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Safari isn't the new IE: it's the user-centric web

Update: Don Melton, who spearheaded WebKit and Safari at Apple, came on the Debug podcast (opens in new tab) with Guy English, Jim Ray, and yours truly, to talk all about "Safari is the new IE". His response, as you might imagine, was not safe for work.

There's an op-ed by Nowlan Lawson that's making the rounds—Ars Technica re-published it—with the provocative and sensational tile: Safari is the new Internet Explorer. In it, Lawson argues that Apple has become complacent with Safari and is letting it languish by not more aggressively adopting emerging web technologies like Service Worker, Web Components, Shadow DOM, and Web Manifests. It reads as sincere—and as frustrated.

From the point of view of a developer whose personal favorite new technologies aren't getting as wide or deep support as he'd like, that's certainly understandable. But there's another, arguably more important point of view to consider, which also seems to be the one Apple is considering: users.

I think there is a general feeling among Web developers that Safari is lagging behind the other browsers, but when you go to a conference like EdgeConf, it really strikes you just how wide the gap is. All of the APIs I mentioned above are not implemented in Safari, and Apple has shown no public interest in them.

First, Apple engineers, including WebKit and Safari engineers, don't typically go to conferences outside WWDC. That's been changing in recent years, and may change further, but their absence from EdgeConf is by no means new or the result of these features not being supported. The Safari and WebKit teams do, for example, participate in the standards bodies, including in person.

Second, Internet Explorer was never intentionally complacent. It was a lock-in. ActiveX was originally designed to fill a gaping hole in web functionality but, through that, it became a platform. That allowed a level of dominance over the web, and a symptom of that dominance was complacency. By the time the web caught up and started pulling ahead, Microsoft was more concerned with maintaining their platform and supporting their massive, entrenched customer-base than evolving IE, and it hurt them. The same thing happened later with Adobe and Flash.

Apple is doing the opposite. Safari is of and for the open web. It has no delusions of becoming a platform. HTML5 is its platform. (If anything, Chrome and ChromeOS are in far greater danger of becoming an IE-style platform than Safari and WebKit.)

Safari and WebKit won the battle for better web technology. Now they're fighting the battle for better security, privacy, and performance.

You have only to look back at KHTML to see WebKit's roots, and its contributions to the open web. Especially to the mobile open web, which previously languished in WAP, Pocket IE, and Blazer purgatory.

What Lawson is mistaking for complacency is actually an evolution of perspective. Safari and WebKit won the battle for better web technology. Now they're fighting the battle for better security, privacy, and performance (including energy efficiency).

None of this is new—the culture of zero regression has been ingrained into the WebKit and Safari teams since their founding—It's simply moving from purely technical features to user-facing features.

Apple is still doing the tech: They've introduced Fourth Level LLVM and implemented WebGL. But they're also focusing on user-facing features:

  • iCloud Keychain, which syncs password and other data between browser instances.
  • Safari Extensions, which allow for functionality like auto-translation of pages.
  • Safari View Controller, a follow-on to UIWebView and WKWebView, brings login-state, form-fills, and other personalizations to embedded browsers.
  • Content blockers, which allow for plugins to remove resource-killing JavaScript, making browsing faster and more private.

And they're making it so that Safari on a new MacBook, for example, doesn't kill hours of battery life the way some other browsers do.

Most of the technologies Lawson mentions don't seem to be well or fully implemented by other browsers either, and philosophically not every vendor may agree with them. The web is not only a velocity, after all, but a direction.

Here's a very brief description of each of them, and a link to more information:

  • Service Worker: Essentially background tasks, so browsers can send notifications, sync, geofence, etc. separately from the loaded page.
  • Web Components: Re-usable widgets for the web.
  • Shadow DOM: A sub-tree of DOM elements, or a way to encapsulate and isolate chunks of code away from the main tree.
  • Manifest: A centralized metadata repository for web apps.

Overall, they're part of the movement to try and make web apps more like native apps. Apple, which has both web and native platforms, has historically been smart about using the right one for the right job.

