My Polygamous Relationship with Browsers

| Editorial

I’m an idealist. I want the one perfect browser as my mate. Regrettably, Safari has gone quirky on me, and so I’ve jilted her. Nowadays, I live the life of a browser polygamist.

For the longest of time, I used Apple’s Safari exclusively. I thought Opera had too small a market share to invest in, and I didn’t like the looks of Firefox. What about Chrome? Not really, because my attitude has changed about Google, and I had an uncomfortable user experience the last time I installed it.

Safari is built into the infrastructure of OS X, and Apple has a lot at stake with its own branded browser, so I figured it would be safer to stay with Safari.

I was looking forward to Safari 5.1 because it, like Chrome, introduces a much needed sandbox for security. However, after I upgraded my iMac to Lion and Safari 5.1, I found that my personal home page, which is an HTML table, took forever to load, if at all. (Later, I found that if I clicked another tab and came back, there it was!)

Wondering what might cause this problem, I started looking at add-ons: I deleted all Internet Plug-ins (/Library/Internet Plug-ins) and Safari extensions (~Library/Safari/Extensions) and couldn’t find a culprit. Interestingly, I had no such problem on the new MacBook Air with Lion. WTF?

Then I heard about Safari’s tendency to do an unrequested screen refresh. That’s because the Safari core and its extensions run in different threads. When an add-on crashes its thread, Safari keeps on running, but the tab is auto-refreshed. (Thanks to Ted Landau for the explanation.) This can and will wipe out an article that’s being composed in our TMO  publishing engine. Trust is gone.

So I’ve jilted Safari. Maybe someday when Safari behaves better, I’ll go back to her.

Do You Come Here Often?

Frustrated with Safari, and having recently done a major review of Opera 11.x, I decided to retry Opera for awhile. I really, really like Opera, and I would happily be its slave forever, but it has one fatal defect that affects my own workflow. When I see an article I like for Particle Debris, I drag the URL from the address bar to a special folder. Unfortunately, what I get with Opera for a .webloc file is the URL string itself, not the page title. So it’s hard to instantly size up the contents of that special folder. I’ve pressured Opera for, at least, an option for either method — with no effect.

That left me with Firefox 6, which I’ve started to really like. It has some really nice add-ons, and when I drag a URL from the address bar, like Safari, I get the name of the page. Plus, it has some really nice security options.

Firefox security

My Firefox Add-ons

Finally, I like to keep all my TMO publishing pages and some other key reference pages collected together without having to pin the tabs. (That makes the tab too small.) However, when I also browse with that browser, the tab line gets more and more cluttered, and I’m not enthusiastic about Opera tab groups as a solution there — although it’s a generally neat feature. I like my publishing configuration static. As a result, I compose my articles in Opera, as a dedicated publishing browser and do all my other browsing in Firefox 6, my new default browser.

I’ll admit it. I’m living a duplicitous, polygamous life with two browsers. But I’m a happier man.

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Comments

geoduck

Thank You
I’ve also noticed that Safari was getting flaky but I thought it was just me. I tried FF a year ago and my reaction was ‘meh’. It just felt strange. Think I’ll give it another shot.

warlock

You might want to consider Camino, it is a very straight forward and stable browser.  I start off my day with at least 7 tabs open & sometimes wnd up with 15 or 20 running.  It just works, loads fast & has never crashed on me.

Lee Dronick

I found that my personal home page, which is an HTML table, took forever to load, if at all. (Later, I found that if I clicked another tab and came back, there it was!)

You’re in the cache iCab

I pretty much use Safari exclusively, but my wife is polyandrous and uses Safari and FireFox. Some of the websites she needs for her college courses require FireFox and some don’t work with that browser, but are fine with Safari. Don’t get me started on the coders for some of those online courses who seem to overcomplicate things just for complication’s sake.

JonGl

Finally, I like to keep all my TMO publishing pages and some other key reference pages collected together without having to pin the tabs. (That makes the tab too small.) However, when I also browse with that browser, the tab line gets more and more cluttered

You might want to try out Tree-styel Tabs in Firefox, then. It puts the tabs on the left or right of the screen, and nests them as well. I think there’s another extension that does essentially the same thing, but I don’t remember its name. Give those a whirl. You might like them.

-Jon

BurmaYank

Oh how I rue the day I upgraded my Core Duo MBPro’s Safari from 5.0.5 to 5.1!

Life has been so frustrating, due to 5.1’s incompatibility with Saft (upon which I depended for generating chronologically-identified download folders, and for tab management, among other unique functions), and most especially due to 5.1’s inability to support Evernote’s unique & invaluable (and now lost) PDF-creating HTML copy function (via Shift-clicking the Toolbar-embedded Evernote-Clip button which has now irretrievably disappeared on 5.1’s Toolbar), that I felt forced to switch to FireFox (in the vain hope that if I waited in FireFox-exile long enough, haoli would eventually be coming forward with a 5.1 upgrade for Saft, and likewise Evernote would restore the lost PDF-creating Evernote-Clip Toolbar button for 5.1).  It looks hopeless, and FireFox has proven no better than 5.1 in any of these areas, so I’ve just recently trudged “home” to devastated Safari 5.1.

