Eric Petitt, writing for The Official Unofficial Firefox Blog yesterday:
I head up Firefox marketing, but I use Chrome every day. Works
fine. Easy to use. Like most of us who spend too much time in
front of a laptop, I have two browsers open; Firefox for work,
Chrome for play, customized settings for each. There are multiple
things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I‘m OK
with Chrome. I just don’t like only being on Chrome. […]
But talking to friends, it sounds more and more like living on
Chrome has started to feel like their only option. Edge is broken.
Safari and Internet Explorer are just plain bad. And
unfortunately, too many people think Firefox isn’t a modern
In an update posted today, he walked that back:
In my original post I made a personal dig about Edge, IE and
Safari: “Edge is broken. Safari and Internet Explorer are just
plain bad.” I’ve since deleted that sentence.
It’s true, I personally don’t like those products, they just don’t
work for me. But that was probably a bit too flip. And, if it
wasn’t obvious that those were my personal opinions as a user, not
those of the good folks at Firefox and Mozilla, then please accept
It’s easy when making an aside — and it’s clear that the central premise of this piece is about positioning Chrome as the Goliath to Firefox’s David, so references to Safari and IE are clearly asides — to conflate “I don’t like X” with “X is bad”. So I say we let it slide.1
But I’ve been meaning to write about Safari vs. Chrome for a while, and Petitt’s jab, even retracted, makes for a good excuse.
I think Safari is a terrific browser. It remains the one and only browser for the Mac that behaves like a native Mac app through and through. It may not be the fastest browser but it is fast. And its energy performance puts Chrome to shame. If you use a Mac laptop, using Chrome instead of Safari can cost you an hour or more of battery life per day.2
But Chrome is a terrific browser, too. It’s clearly the second-most-Mac-like browser for MacOS. It almost inarguably has the widest and deepest extension ecosystem. It has good web developer tools, and Chrome adopts new web development technologies faster than Safari does.
But Safari’s extension model is more privacy-conscious. For many people on MacOS, the decision between Safari and Chrome probably comes down which ecosystem you’re more invested in — iCloud or Google — for things like tab, bookmark, and history syncing. Me, personally, I’d feel lost without the ability to send tabs between my Macs and iPhone via Continuity.
In short, Safari closely reflects Apple’s institutional priorities (privacy, energy efficiency, the niceness of the native UI, support for MacOS and iCloud technologies) and Chrome closely reflects Google’s priorities (speed, convenience, a web-centric rather than native-app-centric concept of desktop computing, integration with Google web properties). Safari is Apple’s browser for Apple devices. Chrome is Google’s browser for all devices.
I personally prefer Safari, but I can totally see why others — especially those who work on desktop machines or MacBooks that are usually plugged into power — prefer Chrome. DF readers agree. Looking at my web stats, over the last 30 days, 69 percent of Mac users visiting DF used Safari, but a sizable 28 percent used Chrome. (Firefox came in at 3 percent, and everything else was under 1 percent.)3
As someone who’s been a Mac user long enough to remember when there were no good web browsers for the Mac, having both Safari and Chrome feels downright bountiful, and the competition is making both of them better.