Many years ago there was an argument about whether web technology or native technology should form the interface layer for the iPhone. Native won, and web technologies went instead to Palm's webOS, where the performance never caught up. Today, Apple doesn't even include Safari or WebKit on the Apple Watch.

That's not a knock—that's a profound understanding of context. The web is incredible flexible and dynamic, but it still isn't fast or efficient enough, especially on mobile. Apple and Facebook, among others, aren't dicking around with more developer-centric, native-hopeful features; they're busting ass to make it faster where it makes sense, and native where it doesn't. (See: TextKit or Instant Articles.)

Web-centric developers or web-only companies tend to see everything from a web-centric perspective. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but those perspectives and their associated priorities might be very different from Apple's.

There will always be those who want cross-platform made easier for developers, whether it be through a more native-like web, or through better cross-compilers and interpreters. And there will always be those who want to make a platform as great an experience as possible for users, even if it means more or different work for developers.

Apple is no more letting Safari languish any more than other vendors are wasting time implementing features that real native apps already do better. They're all simply choosing to expend their time and money in directions they believe to be the most important. If they're saying "no" or "not yet", it's so they can focus on things they believe are better or more important right now.

The WebKit and Safari teams aren't sitting around Cupertino making paper airplanes, thinking there are no browser world's left to conquer. They're simply conquering different browser worlds.

Updated to better explain, and provide links to, the web technologies mentioned. Updated again to add Nolan Lawson's Twitter handle and fix some typos and phrasing issues.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

