Safari 5, My New Default Browser

Apple has introduced Safari 5 and with it comes a 30 percent performance increase, the option to use Bing for search, extensions, and a brand new feature called “Safari Reader.”

I’ve been using Firefox as my default browser for 6-7 years — well before I even considered purchasing a Mac. Tthe first thing I installed on the MacBook I purchased in 2006 was Firefox, and I’ve been using it ever since.

But with the release of Safari 5, Apple has finally won me over. I haven’t been happy with the recent couple of releases by the guys at Mozilla, Firefox just hasn’t been improving in the areas that I’d like it to. Speed doesn’t seem to be an incredibly high priority for them, of course they’ve improved but not like Safari has. And, I don’t even want to get into the horrible bug I’ve been experiencing where every time Firefox is closed and I open a link from another application, Firefox opens two windows instead of one. It’s unbelievable frustrating, especially since the window you wanted to open isn’t positioned the way it should have been.

The two things keeping me from making the switch to Safari was Safari’s keyboard tab switching (I prefer Firefox’s command+number key method) and the ability to force links that open new windows into tabs. The latter of which was addressed with Safari 5 and the former is just something I’ll have to get used to. But, I didn’t just switch because I like to open links in tabs, there’s a lot more here.

Much like the comparison of Windows and Mac, Mozilla does have more extensions than Safari may ever have, but the developers making Safari extensions (so far) have been doing a much better job at the fit and finish. Icons are prettier, buttons are nicer, and all of the extensions I’ve used seem to just work better.

Like I said, the list of Safari extensions is very small but it’s growing quickly. Jonas Wisser has started a Tumblr weblog pointing to Safari extensions as they become available. He’s even written a great how-to piece explaining how to enable the extensions feature. I don’t really have a lot of extensions installed but currently I’m enjoing NoMoreiTunes, Instafari, and Safari140.

I’m very excited for the future of extensions in Safari, Apple has made it really easy for developers to write great extensions very quickly. The folks at ScribeFire mentioned that they managed to port their extension to Safari in under 90 minutes. If developers keep up the way they have, it won’t be long before developers eliminate the “but Safari doesn’t have insert-name-of-Firefox-extension” issue.

Safari 5 has another major feature that I’m really excited about called “Safari Reader.” The new feature is based on Arc90’s Readability project which gives you a bookmarklet that when clicked turns your current webpage into something much more readable, cutting out all of the extra junk in webpages. Now when you’re viewing an article in Safari a Reader button will appear in the address bar, clicking it will bring up an overlay that displays the current article in a much more readable style. Reader will even pull multi-page articles together so you can read them with having to endure more than one page load.

But, a lot of writers have complained about Safari Reader. The basic argument usually being that journalism will die if users don’t see any ads. Former Community Manager for PC Magazine and ExtremeTech, Jim Lynch, in a recent piece entitled “Safari Reader: Apple’s Weapon of Mass Destruction” had wrote this about Safari Reader:

Why are multi-page articles so important? Many web publishers get paid based on the number of ad impressions they generate (usually it’s cost per thousand ad impressions). This means that long articles are broken up into multiple pages so that a certain number of ad impressions can be generated per page view. Safari Reader only loads the ads on the first page of an article. The ads found on subsequent pages do not load in Safari Reader, only the content of the article loads.

What Lynch fails to emphasize is that these multi-page articles trick advertisers into thinking they’re getting more meaningful impressions than they actually are. I have a strong feeling that after a reader sees the layout of a webpage they completely ignore the ads on subsequent pages — their eyes stay locked to the section of the page that displays actual content. And this thinking ignores the type of users that reach the end the first page in a multi-page article and simply close the webpage because they don’t want to take the time. Why do writers make it hard for me to read their content? Stuff like this makes me worry about the state of “journalism” in the world.

But, the solution to Safari’s Reader feature is simple: build good looking, easy to read webpages that don’t encourage readers to click the Reader button in the address bar. Until more websites realize this, I’ll continue to use Reader. Hey, at least I’m not closing the webpage anymore.