So long Safari?
May 10, 2006 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Has Safari become a second class browser? Does it have a future?

More and more I'm encountering sites that are not compatible with Safari and ask me to switch to Firefox (or claim that Safari support is coming "soon") or that certain features in webapps only appear in Firefox (e.g. gmail). It's like that bad old days when sites were IE/PC-only except that now there is a viable choice for Mac users in form of Firefox. My question is: With so much developer momentum focused on Firefox compatibility, will Safari be put out to pasture? And if not, will it fade into obscurity?
posted by gwint to Computers & Internet (30 answers total)
Aren't most non-Safari sites using excessive Ajax stupidity? Just wait for the Ajax fad to die.
posted by reklaw at 11:49 AM on May 10, 2006

Huh? I use pretty much only Safari and have never seen such a message. What aspect of Gmail are you talking about?
posted by dobbs at 11:56 AM on May 10, 2006

Safari supports AJAX just fine. There are very few sites I've seen that don't work in Safari and if anything the list is getting shorter.

Besides, you won't catch me using Firefox any time soon on a Mac. Ew.
posted by cillit bang at 12:05 PM on May 10, 2006

The only website I encounter that claims to reject Safari is an interactive portion of the Law School Admission Council website — and although it claims to be incompatible, I ignore the warning and click right through and it works just fine. And while Gmail can be admittedly slow, I login via Safari every day without difficulty.

Macs are popular. Safari's not going anywhere.
posted by cribcage at 12:09 PM on May 10, 2006

Safari has not become a second-class browser—it's always been one. Don't get me wrong: I'm typing this in Safari right now. I like it. But some website operators will want to do fancy stuff that runs into browser quirks, and will inevitably deprioritize adapting to Safari.

The fact that Firefox increasingly seems to be the "reference browser" is good for Safari users. All browsers have their unique quirks; Safari's and Firefox's are a lot closer than IE's and anything else's. So it really would be easier to adapt.
posted by adamrice at 12:10 PM on May 10, 2006

I rarely see sites that only work with one, not the other (and the only one I can think of off the top of my head is Hotmail, so you can't read much into that). I think both development teams are driven by much the same motives in terms of standards and interoperability, and there's not in my opinion any cause for concern that Safari is going to be second class.
posted by edd at 12:11 PM on May 10, 2006

Huh? I use pretty much only Safari and have never seen such a message. What aspect of Gmail are you talking about?
posted by dobbs at 2:56 PM EST on May 10 [!]

GMail with Google Talk is not supported in Safari.
posted by trey at 12:14 PM on May 10, 2006

I've found several major commercial/retail sites that don't support Safari -- H&R Block and Banana Republic immediately come to mind, but I know I've encountered several others.
posted by scody at 12:14 PM on May 10, 2006

If you enable Safari's debug mode, you can put a little 'bug' icon on the Safari task bar and submit non-working sites to the Safari dev team. They usually fix the problem in the next OS update (if it's a major commerce site using a browser-specific tweak, that is; of course they don't fix their browser to work around noncompliant code.)

I use Safari 99.44% of the time, and probably 9 out of 10 times when I start up Firefox or IE to get around what I think is an browser incompatibility, the problem's still there.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:20 PM on May 10, 2006

I was, and still am an avid Safari user. Yet I'm strongly considering a switch to FF for various reasons. The most important include: much much faster rendering speed on my system, AdBlock, FlashBlock, Greasemonkey, TorButton, BugMeNot, and DOM inspector.

The stronger privacy protection (ability to auto-set to clear all types of session information on start/close), and the greater stability FF has on non-standard websites makes me wonder why I am sticking with Safari.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 12:21 PM on May 10, 2006

That's weird, I've got much *slower* rendering speed on my computer using firefox (G4 1.67 ghz, 1.25 gb RAM). And the memory leaks are unreal. I'm currently running with half a gig of RAM free with all of my normal applications loaded. If I had Firefox loaded and had been surfing for a week, I'd be running with 75 meg free because of the stupid memory caching, and my entire system would be running like a dog.

That being said, I wish that Safari had some of the features that firefox does, like image blocking from certain websites and some of the other privacy protection. I still use FireFox for website testing because of the developer tools, but for every day use (especially viewing a *lot* of images)... no, thanks.
posted by SpecialK at 12:25 PM on May 10, 2006

What cribcage and adamrice said. Sometimes it's a case of people telling you not to use Safari because they don't know if it will work, and sometimes they tell you not to use it because they do know it won't work (or not work well enough to their satisfaction).

In the latter case, there's a good chance that the site will work in either the nightly build or the next version of Safari. Hopefully people are coding their checks against the capabilities of the browser and not the name.

In the former case, I still get warnings that I should "upgrade" to Netscape 4 on some sites, so I just ignore all browser recommendations from sites.
posted by revgeorge at 12:26 PM on May 10, 2006

Google Calendar also does not work with Safari, last time I checked.
posted by omnidrew at 12:27 PM on May 10, 2006

I keep switching from Firefox to other browsers (Safari, Opera, and currently Camino), but I always seem to come back. There have been relatively few websites that don't function at all -- spoofing seems to take care of most of the "your browser sucks" messages -- but websites that have weird CSS or other quirks always seem to be adapted to Firefox.
posted by danb at 12:28 PM on May 10, 2006

The two things that make me frustrated with Safari (which I still use all the time) are the unsupported features in Gmail (the contacts list and wysiwyg editing tools) and its not-as-extensible-as-firefox-ness. I have a kernel of faith that these issues will be addressed in future updates. We'll see.
posted by drewbeck at 12:32 PM on May 10, 2006

All browsers have bugs - especially relating to fancy JavaScript stuff. Any truly complex web application is likely to run in to browser bugs, and fixing them takes a whole bunch of time. Bugs in IE and Firefox are pretty well understood, as are the workarounds for them.