49 Comments
  • Does anyone even give a damn about Safari anymore? I've never opened Safari since I bought my macbook couple years ago. Also, its funny you take jab at author's bias and personal agenda while you yourself are among the most biased and blinded-by-Apple species walking the earth.
  • You are missing out, Safari is the best browser out there. Chrome eat Ram like there is no tomorrow and it is slow, also drains the battery. Safari keep getting even better which each new update. Fast, light on the battery. Actually people are ditching chrome for safari every day. You are the one living under a rock
  • That's true i have both firefox and chrome installed on my macbook, bit when i watch netflix or youtube in them, after a while the fan starts spinning an the Performance lags behind, and although i have 16 gigs of ram and an i7, things start to stutter.
    Safari all the way, i don't know why people don't like it. Sent from the iMore App
  • True. Safari is very light weight. For flash-based videos I press Keyboard Maestro shortcut that opens current tab into Chrome
  • Count me in as another Safari convert. I use Chrome only as a second-opinion browser and as my primary on my Windows PC here at work. I would use Safari on my Windows PC had Apple brought it back for download.
  • Yeah, Safari's the only browser I enjoy using any more. I launch Chrome when I need Flash or Google Docs, but it shreds my battery so I close it quickly afterwards. I used to use Firefox all the time, but Safari's interface won me over a few years ago, and I try everything, but keep going back.
  • I'm in the same boat as Rene. I was a Firefox user from basically day one with Mozilla. However, the responsiveness and UI of Safari (since around version 6..) won me over and I just haven't looked back. Chrome is installed for me as I refuse to have Flash installed on the system level, but realize it's still a necessity in modern computing and web browsing.
  • True Safari is better in daily use especially when the computer is running on battery power. Sent from the iMore App
  • +1 on the "Also, its funny you take jab at author's bias and personal agenda while you yourself are among the most biased and blinded-by-Apple species walking the earth." I can always tell when Mr. Ritchie has written the article without even looking at the by-line.
  • I didn't take a jab, I offered an alternate expression. I said right up front I thought I knew where he was coming from. We also had a great chat on Twitter. Sorry if the facts conflict with your fictional narrative :)
  • Yeah on my machine Safari > Chrome. Years ago I went to Chrome because it was what Safari is now, nimble light and capable. It has since become quite the horrid beast. Some of my banking sites use strange web tech that is not compatible with Safari and for those I use Firefox. It sucks though I wish Chrome was better, I currently use an Android phone so syncing would be awesome but Chrome is not a very good option anymore.
  • Ever since I bought my macbook pro I've never installed a chrome and been using Safari exclusively. I don't wanna my laptop get bogged down by some battery hogging software (admitted by Google themselves, as they recently optimised Chrome for OS X in terms of battery usage).
  • +1. I've only used safari to download chrome and firefox, so I can see where people are thinking it is the new IE. I've found it to be extremely limiting. Even with the announcements at WWDC - pinning tabs and other things. They were in firefox and chrome ages ago. Didn't see one thing that would convince me to switch. Plus safari is horrible with bookmarking and remembering history of the sites I visit.
  • Paging Captain Renault. I love how folks act like they discovered that the folks here generally like Apple stuff. Rene is an unashamed Apple fan. Which is why he has to work twice as hard to make sure his math adds up, ducks are in a row, and Ts are dotted, Is crossed. His bias is a feature, not a bug. It's the reader's job to actually follow the piece without discounting it at the byline.
  • Uh, I don't think you get what the modern web is all about. Web developers are there to serve the users. There is a powerful (user-centered) browser API being crafted these days, and the bald truth is that Safari is lagging in a few important areas. When developers have to use polyfills to allow key functionality (for their users) on Safari it should be an indicator that something is wrong. When Safari is on one of the lower tiers of a progressive enhancement stack then you shouldn't be defending inaction. This isn't "spinning rim" functionality we're talking about here, but IndexedDB is a fundamental part of the user experience. VASTLY more significant than pinned tabs or muting. All that being said, Safari is *definitely* no IE. That browser caused so many headaches it's amazing the web got to where it is today, and it really had very little or anything to do with ActiveX. Safari is a fast, capable browser, that now has process separation and a respectable amount of support for modern web technologies. But in a few important areas it's not keeping up.
