Fast Company

Safari Is Junk, But Still Users Grow

According to Ars Technica, Apple's Safari Web browser--both the iPhone mobile version and the desktop version for Mac and Windows--has been slowly gaining marketshare in the browser wars. Ars takes this as a tribute to the slow success of the Mac in general. But Safari's growth probably comes as a surprise to most Mac users, those who downloaded Firefox because Safari, for most purposes, is a crappy browser.

Firefox has been growing too. On personal computers, Internet Explorer claims 65.5% of users, though this is dropping. Firefox has 22.5% of users. Safari is inching up to 8.5%. Chart below courtesy of Ars.

web browser chart

Maybe Safari is more stable on Windows; I use Chrome on my PC (1.8% marketshare). But for some reason unacknowledged by Apple, the most recent versions of Safari (3.X and 4 Beta) tend to crash on the Mac. A lot. Check out Apple's Safari support forum, and you'll see what I mean; the top threads include "Safari unexpectedly quit," "Safari crashing!!," "Safari hanging," and the ever-pitiful "Please, Please help! Safari keeps crashing."

Perhaps that's why plug-in development for Safari has been so sluggish compared with Firefox. On Firefox, I can set up panes with Google Maps or Flickr; I can keep Twitter in the bottom right corner of each window; I can customize the look and feel and even add Greasemonkey scripts to sites I use frequently. Safari's star plug-ins are Adobe Flash and, well, a bunch of pop-up blockers. There is GreaseKit, which takes the place of Greasemonkey, but it isn't quite as easy to install as you can see here. Overall, the list of Safari plugins has grown, but it has yet to rival Firefox. Check out this sad list of 20 excellent Safari plug-ins published last month, and you'll see what I mean.

Since Safari for the iPhone is rock-solid, it's a wonder that Apple hasn't woken up and ported it back to the desktop.

[Via Ars Technica]

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9 Comments

  • Paul Maiorana

    @Chris Dannen, using a support forum as a survey to judge whether users have problems with a software application is sort of a self fulfilling prophecy, no? That is, users don't go to support forums to post messages about how much they love their web browser.

    Also, plug-in development for Safari lags Firefox because there is no plug-in architecture for Safari. Safari plug-ins are, in reality, hacks in the absence of formal APIs.

  • Todd Zaki Warfel

    I'm running Safari on 6 Macs, from MBP, to MBA, to iMacs. Typically, I have multiple windows open, each with 10-20 tabs. I've had 2-3 crashes total in the past year. Personally, I can't stand the ghetto UI widgets used by Firefox. And Safari's performance is wicked fast. I'll stick with Safari.

  • Kenneth Vuncannon

    Well, if we're measuring support forums, then I think this has a long way from being substantive and factual, unless we're going to take into consideration the popularity of these forums, ease-of-use, subject matter of the posts, questions vs. problems, user error/tinkering, etc. etc.

    You proclaiming "Safari is junk" -- in an assumptive tone that all agree with that proclamation -- discredits the you, the article and the publication. If you are going to have half the article be factual data, then at least say the words "I think Safari is junk based on...," if you are going to maintain credibility and not insult the reader's intelligence that we all think like you, else we're morons for not agreeing.

  • Chris Dannen

    @Kenneth: most users "long" for a browser that stays stable. Check out Apple's support forums (linked within the article). That's as much an informal survey as needed. Note that Safari for Window's support forums don't report nearly as much crashing, hanging, abrupt errors, etc.

  • G Irish

    Well you're using Safari 4.0, I'm using 3.0, maybe the author was using a different version. Still it would be interesting to see some user surveys to get an objective measure.

  • Paul Chanoine

    Wow, Safari is junk? I use Safari and Firefox every day on a Mac. Safari is extremely stable. I have not had any issues with it crashing. As far as speed, it is the fastest browser I have ever used. I should note, I am running Safari 4.0 Beta, much faster than Firefox. The issues with it crashing, if you had taken the time to read more of the forum than just the headline, is typically caused by the user adding on a 3rd party plug in. Is it really Apple's responsibility to make sure everyone else's plug ins work? I use very few add ons and they all updated their add ons within a day of Safari 4.0 launching.

    I don't know why I am still surprised that people write reviews that obviously haven't tested their theories! IMHO your article is junk however; you are entitled to your opinion.

  • G Irish

    Do you have Firefox on your Mac as well? Both me and my roommate have Macbooks and have both Firefox and Safari and both us prefer Firefox. Do you have any plugins in your Safari install?

  • Kenneth Vuncannon

    Safari is junk? Is there a survey of mac users to back that up? ...or do you simply just declare that based on some sort of anecdotal experience?

    In case it's the latter, let me add to it. I'm a web developer and I use Safari frequently all hours of the day, every single day. I've compared them both, and use them both. In my experience, Safari is faster and more stable than Firefox. There's no emotion in it -- it's my choice based on my own experiences.

    Though, I hope your 'junk' claim is based on more than emotional, "fanboy" comments. You assume everyone thinks like you, wants what you want, longs to install plug-ins and scripts into their browser.

    Given the facts (or lack thereof) and the amount of assumptions, this is simply not a well written article, IMO.

  • G Irish

    I agree, Safari is garbage. It crashes and hangs way more than either IE or Firefox and it's slow. For a company that prides itself on user experience Apple should be ashamed of themselves that Safari is in the state that it's in.