August 11, 2012

My Love Affair with Safari may not last

This post was originally supposed to be about how I had fallen in love with Apple's Safari browser, made it the default on my Mac, and as a result ditched Google Chrome. But that hasn't gone as I'd imagined. When Safari 6.0 rolled out with Mountain Lion it came with some pretty nifty features that seemed to resonate well with how I went about my web browsing. One of the coolest features I found was the option to share your current webpage to different networks such as a twitter, with the very awesome tweet sheet. Come fall, Facebook will be also be included and it will prove to be even more useful. But the standout feature is definitely the "unified smart search field", as Apple refers to it. This field acts as both a search and address bar--just like the Chrome browser. This had been a glaring omission in Safari so I'm glad Apple finally included it in 6.0.

After a couple weeks into using Safari, I noticed my Mac was getting slower anytime I had several tabs opened--which always wasn't the case with Chrome. So I opened Activity Monitor and noticed that Safari was just eating away at my memory. Interestingly, there was a process called "Safari web content" that always seemed to claim over 500MB of my RAM. Not even without the Safari process itself that required any where between 150-200MB to run. That's getting close to a gig of using just a browser. This got me so frustrated that I bumped my memory up from a 4GB to an 8Gb RAM, just recently.

Secondly, Safari is relatively slower compared to Chrome from a web browsing standpoint. Even with it's nitro javascript and improved hardware acceleration and better CSS rendering, it still lags behind Chrome from what I've noticed. I've been using Chrome ever since it debuted in 2008 so I'm quite familiar with it's speed. Web pages just seem to load faster. Chrome really feels like it's in it's own league after just a few weeks with Safari. However for Safari, things like converting a webpage into reader format to allow easy reading is natively built-in with the browser(you can even choose to send a webpage via email in this format also). With Google on the other hand, I would have to download an extension to get these features. Come to think of it now, some of my most used features on the browser are built in with Safari, which I would think would make it faster because I don't have to rely on another process running alongside my browser's already needy requirements from system memory.

To be totally honest I don't think I'll be using Safari in the long run because I've become used to a certain kind of speed and functionality with Chrome. Yes, they both have the unified search and url bar--which is great, but Google pioneered this feature when Chrome was released, and it works better in Chrome than Safari, in my opinion. Maybe because of the fact that Apple is also pulling search results from Google? I actually use the omnibox in Chrome a lot. Obviously for making search queries and navigating to addresses, but the great thing about it is that you can perform all the power-user techniques right in the omnibox. An example is ["keyword"] this command basically retrieves the keyword you are searching for (from the referenced site) and displays the results from only on that referenced website. Another feature in Chrome known as highlight to searchwhich is actually one of Google's own extensions brings up search options when you highlight a word on a webpage. This is a very simple feature that I've found myself using a lot. I couldn't find an alternative for Safari.

It's no fluke that Google Chrome now has 310 Million active users only after being on the market for just four years. It's a great product that does one thing really well: fast web browsing. And I know about the occasional crashes with flash player, but Google just sandboxed flash in their Windows app, and the patch for flash on OS X is said to be on it's way. I haven't written Safari off entirely just yet. iCloud tabs is something I'm really looking forward to using, since mobile Safari is my preferred browser on iOS. Chrome for iOS is awesome and well designed, but it's slower compared to mobile Safari and the experience on iOS is more tailored when using Safari. This may all change once Apple allows third party browsers to use it's nitro javascript engine instead of it's older engine, UIWebView.

As I stated before, my RAM is upgraded now so I'm giving Safari a couple more days to see if it can win me over. It will probably come down to speed in the end, and that's where I feel my patience will finally run out. We'll see.

Sent with Writer, from Ed's iPhone.

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