi-media just confounded it. Switched to Firefox- faster IMO, the plugins are way cool - Download Manager et al, the skins, one negative is the clunky way bookmark management works - but I think I saw plug-ins for that too. I’m ready to boot Safari if need be for a year plus now but I just haven’t needed it.

Geoff Girardin

I’ve used Opera for years now, and I couldn’t be happier. The main draw for me, especially as a teen using the Internet, was the amount of memory a browser used. It is, after all, a window into the web, how bulky should it really be?

If after I have my necessary programs, photos, videos, and music in place, should my browser run as slow as molasses, even with my broadband connection? Certainly not.

Opera was a dream come true. A smaller setup file than Firefox, and with a full suite of features right out of the box. I don’t need Thunderbird or Adblocker or any other common extensions, there are ways to do it all right from Opera’s settings.

As a web designer, I keep copies of all browsers on my system, but I really only need to switch to them if specific sites aren’t made with Opera display in mind. Even then, a majority of web developers are learning not to alienate any readers by adding support for Opera. And for the few that don’t, Opera users have taken it upon themselves to send emails out.

Any issues of speed or any other bugs are quickly fixed with frequent and regular updates from the devs, and they are extremely responsive to bug submissions in either their forums or IRC.

In my opinion, it’s the best browser, and i think a lot of people don’t like it because the few that have had problems with it are the most vocal.

John Dingler, artist

My browser needs are modest. After MS stopped development of Explorer, I switched to Safari. I have no reason to mistrust its hidden workings, and run it with ClickToFlash to prevent freezes.

I sometimes open up Opera, Firefox, iCab, or Camino but I see no compelling reason to take them seriously for my purposes, and otherwise I keep their pretty icons on the dock in the event that I may need them.

They are truly an embarrassment of riches.

eolake

John,
It’s a good point about the developer’s agenda.
Still:
I mainly use Safari because I don’t have any reason not to. I would use Safari only, if not for the occasional issues with Blogger, videos, and such. (The posting interface on Blogger is sometimes odd on Safari, and sometimes videos freeze or don’t show.)

I could make my apartment more secure by putting bars across all the windows. But that would only make me more paranoid every day. The risk of break-in is small enough that I’m the most comfortable in a normal second level apartment.

It’s not just browsers. I still use GraphicConverter and TexEdit+ like I have since 1997. It takes work and attention to change habits and processes.

DV

I’m currently in a reverse situation: I’ve been an avid Opera user/supporter for years, I converted to Opera for its tabs-on-top UI (which it had long before Google knew they are making Chrome) and Link service, but I’ve been using other browsers ? mainly Safari ? more and more lately and am starting to consider abandoning using Opera altogether.

The reason for this is rather blunt: Opera is incompatible with pretty much all Google products, plus behaves really bad with Facebook api. GDocs has become a standard co-working environment, and every time I have to fire up Safari to use those services, my dedication to Opera faints a bit.

All browsers are quite fast these days, all browsers have decent simplistic UI-s, even services like Link are starting to become mainstream. So, for me, it comes down to the fact whether one can actually get things done with the browser or not.

ctopher

All of these comments and no one has mentioned printing! All browsers suck at printing. I do like Safari’s “Reader” function however. You can get a decent printout (or PDF) using Reader.

The one feature I like on the the Snow Leopard (was it also in Leopard?) Safari is the preview built into the print dialog. I know you can select the “Preview” button, but its not as interactive.

At work, I use both PCs and Macs (Tiger) so I use Firefox mostly. I like that I can control the UI with themes and I can add on decent web development tools. Web Developer and Firebug are better than Safari’s built in tools. Also, most sites render well in Firefox, but some don’t in Safari, so I just stick with FireFox.

Firefox updates continue to work with Tiger and Windows 2000, so it’s really the only way for me to have amodern browser. (Have not tried Opera)

Lee Dronick

All of these comments and no one has mentioned printing! All browsers suck at printing. I do like Safari?s ?Reader? function however. You can get a decent printout (or PDF) using Reader.

I think that is because if the CSS used on the page, Reader seems to strip that out. I see some pages that have a link for a printer friendly version of the page.

BurmaYank

“... no one has mentioned printing! All browsers suck at printing. I do like Safari?s ?Reader? function however. You can get a decent printout (or PDF) using Reader.”

I use the Evernote Clip button on my Safari or Firefox ToolBar to print/Email/edit/save-as-PDF all webpages (as well as misc. notes/snapshots/audio clipped from various other sources), and printing those pages from Evernote (or from the PDF/RTF documents it created) is a truly elegant piece of cake.

Black_Dog

I use Safari on my iMac because it’s the fastest of any of the Mac browsers I’ve used, I look how most sites look (font rendering), and I LOVE the reader mode.

I keep Firefox installed on the computer for the dwindling number of sites Safari isn’t compatible with. I don’t use FF as my primary browser because it is comparitively slow and ugly, and is a resource hog.

Last year I loaded Safari for Windows onto my work Dell laptop and ran my own little comparison test between it and the corporate install of IE. Safari took 14 seconds longer than IE to open, but once the program was up and running, it opened web pages faster. I timed how long it took to open 11 web pages I frequent and Safari fully opened them an average of 17 seconds faster each.

The down side of Safari for Windows is that it crashed more often and had a hell of a time opening PDF pages. Unfortunately, the corporate software police recently zapped it from my machine. I’m really missing it now.

schwager

I use both Safari & Firefox, but prefer Firefox because I have not been able to get the Safari Auto Fill feature to work in many settings.In addition Safari does not have a feature similar to InFormEnter.

mhikl

John, I have turned a blind eye to the possibility that it is Safari causing any snafu I meet on the web. This discussion finally got me to take the plunge.

Audio Hijack Pro used to be dependable. Then it became erratic. This probably came about when I switched to Safari, eons ago.

I have been using Firefox for 3 days and every morning I find my Audio Hijack files are complete. Also, while listening to the radio on Firefox, I haven’t once lost the connection. I used to blame the radio station. Eyeopener! I will be trying out every browser except for Chrome* to find the best experience.

Great topic, JM.

*Chrome came recommended by a certain source which is reason enough to make it suspect.

@DarlingAnton

I have been using a Mac for a few years now, and ONLY use safari when a website refuses to load on Opera. It’s really rare though, and MOST of the time when a site says you need IE or Firefox, I just right click the page, hit networ preferences and select “mask as” or “identify as” and usually one of those will trick the site into letting me in. It’s very very rare that this doesn’t work for me, but it does happen.

I like Opera because it feels more personal with all the speed dialing and other changes you can make that can directly enhance each individual users experiences on the software individually.

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