I have so far been completely unsuccessful in locating/obtaining a Safari 5.0.5 installer .dmg or in locating a discussion of how to downgrade from 5.1 to 5.0.5, but I would deeply appreciate anyone’s help in this.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I’ve been testing web dev stuff with all the majors for several years, but stuck with Safari on both Mac and Windows until Steve’s duplicitous Thoughts on Flash were published. I decided to switch to Chrome because I considered continued use of Safari difficult to reconcile with any sense of ethics. When Chrome to Phone came out and let me send web pages to my phone, I knew I’d made an amazing choice. Productivity and work-flow wise, Chrome blows everything else away.

Jonricmd

So it looks like browser preferences are like how we are attracted to women ? everyone likes something a little different than the other man.

mhikl

Yup. That (lady dog) is slow.

DamenS

Unfortunately Safari had become incredibly slow for me and was causing constant “beachballing” (even on my new i7 iMac, but regularly on my 2008 17” Macbook Pro). 

I tried Firefox, and this seemed better (I LOVE “group tabs”), but it sometimes seemed to have a memory leak of some sort and I preferred Safari’s more stripped down and unified interface. 

Unfortunately for me (unfortunately because I despise Google and their corrupt, lying, Apple-copying ways), their browser is far and away the best for me (blazing fast, stripped down interface which still has a little bit of “colour”).  I was worried that it would hog my memory worse than the other browsers (it should with a separate process for each tab and I am a HEAVY tab user), but if it has, it has still remained faster than the other two (and not reduced my computer to a mass of spinning beachballs).  In fact, the only things I have missed are Safari’s RSS integration with Mail and Firefox’s management (Groups) of Tabs.

I think Safari has been ruled out for me for all time due to the lack of development effort Apple place in it compared to the other two browsers.

BurmaYank

Can anyone help me figure out how to downgrade from Safari 5.1 to 5.0.5, please?

Mikuro

I used to be a two-browser man, using Safari and Firefox both on a daily basis.

I’d use Safari for most of my browsing, including Gmail, Facebook, news, forums….just about everything. It was fast and it behaved nicely. The ClickToPlugin extension is the best Flash-mitigator I’ve seen in any browser. It makes a lot of video sites much more usable. I used Firefox mostly for Reddit and the many random sites I was led to from there, and for managing my job’s Facebook account. I felt better going to unknown/untrusted sites in Firefox because of security extensions like NoScript (and also because I wasn’t logged into anything private).

Now, I only use Chrome. It has good plugins, and good security. I like that I can have normal and private-browsing windows open side-by-side, and they are visually different. I like that Chrome is always responsive, no matter what any given tab may be doing. But most of all, I love that Chrome doesn’t leak memory out the wazoo.

All other browsers—Firefox, Safari, Opera, you name it—eat up memory like there’s no tomorrow. It got to the point that after a few hours of browsing, I’d need to quit and reload Firefox because it was now using 400+MB of RAM. Safari was no better. But when I close a tab in Chrome, that tab’s memory footprint just goes away. I never need to quit Chrome. Ever.

For a long time I avoided Chrome because I found the Mac version very buggy, but they’ve ironed it out.

Honestly, I wish I could get away from Google. But as long as they make the best products, I’m using them. I’m not leaving Gmail, because there’s no compelling alternative. And now I’m stuck on Chrome, because it’s just so much better than everything else.

Terrin

My major problem with Chrome is I have Little Snitch installed, and Chrome calls home like crazy. I mean several times in any given session.  Safari calls home once a week to check for updates. Firefox does the same thing about once a week. With both Safari and Firefox I can shut those things off. I can find no way to shut off Google’s repetitive calls home and I don’t like giving Google my surfing habits.

Chrome still also has some problems with Java sites I have to deal with almost daily, and it doesn’t integrate as well with Quicktime and PDFs.

Overall I still think Safari works the best on the Mac. I also think Firefox has come a long way on the Mac. I used to hate it. Version 6 works very well on a Mac. It is what I also use at work when forced to use a PC.

I also do not see how Jobs’ position on Flash on Mobile Devices has any ethical connotations. Apple merely made a business decision it thought best for itself and its customers. That is what a business does. It certainly hasn’t hurt Apple. On my iPhone and iPad, I certainly don’t miss Flash.