  • No, it's not IE. The browser that, even given its bad reputation, actually put in more effort to innovate than pretty much the rest of the market combined. People are content with cluelessness, but a lot of the foundation for Web 2.0 came from Microsoft's Exchange and IE Team. XMLHttpRequest was a Microsoft invention. It didn't come from Apple, Google, or Netscape. It took 7 years for that to be standardized. If Microsoft wants to enable their developers to deliver Web 2.0-like solutions in 1999, they can't afford to wait 7 years to deploy it. Sometimes you have to innovate. Look at WebKit. It's responsible for a ton of code that doesn't work properly in Trident or Gecko despite those browser engines having "respectable amount of support for modern web technologies." Even the Opera Browser was basically forced to transition to WebKit because of that problem. Yea, Safari is in some ways like IE6. It's advancing about as fast as IE did between IE5 and IE9, and everyone else is going considerably faster at this point.
  • XHMTL was great. I wasn't blaming Microsoft, they were in many ways a victim of IE6's success as much as they still are Windows XP. The disadvantage of lock-in is having to support the inmates.
  • Safari is my main browser and I don't have any trouble with it. I still use Chrome and Firefox for specific extensions, one in each. Safari is what I use full time though. I cringed when I saw that headline at ARS. Thank you for writing this.
  • I like Safari. In fact, (and I know I could get vilified for this), it’s the only browser I use if I’m logging into sites like my bank.
    That said it’s not even close to being the new IE. There are a number of websites even now upon which Safari does not work. Now it might be less advanced or have less extensions but even IE seems to work everywhere. My employer has moved to the hateful ADP Payroll system which grinds to a halt on Safari.
  • When will Safari support Web workers?
    When will Safari support push notifications?
    When will we see a roadmap from Apple about which features they are planning to implement? I saddens me when people who don't know what they are talking about, boast about it in public. Please get better informed. The problem with Safari is that Apple doesn't want to implement the newer APIs. They want to cripple the web as much as possible in order to maintain a strong control over their ecosystem. Why do you think Apple forbids competing browsers on iOS?
  • If you want a cynical take on this, you could assume that Apple's not interested in the open web anymore. They want an app centered net experience. They want their own silo of users to force ideas on and profit from.
  • Or Apple is interested in an open web, but doesn't see the need for a native web, given that native apps run better natively?
  • Then why is Apple Music on iTunes mostly implemented as slow rendering non native web views?
  • Thank you for writing this. I couldn't have put that Safari article into perspective without it.
  • I'm a web developer and I use safari as my main browser for all dev, it's great and I haven't run into any issues. I'm the only dev in my team to use safari as the rest use Chrome and Firefox. it does come down to personal preference I guess, it's weird how it has been given a bad name in my industry...
  • The CSS editor is awful, doesn't always recognise all keystrokes so you end up mistyping things, sometimes the keyboard input just completely stops. The network tab doesn't always show the headers either, or provide a html preview of html content. Firefox/Chrome are definitely the best browsers for dev Sent from the iMore App
  • Does your "development" skills consist of editing Drupal/Wordpress templates? If you're serious about being a web developer you don't use Safari, it's simply horrible for developers.
  • Nah its a really nice browser to develop in. Just a couple of features lacking in the inspector that you can use chrome for when you need to. The rest of the time your computer doesn't need to die because chrome decided that it is the most important piece of junk on your system. I really like it how Chrome _STILL_ does not natively support most features in macOS, feeling completely out of place and annoying overlaying content of my screen normal notifications don't. Chrome just wants to be your OS as badly as Google wants all your data.
  • I was a solid Chrome user for both Mac and Windows (Work makes me use a PC though I still use my Mac for most of my work). When Chrome first came out is was lightning fast, that was one of the reasons I went to it. Besides, I hated IE. About a year ago I started a personal project to de-Google my life. I started with leaving the Chrome browser in the dust, went straight to Safari. Over 95% of my computer use now is on a Mac that was a no brainer. For all of my personal use cases and all but one function I need for my job (That requires IE) Safari works perfectly. Sure there are a few things I use that Chrome would actually make better (Can't get away from Google Voice) but Google is the new evil empire. I'll stick with Safari.
  • LOL, so you decide to run from Google because they are an evil empire, and you settle with Apple? Funny :)
  • I believe they have become complacent. They have let there PC version languish without up dates. I know IOS and OS X are their priorities. Safari has been around long enough to have larger PC market. I have a ideal, use some of that money, and just buy Mozilla. Take over one of the top two browsers out there. Sent from the iMore App
