Safari and the User Centric Web

If you haven’t been keeping up with this small-scale drama, Nolan Lawson wrote an article about a week ago about how Safari is falling behind other browser vendors.  This led to a pretty large outcry from the Apple faithful (which, honestly, I typically consider myself part of) and finally a slight backtrack from the author.

I think his biggest mistake was saying “Safari” rather than “WebKit” in the title.  If you do web development for a living you know that Chrome/Blink is the best platform for building cutting-edge stuff on the web and Webkit is starting to lag behind.  There are probably tons of reasons why Google forked Webkit in 2013, but Blink has raced ahead of Webkit’s abilities – and Apple’s yearly release cycle of developer-facing features has a lot to do with that.  3 or 4 years ago it was unheard of to have to apply polyfills to account for any issues in Safari – I mean, polyfills were for IE, right? – but these days I do find a handful of bugs cropping up during our QA process that I’ve had to remedy in my personal default browser.

The rebuttals from the Apple faithful were kind of comical, trying to pit Google’s Chrome against Safari in an effort to say Safari is focused on privacy and battery/performance (it is, and that’s why I love it), but those two things don’t have to exist independent on one another. I applaud the Safari team for a lot of the new user facing features they’ve rolled out recently (some of the new features of El Capitan in particular look really nice), but I’m sure even they would admit the WebKit team and the Safari UI teams are focusing on different agendas and release cycles.  If the author had kept to talking about WebKit instead of ‘Safari’ proper, I bet a lot of the fairly uninformed Apple bloggers would have stayed on the sidelines.

All that said, I do hope that Apple picks up their slack on the rendering engine front – if they want to make Safari’s user facing changes part of their yearly OS updates, that’s fine with me but the rendering engine fixes should roll out more frequently and in greater overall volume.  I love Chrome’s rendering engine, dev tools, and their update cycle/philosophy.  But I hate the UI and battery impact with a passion.  I doubt we’ll see the ability to set new default browsers on iOS anytime soon, so I hope I can stay in the ‘Safari ecosystem’ , but that requires quicker integration of new web technologies, involvement in the web dev community, and I’m not sure Apple wants to do those things.


Ok, now what?

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