Browser Wars Are Still A Thing

John Gruber of Daring Fireball used a now deleted minor snub in a blog post by a Mozilla Firefox engineer as an excuse to write a thoughtful writeup on the state of internet browsers available on the Mac.

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.

This pretty much sums it up for me. There's a bevy of quality browsers available now, and Safari and Chrome are both excellent options with their own strengths which Gruber highlights beautifully. The only thing I'll add to his points is that Safari is also significantly better at memory management than Chrome on Mac OS, and is completely incomparable on iOS. 

Personally, I've always used Safari as my primary browser on the Mac, for all of the reasons Gruber highlights. I do always install a backup browser on anything running Mac OS. For years I did this for the situations where Safari would fail me. About 5 years ago, the state of advertising on the web got bad enough that I decided to go ahead and install ad blocking software on my secondary browser. While most sites I frequent have respectable ads, some flirt with becoming irritating. That said, we've all been to the a site which completely abuses your sanity with an inordinate amount of bad ads; and so now I just open these pages in Chrome.

As time has gone on, the 10 or 15 times a year I get directed to one of sites are now the only reason I ever open Chrome. I could just as easily install the plugin for Safari and simply toggle it on and off, but I get concerned that I could accidentally leave it on and thus be denying funding to the vast majority of sites which are behaving. 

I do feel the Mozilla engineer should be more concerned that he finds himself using Chrome for "fun" and Firefox for "work". While Firefox first opened my eyes to the importance of a browser, I have felt they have offered a subpar user experience for years, despite the many innovative ways they approach their craft. The fact that he's under the impression that Safari "sucks" and Chrome is good makes it seem questionable he's doing a good job of keeping tabs on the competition.

Which leads me to the one point Gruber makes which I tend to balk at, that competition is making everyone better. I'm sure it's true to a point, but I think we overstate how much engineers alter their roadmap based on competition. I'd argue that cooperation with things such as webkit development are much more responsible for the proliferation of quality browsers than competition.