  • "That's not a knock—that's a profound understanding of context. The web still isn't fast or efficient enough, especially on mobile, and Apple and Facebook and others aren't dicking around with more developer-centric, native-hopeful features; they're busting ass to make it faster where they can, and native where they can't." This is nonsense. At Google I/O Google showcased and demoed several web apps running at 60FPS that behaved identically to native apps. A feat that virtually no web app can pull off today. You might want to Google Polymer for an informed perspective. Modernizing the web isn't "dicking" around. Modernizing the web is actually a user-centric pursuit. The ability to seamlessly use the web with poor, or no internet connectivity, is not "dicking" around. It's a feature that tremendously improves the user experience of the web. Reducing unnecessary connections to the Internet that can wake up your device's radio and drain your battery, is not "dicking" around, it's a feature that significantly impacts the user experience on mobile devices. Creating standard components that can be extended and reused is not "dicking" around, it fundamentally changes the way we design and write apps, and also the types of apps we can deliver to the user via the web. We wouldn't have web apps today if all people cared about was making the web fast and efficient. You want fast and efficient, go back to using static HTML 1.0 web pages. Your post reminds me of the short-sighted people of the 90s who claimed we didn't need JavaScript, because it complicated the web. Do you remember those days? The days before Web 2.0. The days before XMLHttpRequest. The days before GMail. This is deja vu all over again. Yeah, people back then argued that JavaScript was bloated and "developer-centric". That it provided little benefit to the user. That is was slow. That apps didn't belong on the Web. Do you remember? And then Google made GMail and we never heard from these folks ever again. Safari will be the new IE if it refuses to embrace the modern web. Developers will eventually stop caring about it. You'll see banners with the inscription, "Does not support Safari". Code will be littered with conditional exceptions for Safari. Is that the future you want for Safari? Because, that's what's already happening. If you want to write a modern web app that runs at 60 FPS, you can't do it on Safari today.
  • Lol... I like you :) Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I've followed all of that. Being able to make web apps run natively is an interesting experiment, but just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. For Google, a web company, everything looks like the web. Hammer, nail. Apple isn't a web company, so they have a different perspective. Does the web need to be more native? Google obviously thinks it does. Apple doesn't seem to. Different opinions.
  • The web needs to be an open, standard, independent and __powerful__ platform for developing apps. It shouldn't matter to the user whether an app is native or not. A well designed app should just work under any condition without fuss. This is the goal of the modern web. Whether you use the Web (HTML5/Web Components), or Java, or .NET, or Swift to write an app is, or should be, completely irrelevant. The advantage of using the web is that's it's open, cross-platform and accessible to everyone with an Internet connection (and in the future even without an Internet connection). Today 99% of all the apps I use are on the web. My email client is on the web. My music player is on the web. My note taking app is on the web. My office suite is on the web. My Photos apps is on the web. My calendar app, my contacts app, instant messaging client, etc are all on the web. Do you think it matters to me whether or not these apps are native? Nope. All that matters to me is that they work well under all conditions, and they are accessible from any device. And that's not going to happen is certain browsers don't want to embrace modern technologies that make web apps indistinguishable from native ones. This is the reason I don't use Safari. Many "modern" web apps just don't run well on it. This is also the reason the world, by and large, abandoned IE.
  • You misunderstand the argument and setup a false dichotomy. First, the idea that we get either these new technologies OR user facing features isn't credible. Do both. Second, the argument isn't that the user features in Safari are a bad thing, it's that we cannot move forward on new underlying web technologies if one of the major browsers doesn't implement those technologies. The reason is that, as web developers, we need to build sites that work for any visitor within some reasonable definition of 'any'. It's easy to exclude, say, IE 6 or 7 since they're vanishingly small in market share. Safari is large enough that we cannot ignore it so we can either not use new things that Safari doesn't implement or we have to use a polyfill to workaround Safari. Finally, it IS important that Safari devs aren't at cons like this. Places like this are where people who develop sites congregate and it's a far different environment than a standards meeting. It's crucial to get first hand feedback from the people who use and workaround your browser issues. Plus, frankly, there's almost no downside to actually going to these cons.
  • Look at it backwards: What is a browser company's (including Google's) goals? What's a product company that makes a browser's goals? Could those goals be different? Could the result in different priorities? If so, how would that manifest?
