An observation on browsers

Sunday, Mar 1, 2009 4 minute read Tags: Random Junk
Hey, thanks for the interest in this post, but just letting you know that it is over 3 years old, so the content in here may not be accurate.

I've been a big fan of the Opera web browser for a number of years, I've used it since it's v4 days. I remember it being an ad-supported browser and I remember when it became free (that was a great day!). I remember it being a very innovative browser (and it still is) with this such as:

  • Tabbed browsing
  • Mouse gestures
  • Speed Dial
  • Session Management

It's served me well for a long time, on every platform from Windows to Linux to Mac OS X, and even mobile devices.

But this weekend things haven't been so good, Opera started crashing on me, constantly, even when the browser was in the background in an idle state.

So I've reverted back to using Safari. I could use Firefox, but I've never been a fan of Firefox as a daily browser. I find it a great web dev tool thanks to the plugin engine, but it's always felt cumbersome as a daily browser. It is heavy and slow to start up, and it's never had a good feel to it as a daily browser.

But Safari is starting to shit me. Since that Safari 4.0 beta came out this week I thought it'd be an idea to have a crack at it, see how it goes. Well I can tell you, it's currently not going.
First off, I had to install a security patch before I could install the browser. Ok, fine, I hadn't been keeping up-to-date with the paths, but c'mon, it's a single patch which had only just been released!
So I installed the patch, which required a reboot, and then re-ran the Safari 4 installer.

And that didn't exactly go well, to install Safari 4 on a latest-patched OS X 10.5 install you need 107Mb of hard drive space! WTF?! It's just a browser! People blame Microsoft software for being bloated, but I'm pretty sure that the IE 8 beta isn't that big!
The next hurdle is that it requires me to reboot to install. Again, WTF?! IT'S JUST A BROWSER!

This is something that's really starting to piss me off about OS X, it's worse than Vista when it comes to reboot-on-install, and worse off is that you have to be rebooting for the install to take place. Unlike Vista which you can install and it'll finish the install during the reboot OS X requires you to do the complete reboot while installing.
BUT WHY DO I NEED TO REBOOT FOR A BROWSER!? (I've got another gripe about having to reboot to install the new version of Quicktime, why the fuck do I have to reboot to install a media player, but that's a rant for another day)

So I'm sticking with Safari 3 for now, and I'm starting to realise just how limiting it is as a browser, compared to the others of its generation.
Lets first compare it with IE 7, the Microsoft browser of the same generation. By-and-by they are as good as each other. But there's one glaring feature that Safari lacks compared to IE is session management. It's a common feature across current generation browsers, remembering what you were doing when you exited so when you next pick it up you are where you were previously.
But I can't for the life of me work out where I can turn it on.

Another feature I can't seem to work out is how to have images shown at the full size, not scaling it to the window by default. It's a simple to turn off in IE, but so far it's eluding me in Safari.

Lastly I'm finding that Safari always wants to download files where it wants, I never get asked. Again, a feature of all current browsers, except Safari.


Overall what I've noticed with Safari and IE alike, is that OS-related browsers are well behind the curve. With a release cycle like Opera and Firefox not being tied to that of an OS they can push them out a lot faster, leaving the others behind.

Safari is an Ok browser, like IE is an Ok browser. But I wish I could get Opera back, and I wish that Umbraco would work from it :P