Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Safari statistics don’t tell you everything

Mike Pinkerton, the lead developer of Camino, the native Mac browser based on the Gecko engine, has a post about the performance comparisons used on the page for Safari. As you’d expect, the statistics show that Safari is noticably faster than the competition, which includes IE for Mac, Netscape and Camino.
What is interesting is the choice of versions for Netscape and Camino. Although the statistics were altered to co-incide with the release of Safari 1.2, it still refers to Netscape 7.0.2, which has been updated to 7.1 and apparently includes some performance enhancements. Camino 0.8, which is due out around the same time as Mozilla 1.7, should also reap the benefits of some tweaks to the Gecko engine which have made both classic Mozilla and Firefox somewhat faster.
The fact that neither Mozilla or Firefox (which under its Firebird guise has been available for the Mac for some time now) is included also seems to suggest that Apple are being deliberately selective about their statistics to make the browser look better than it is. From what I have heard, having read a few blog entries and comments about Firefox, it looks like the small red panda could give Safari some real competition, particularly now that it has the new OS X-friendly interface.

Camino and Firefox also have an advantage over Safari in that they run on OS X 10.1, 10.2 (Jaguar) and 10.3 (Panther). Safari 1.0 requires a minimum of Jaguar and 1.1 and above will only work for those who have paid for the upgrade to Panther (or who have a very new Mac system). While Safari 1.0 wasn’t a bad browser, it did struggle to render some pages, whereas Camino and Firefox both have very solid and established rendering engines, and I’m sure those using older versions of OS X will perhaps think twice about the £100 to upgrade to Panther if all they want is a better web browser.
But, even if Firefox et al turn out to be superb browsers, that leave Safari in the dust in terms of features and performance, I’m sure that people will still use Safari, even if for some reason development of it ceases. And that’s because Apple made it. Recent events have shown that there is a certain contingent of Mac users who think that Apple can do no wrong and will defend them to the death should anyone dare to criticise them. Les had something on this – a large number of Mac users fell for a hoax where a guy claimed he had taken a Mac G5 case, ripped out the Apple components and stuck a Wintel system in there. The Mac Mafia was outraged – one guy said that had his son done this, he would kill him. I’m sure Apple could sell a steaming pile of excrement called the iTurd or something and the Mac Mafia would still rave about it.
But anyway, I’m rambling. My point is that Safari isn’t as good as Apple wants you to believe, and that if you try out the competiton, Firefox in particular, you may well be pleasently surprised. I could also mention OmniWeb, which again is apparently a good browser but it’s shareware and uses the Safari 1.0 rendering engine, which as I said earlier does have problems. And it too requires Jaguar, leaving OS X 10.1 users in the dark.


  1. i think this is the fate of all multi platform software. You make a superb application – or platform for all environments with blood and sweat (like mozilla and java) but the company (Microsoft, Apple, KDE) produces a crippled but embedded product it only loads a little faster, everybody stop using multi-platform and goes for the embedded crap. backstabbing you in every aspect ( look safari, look mono..)
    And Apple, is the most laughable on their comparisons in its web site, apart from browser, you should look at the page for the server comparison. it is a very well known fact that opteron systems outperform both apple and intel products but site shows just the opposite. heh.
    Same for the G5 processor.
    when users are dumb enough, we deserve these deceptions..

  2. Safari vs Firefox

    Prompted by Neil’s post about Apple’s statistics, and comparing Safari to FireFox I figured I would take a stab at the comparison. Neil complains that Apple’s statistics are a little biased. Well of course they are. Does that surprise anyone?…

  3. I now use Safari as my main browser because it is faster than any of the other browsers I have (Camino 0.7, Netscape 7.1, Firebird 0.7, IE Mac 5.2). I came to that conclusion by actually using the browser and quite definitely noticing the difference, not by reading Apple’s propaganda. (For example, the header on Mark’s site, the enlarging effect as you roll over the squares in mozilla is very noticeably slower than in Safari. Safari’s interface is also much more responsive than Firebird’s.)
    So, no matter how biased Apple’s claims, they aren’t completely empty (in my experience).
    That said, I am downloading Firefox now, and I await the release of Camino 0.8.

  4. They list IE 5.2.3 Doesn’t (almost) everyone use IE 6.x? I have noticed that reccently Apple has being acting also most microsofty in their behaviour.

  5. Quanta, IE 5.2.3 is the latest version of IE available for MacOSX. It’s completely unrelated to Win/IE of any stripe (5 or 6), so the number is not exactly comparable.