Safari has been out in the wild for less time, and also has a smaller number of people testing on it because it only runs on OS X. Here are a couple of issues that Safari suffers from that have affected me in the past:

1. addEventListener doesn't work in Safari if you try to use it with a dblclick event.

2. preventDefault and stopPropagation don't work in Safari (this may now have been fixed)

There's a huge list of other bugs here.

I think you'll agree that these are pretty obscure problems (so obscure that the vast majority of sites never trigger them). It's only the modern trend for Ajax/JavaScript heavy web apps that is bringing them to the surface.

Like I said, all browsers have their own DOM/JavaScript bugs - which means you have to debug seperately in each browser. My hunch is that Safari has more JS/DOM-related problems than other browsers at the moment. To their credit, every release of Safari offers huge improvements, they release often and updates tend to be pushed out to Safari users very quickly. But when you're launching your new hugely complicated Ajax site the temptation to leave the Safari fixes until later is understandable.

In answer to the original question, I don't see Safari going anywhere. It's a great browser to develop for, and it's getting less buggy all the time. The web development community's shared understanding of its current bugs and their workarounds is growing constantly as well. I think it has a very bright future.
posted by simonw at 12:34 PM on May 10, 2006

AdBlock, FlashBlock,

Available in Saft, a Safari add on
posted by doctor_negative at 12:37 PM on May 10, 2006

I've never had AJAX-related problems in Safari. The only big problem for me is its lack of some DOM-level control (can't remember what it is off the top of my head) that prevents most WYSIWYG web-based text editors from working. Do the nightly builds support this yet?
posted by mkultra at 1:06 PM on May 10, 2006

Response by poster: I just noticed the webkit folks keep a list of what they consider to be the Top Ten Safari-incompatible sites.
posted by gwint at 1:27 PM on May 10, 2006

I prefer Safari over anything else. It's very, very slow on some sites (eBay, in particular), but I prefer to it to Firefox. It's spiffy.
posted by jdroth at 1:42 PM on May 10, 2006

Google Pages is another one that doesn't work in Safari yet, but I have to agree about Safari being faster than Firefox—at least for me. The rare Safari incompatibility is the only reason I'll pull out Firefox.
posted by emelenjr at 1:44 PM on May 10, 2006

I was a Safari-only kind of guy. Until Google Calendar came out and I tried Camino.

I have to day, I'm really loving Camino. Fast, clean and, so far, I haven't bumped up against any problem sites.

Firefox? Butt ugly, though it does have spiffy plug-ins.
posted by baltimore at 2:20 PM on May 10, 2006

I have to SAY, not day.

jdroth, I feel your pain.
posted by baltimore at 2:21 PM on May 10, 2006

As long as Safari is the default browser shipped on OS X, developers will code for it.
posted by maxreax at 3:15 PM on May 10, 2006

Where are you browsing? I admit, I don't use GMAIL, but with what frequency are you running into these messages?

As far as the add-ons people love about FireFox:

Safari also has a greasemonkey (arbitrary Javascript by URL) add-on, called Creammonkey.

And PithHelmet (which can run arbitrary Perl by URL, which I prefer) keeps my browser sessions pop-up and ad free.

Occasionally, Safari updates will break PithHelmet for a few days and I will gape openly at the ad-crowded pages I previously viewed as nearly pristine text.
posted by Crosius at 3:52 PM on May 10, 2006

I never noticed a lot of compatibility problems with Safari, but I have noticed speed issues. I have mostly switched to Camino even though I like the look of Safari better and its RSS reader fits my half-assed RSS usage. Camino has just been much faster for me. I'd probably switch back if I thought Safari had sped up.
posted by lackutrol at 4:23 PM on May 10, 2006

I was a die-hard Safari user, but then I used Camino (and subsequently died... hard). Camino is great.

Safari had some major slowdowns when opening lots of tabs (and eBay/Amazon/a few other sites), and didn't work with quite a few of my banking/online bill paying sites - not Safari's fault there, but I digress... Safari looks beautiful and renders well, though.
posted by sluggo at 6:29 PM on May 10, 2006

As a developer, I'd say I consider Safari a second-class browser. That basically means I test major revisions against it for full functionality and decent rendering, and usually don't test minor tweaks in Safari. I'd never recommend not using it on a webpage, it will handle just about everything, but let's say I can't guarantee you the optimal browsing experience with Safari.

That may be because I have a Mac and as a user I don't think Safari is as good as Firefox, Konqueror, Camino, Opera or lynx. Safari is slow and as a cross-platform user, I like the consistency of Firefox. I think I prefer the FF rendering too.

Most importantly, using a browser with a market share of ~2% you can expect some quirks. Even trying to respect the standards things just are not that standardized. Every rendering engine has it's quirks, KHTML is no exception.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 8:30 PM on May 10, 2006

I use safari 99 percent of the time. Can't stand firefox. The only reason I can see to use it is the add ons, and I like to keep things simple.

I keep firefox and camino around for certain situations, but I much prefer safari. It's much quicker on my iBook.

And no, it's not a second class browser (what mcguillicuddy is calling second class isn't my definition of second class). It's a first class browser with a small market share.
posted by justgary at 9:31 PM on May 10, 2006

I used to use Camino, but then I tried out Safari with Saft, and now I'm hooked. I love Saft's full-screen browsing feature and the ability to add a bookmark to any submenu I want with a single click.
posted by invisible ink at 10:24 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

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