“Why do you use Safari?”
I get that a lot whenever I share my screen on a Zoom call. And the people who ask that question fall into one of two camps.
One is the “Safari is bad for you” camp. The other consists of people who genuinely have no idea what Safari is.
I’ve even been told that by using Safari to manage my finances, I’m as good as offering open invitations for cybercriminals to empty my bank account.
Alas, I’ve been using Safari for at least the last ten years and it has been nothing but a fantastic web browser for both work and personal tasks.
So, I’m here today to defend Apple’s answer to Google Chrome. But I also need some help, because I want to get to the bottom of why people are so obsessed with Chrome.
Global browser market share
These figures tell their own story. If we look at the current market share for the most popular browsers, across the globe, it goes something like this:
- Chrome (64%)
- Safari (19%)
- Firefox (4%)
- Edge (3%)
- Samsung Internet (3%)
- Opera (2%)
Firstly, it’s lovely to see Firefox in that list. Despite its tiny market share, I have fond memories of that browser when it used to be my default choice many years ago.
No, I have no idea what ‘Samsung Internet’ is, either, but I assume it relates to whatever browser runs on their massive range of smartphones.
But the real battle clearly lies between Chrome and Safari. The former’s lead widens considerably when you dive into the desktop market share, with Chrome pushing up to 67% usage, versus Safari’s 10%. On mobile, Safari makes a four percentage point gain on top of its overall market share, but there’s still a colossal gap between the two.
Clearly, I’m in the minority. But I have reasons.
It’s (mainly) about battery life
Why any MacBook user would opt for Chrome as their main browser is simply beyond me.
Unless there’s a web app or website that demands Chrome (more on that later), there is simply no benefit to using Google’s web browser on a MacBook. In fact, it’s a painful user experience when you do.
This is for one very simple reason: battery life.
Chrome chomps away at a MacBook’s battery like no other app. It has been the bane of its existence on macOS for as long as I can remember and it’s clearly something Google has zero interest in addressing.
Why it’s so poor with memory management I have no idea. Some suggest that it’s more to do with Google’s insistence on working Chrome into every nook and cranny of the operating system, thus using up more system resources than it should.
All I know is that I dread opening Chrome on the few occasions I need to. It feels like a race against time if I want to preserve my battery life — even on the brilliant M1 platform.
Safari is plenty fast enough for me
The web is a complicated place. From my limited understanding, I’m aware that processing and rendering web pages and web apps are really taxing tasks for CPUs.
I guess this is why Apple always makes such a big deal about how much faster each iteration of Safari is. It’s a pissing contest, but one they’re clearly serious about winning.
If we’re to believe Avast’s research, Apple is doing a pretty good job of this, because Safari is actually one of the fastest browsers available, beating both Chrome and Firefox in speed tests.
Despite this, we’re likely at a point where any real speed gains between web browsers are marginal, given the increasingly impressive hardware they’re running on. But for me, Safari has always been lightning quick.
Yeah, the Apple ecosystem
I’ve noted previously that I’m welded deep within the Apple ecosystem, and I’ve always been happy to pay a premium for that experience.
Safari sits neatly within that ecosystem, enabling me to easily transfer the web pages I’m viewing between devices. But there are two elements of iCloud which have a huge impact on my ability to get things done.
The first is Keychain, which saves all of my website passwords and immediately syncs them across devices. Scoff all you like, and yes, Chrome does the same, but Apple’s version works for me and integrates nicely with their biometric security.
The second is Safari’s ability to call on my stored credit card details in Keychain (which I think is where they live). That also benefits from biometric security and effortless syncing.
Call me crazy, but I’d rather leave those details in a secure vault to which only I have access, rather than putting them anywhere near Google’s prying hands.
The problem with Safari
I don’t use Safari all of the time. I can’t.
The reason is simple: there are still a few web apps out there that don’t play nicely on Safari. Salesforce, for instance, is a pig on Safari, and some services like Zencastr don’t even run at all on Apple’s browser.
Then there are the web developers who clearly push Safari to the back of the pack when it comes to designing and testing new websites. I still come across far too many business websites which perform poorly or look dreadful on Safari. Fire them up in Chrome, and they’re perfect.
I’m not a developer, therefore I can only make assumptions about what’s going on here. I guess the reason Safari is so often given such short shrift is that it doesn’t hold the greater market share. Perhaps it’s not a great platform to write for. I genuinely have no idea.
All I know is that it’s incredibly frustrating to have to switch to Chrome for certain tasks. As soon as I do that, I enter the horrible aforementioned world of unpredictable battery usage, and it is not a nice place to be.
What do you use?
This topic fascinates me. Are you in the Safari camp like me, or is Chrome your browser of choice?
They both have their place, but if you’re a Mac user (particularly of the MacBook variety), I just can’t fathom why you’d sacrifice battery life for Google’s web browser.
As always, get involved in the comments. Let’s thrash this out.