  • First, Google is no more a browser company than is Apple - they're an advertising company. While that does affect Chrome, they seem to have as a goal for the web experience of their users to be as fast and rich as possible. Second, if a product company only wants to think of itself and its customers then it shouldn't build a general purpose thing like a browser that has a profound effect on the rest of the web. iOS can be a walled garden and that's fine. The web is an open 'platform' and is hurt when any one player holds it back. The difference is this: the technical underpinnings of iOS apps - what Objective C and Swift can do, the APIs that Apple exposes, etc - only affect iOS customers and that development community. In that area, they can and should do whatever they want. However, browsers affect everyone, even people who are not Apple customers. It affects people who put up websites to attract, converse with and sell to their customers, it affects the web development community's ability to move the state of the art forward and it affects the experience of the public, those who use Safari and those who do not (the latter because the general web dev community won't implement a new technology that isn't supported by a major browser, thereby holding back the deployment of that technology. Finally, your argument is bizarre if you want to refute the point that Safari is like IE. If Safari only serves Apple's needs then it IS Internet Explorer in the sense that IE implemented only the things that it did because those were what MS needed from it. They were holding back the web but they didn't care because IE furthered their corporate goals. If your argument is that Safari serving only Apple's goals is just fine then you're admitting that it's like IE in that respect. You also ignored my first point - that Apple can both service their corporate goals and the goals of an advancing, open web. It's not an either/or thing.
  • > First, Apple engineers, including WebKit and Safari engineers, don't typically go to conferences outside WWDC. That's been changing in recent years, and may change further, but the author noting their absence from EdgeConf is by no means noteworthy. The paragraph you quoted is not about Apple's attendance, and their attendance was only brought up as a metaphor for their alleged lack of participation in the web standards community. > Second, Internet Explorer was never intentionally complacent. It was a lock-in. First, don't these two sentences contradict each other? If the purpose of dark-years IE was to lock people in to Microsoft platforms, then yeah, the complacency was intentional. And it almost certainly was; MS flat-out declared at one point that IE development was going to stop altogether, until other browsers got enough leverage to force them to make improvements. > Apple is doing the opposite. Safari is of and for the open web. It has no delusions of becoming a platform. HTML5 is its platform. It sounds like you don't understand what people's complaint here is. Safari certainly did give the mobile web the kick in the pants it needed, but then the web people went "Oh!", came up with other ideas to make the mobile web better, and Apple (they say) is dragging its feet on keeping Safari up-to-date. All those APIs that Apple is supporting badly or not at all are attempts to make the web platform better. And so, the natural interpretation from open-web people is that Apple IS doing exactly what MS did with IE: trying to lock people into their proprietary platform, the App Store, by making sure that the web people are hobbled by outdated technology. > You have only to look back at KHTML to see WebKit's roots, and its contributions to the open web. Especially to the mobile open web, which previously languished in WAP, Pocket IE, and Blazer purgatory. When IE6 came out in 2001, it was the best browser at the time, with the most advanced CSS support of any browser. Everyone loved it, at first. But then it sat there, and by 2004 or ’05 or so, everyone HATED it, because MS had abandoned development and web developers had set their sights on better technology. Yes, MobileSafari did a lot for the mobile web — in 2007! It's 2015 now, and the web people have their sights set on better technology. > Safari and WebKit won the battle for better web technology. The battle for better web technology — or better technology of any kind — is never won, as you ought to well know. The frontier advances ever forward, and what was yesterday hailed as a breakthrough is tomorrow berated as a stumbling block. And history is filled with tech companies who have come to dominance with a large advancement in the state of the art, and then sat there long enough to become hated until some other company leapfrogs them. > Now they're fighting the battle for better security, privacy, and performance (including energy efficiency).
    >
    > ...
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    > Apple is still doing the tech: They've made Fourth Level LLVM
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    > ...