I?ve been testing web dev stuff with all the majors for several years, but stuck with Safari on both Mac and Windows until Steve?s duplicitous Thoughts on Flash were published. I decided to switch to Chrome because I considered continued use of Safari difficult to reconcile with any sense of ethics. When Chrome to Phone came out and let me send web pages to my phone, I knew I?d made an amazing choice. Productivity and work-flow wise, Chrome blows everything else away.

Terrin

Not sure how giving a third party your browsing habits and who knows what else can be considered good security. Google is the same company that lost tons of users’ personal information when the Chinese government decided to teach Google a lesson and hack its servers.

Two to three weeks later, somebody is sending all my stepfather’s friends realistic solicitations for money using his own Gmail account that he was locked out of and to this day Google has not aided him in regaining access to retrieve four years of personal data.

There is no reason Google’s Chrome needs to call home three or four times a session, when no other Mac browser does it.

Now, I only use Chrome. It has good plugins, and good security.

mrhooks

You might want to consider Camino

Camino seems to have the same memory issues that FF and Safari have, as mentioned by Mikuro.  Development is also slow, so it’s a little behind the others in terms of features.  I switch between it and Safari regularly, and occasionally FF if neither of them work for some reason.

It also looks like Camino’s future is uncertain, thanks to Mozilla’s discontinuation of Gecko embedding.  Unless the Camino team is able to port Camino to WebKit, Camino will eventually be stuck on Gecko 1.9.2.

I refuse to use Chrome for the reason Terrin mentioned.

Terrin

I am using Firefox 7 (the beta release). Supposedly, it fixes the famous memory leaks. Not sure if that is true or not, but it seems quicker.

It’s biggest fault in my book is it doesn’t support the Lion’s two finger track pad swipe to flip through your viewed web pages. I really love that feature.

Camino seems to have the same memory issues that FF and Safari have

JonGl

It?s biggest fault in my book is it doesn?t support the Lion?s two finger track pad swipe to flip through your viewed web pages. I really love that feature.

Try downloading and installing betterTouchTool. It allows for customizing gestures to whatever keyboard shortcut you want. I tried it with Firefox the other day. Works.

Mikuro

Not sure how giving a third party your browsing habits and who knows what else can be considered good security. Google is the same company that lost tons of users? personal information when the Chinese government decided to teach Google a lesson and hack its servers.

I’m not sure what exactly Chrome sends back. A lot of people claim it sends every keystroke you enter into the address bar, but as far as I can tell that’s BS. I’ve done some testing with Little Snitch and it doesn’t seem to connect frequently enough for that.

There’s so much misinformation out there that I don’t know what to believe. Any reliable info on what Chrome really sends to Google?

I actually tried Safari again just now, and it looks like 5.1 has addressed my main issues. It’s now more responsive, using some Chrome-like process splitting, and from some initial testing it doesn’t appear to leak memory badly. I did miss Safari’s Reader function, too. So I think I’m actually going back to Safari for now.

The only feature I’ll really miss from Chrome is its private windows. Safari has a private mode, but it’s all or nothing. With Chrome I can open a few private windows and keep a regular window at the same time. It’s very handy for opening a second Facebook/Gmail/whatever account (which I used to use a second browser for, before I switched to Chrome). That’s something I can live with, but it probably does mean I’ll be a two-browser man once again.

DamenS

Why not add an extension like “Readability” to Chrome to see if that is good enough (it isn’t quite as fast and well-integrated as Safari’s Reader, but it is OK.  I just wish Chrome would allow us to subscribe to RSS feeds in Mail.

Terrin

I am not sure either, but that is kind of the point. I know why Safari and Firefox call home. They are looking for updates and call home when I authorized them to do so. I can tell them not to call home, and they will not. Chrome dials home way to often to be looking just for updates. I have it call home repeatedly in any given session.

The fact that Google isn’t sharing with us what information it is collecting should tell you that some people wouldn’t be comfortable with it.

I have read that each Chrome install has a unique digital identifier number that ties the install to a particular user, and that all URLs are in fact sent back to Google, and it can track users. Being that Google is the only browser company that doesn’t support the do not track protocol, should further answer the question.

I am weaning myself off some Google products. I just had my gmail account hacked, and was locked out of my email for a few days. The same things happened to other people I know not to long ago.

I?m not sure what exactly Chrome sends back.

geoduck

FWIW over the last few days Safari has gotten so flaky for me that today I switched over to FF. The memory leaks finally reached a point where I’d restart it and after an hour or so it was using half a Gb of RAM, chronic slowness, and more and more sites comments and log-in pages would choke.

Lee Dronick

FWIW over the last few days Safari has gotten so flaky for me that today I switched over to FF. The memory leaks finally reached a point where I?d restart it and after an hour or so it was using half a Gb of RAM, chronic slowness, and more and more sites comments and log-in pages would choke.

Is this with Safari 5.1.1? I find the memory leak problem to better, still not great, but better than it was.

geoduck

Yes it was.

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