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    > Safari View Controller ... Content blockers Those two things you name are client features that have nothing to do with the web itself. It's like saying "Apple has the best interface for saving bookmarks!" It might be true, but that's an app feature, not a web feature. > That's not a knock—that's a profound understanding of context. The web still isn't fast or efficient enough, especially on mobile Yes, and the web people are saying "It will never be fast enough if you don't implement any new web APIs ever again" > Apple is no more letting Safari languish than other vendors are wasting time implementing features that real native apps already do better. They're all simply choosing to expend their time and money in directions they believe to be the most important. > The WebKit and Safari teams aren't sitting around Cupertino making paper airplanes, thinking there are no browser world's left to conquer. They're simply conquering different browser worlds. Serious question: Are the developers who work on the website-rendering engine really the same people who work on making Safari windows available as views in other apps? Seems like two different departments to me. > Most of the technologies the author mentions don't seem to be well or fully implemented by other browsers either, and philosophically not every vendor may agree with them. The web is not only a velocity, after all, but a direction. This is where you may have a point, and what the whole article should've been about. There may very well be technical reasons why these things shouldn't be implemented. I know that some really smart people were on Apple's side in the recent Pointer Events kerfuffle, basically saying that Pointer Events was a mediocre solution to unknown future problems. There might be similar arguments for a lot of this other stuff. I'm a front-end web guy, but I pay as little attention as possible to new things until they establish themselves as unquestionably beneficial. A lot of web development has become a morass of client-side frameworks upon frameworks, driving pages to a crawl. PPK and Marco were right in their recent articles ( http://www.quirksmode.org/blog/archives/2015/05/tools_dont_solv.html , http://www.marco.org/2015/05/15/tools-are-the-problem) on the topic. And but so, if there is a defense to be made of Apple's reticence to adopt new web standards, it must be based on shortcomings in the standards, not "Oh, they're just too busy with iOS APIs", because Apple's being too busy with native APIs is the web people's entire complaint.
  • What if the web doesn't need to be made more native? What if native apps are better for that, will be better for the foreseeable future, and the energy being poured into making the web more native would better be spent elsewhere? Facebook went native with their iOS app and Instant Articles for a reason. Apple made TextKit for a reason. Maybe there's another perspective worth considering?
  • Rene - honestly, if you're not going to engage and are just going to passive-aggressively toss out questions that ignore the points being made just save us all the time and don't reply at all. 75th's post was a good, detailed examination of your points and then you lob out a reply that, frankly, makes it quite clear you have no idea about front end web development. The issue isn't being more native, the issue is continuing to advance what we can do on the web, very little of which has anything to do with being 'native'. While you say " HTML5 is its [Safari's] platform." you don't seem to realize that some of what people are trying to do is enhance and evolved HTML5. It's not a finished thing - it never will be. That's the point here.
  • > What if the web doesn't need to be made more native? What if native apps are better for that, After antecedent substitution, you just said "What if native apps are better for native?" Which I suppose I can't disagree with. > will be better for the foreseeable future, and the energy being poured into making the web more native would better be spent elsewhere? First, let's be clear that when you say "native" you just mean "better", because that's how it's being used in this conversation. Lower-level code with more capabilities and better performance characteristics. So it sounds like your whole argument is "Native apps have better performance than websites, so we should put all the work into native APIs and let web technology rot." Which, if you have a vested interest in the gap between websites and native apps widening forever, sounds great, sure. > Facebook went native with their iOS app and Instant Articles for a reason. Apple made TextKit for a reason. Maybe there's another perspective worth considering? Maybe, but saying "Native apps perform better, so let's not work on making web apps any better than they are" (or implying it with maddeningly oblique and Socratic rejoinders) is not enunciating a very coherent alternative. ----- To be clear, I'm not (necessarily) among the crowd condemning Apple here. I'm an Apple fan, my ultimate career goal is Apple-exclusive native app development, and the people I follow on Twitter are almost all the Apple cognoscenti, because they're generally smarter and more interesting than web people. So you shouldn't assume I lack "perspective" or am an open-web zealot. Apple people, contrary to some of the comments here, are generally not blind partisans. (At least not toward Apple itself — they do tend to show massive bias toward each other.) They're some of Apple's biggest critics, and are quick to decry Apple when they make some decision that seems foolishly short-sighted. But they do seem to have developed a blind spot toward the web in recent years. Gruber, in particular, decided that native apps communicating with servers over HTTP is a glorious triumph and fulfillment of the web's purpose, and a lot of Apple people seem to agree. But, no. Shuffling blobs of JSON around is not a triumph of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript ARE the web, and if Apple willfully neglects improvements to those three languages and all the technology surrounding them for no good reason other than stamping out a threat to App Store lock-in, then it deserves a little scorn. Maybe there are other good reasons to neglect some of these new APIs, other than just that. I would love to read something coherent about those issues from you or anyone else.
  • Signed up just to say this -- (sorry for all the Tweets Rene!) I agree with you very much overall, though I think you could give the point about conference attendence a little more weight. The problem isn't necessarlily that Apple doesn't attend conferences, but that Apple's evangalists don't promote themselves to the same extent that others from Google or Mozilla do. The idea that Google, Mozilla and even the new IE all have future roadmaps. for tech support does give a good feeling to many web developers. Certainly, apple doesn't need to do that -- I feel fairly confident that they participate in these discussions, just not publicly. However, I know that I lot of developers would feel more confident about what Apple is doing if they had access to talk to evangalists or engineers, or even just more user facing materials. The very successful site "HTML5Rocks" is actually a Google site that exists in addition to the traditional documentation. I guess this is the feeling that some people have:
    Apple certainly does put a TON of effort into driving standards, especially with the beginnings of HTML5, but I have to admit I can't recall a particular recent project that Apple pushed for with standards bodies. It's all about perceptions here, and not necessarily reality, it seems, but that does affect who people trust. At least Safari 9 makes big strides in support of the next version of Javascript, "ES6", and supports 50% of the spec which Chrome 45 is at 46%. Safari 8 is around 17%. This is only 1 test of course, and one metric but in terms of implementing stuff, it's hard to say apple isn't doing the work.
  • Rene, great article. You summed this up very well. As a long time Safari user, stability and performance enhancements are way more important to me than the latest quasi-standards for web-apps. In fact, I would argue that Apple has not done enough to stabilize recent iterations and the current version of Safari seems to be the one that hangs the most when loading pages (including yours). Apple appears to be focused on this now as well as other performance issues in the upcoming OS releases so let's hope things improve there. I think Jason Snell also commented on this original article and very correctly stated (paraphrasing a lot) that the original author does not have the same focus on what Apple thinks is important as Apple does.
  • Safari is great on iOS 8.4 on the iPad Air 2 Sent from the iMore App
  • Isn't the most important thing the user experience? Right now, Safari 8 is the absolute best browser for the Mac platform. It's written from the ground up for OS X, supports all the OS X bells and whistles, and doesn't run my battery and CPU into the ground. I have an iMac, Macbook Air, and iPhone and Safari gives a much better experience on Apple hardware than Chrome or Firefox, plain and simple. I rarely hit a site that doesn't work and in my experience, it's just as fast (or faster) as the others too. Even benchmark comparisons, on my hardware anyway, gives Safari the edge over Chrome and it spanks Firefox. Just viewing video from any of the major news sites... Chrome and Firefox skip, jump, and buffer while Safari is smooth. Maybe it's just Flash... HTML5 video seems pretty good across all the browsers. But if Apple can make Flash work smoothly, why can't the others?
  • Ha! I love it. Pimping out Safari of all things. Next up: "How Appletalk is becoming the greatest print language of all time."
  • I think you are (on purpose or by mistake) missing the point here.
    Safari is the new IE *for web developers*. Not from a company perspective, not from a user perspective.
    Many users are still perfectly with IE8 today, and as little as a couple of years ago they where perfectly happy with IE6. Like Safari, it opened very quickly, used little memory, and it was just there, well integrated into the OS. But every developer used to hate IE, till version 9. Because it lacked so many of the new functionalities; JavaScript, CSS support, web sockets.. name one. And when something was implemented, it used to be the MS variant of a technology.
    That stopped with IE9, and recent versions of IE (and Edge now) implements standards as well as Chrome, FF or Opera. Sometimes better, sometimes even earlier.
    Safari *is* like old IE: it forces web developers to go the extra mile, to do extra efforts, because all the other browser implement a new tech that makes implementing some wonderful new functionality easy... but one.
    You cannot afford lose those customers, so you have to "hack your way" into Safari, implementing ad-hoc code, to support it.
    Users will never notice. Developers do notice, and it is causing them pain. Like IE used to.
  • I always use the OpenStreetMap web editor to contribute to the project. Being a great map editing web application, it either crashes the browser or becomes unresponsive after a couple of minutes of use, every single time I open it in Safari. I guess this has been going on since ages and I have long switched to Firefox on my Mac. I test Safari every time an update is released and submit a crash report just for the fun of it. I remember Firefox once had a similar issue with OpenStreetMap editor and they promptly fixed it in their fast release cycle.
    Faced with fierce competition, Apple does not have the critical user base to control the direction of the web. I appreciate the work they have done to make Safari energy efficient but they have to wake up or risk being marginalized.