Making Sense of Safari

After Apple’s announcement Tuesday of Safari a number of us at QuickBase were puzzling over the announcement. We read the reviews by Ben, Mark and others, but still couldn’t quite understand the strategic imperative that led Apple to develop its own web browser. Were they so desperate to be independent from Microsoft? What was going to be so compelling about Safari that would induce web developers to support yet another browser with a minority share on a minority platform?
It was a brief post by Brent Simmons at Ranchero that finally made Safari make sense. Apple needed an real, OS-level HTML rendering engine, and none of the other makers of major browsers have had any incentive to implement one for the mac.
Here are some of the places Safari will likely be used:
Mail.app – one of the most frustrating aspects of switching back to Mac OS X from Windows earlier this year is the inability of Mac mail clients to correctly render HTML email. Most of them (mail.app and Entourage) make a halfway-decent attempt at it, but as soon as you forward or do anything with the message, the HTML disintegrates.
Although the whole point of Sherlock 3 is to provide a polished way to find and access structured data on the web, it is also badly in need of an embedded browser, usually to display the results of searches for things like eBay auction items, dictionary entries, etc.
Third-party apps – Probably the most important. One of the main obstacles preventing QuickBooks for the Mac from achieving parity with QuickBooks for Windows is the fact that large portions or the interface of the Windows version were implemented using the OS-level version of Internet Explorer as a rendering engine. You can also tell from Brent’s post that he’s excited about using the Safari rendering engine in NetNewsWire.
So go Apple. The ironic thing about this argument is that it bolsters Microsoft’s longstanding and controversial contention that the browser & HTML engine belongs as part of the OS…

2 thoughts on “Making Sense of Safari

  1. Dean Zarras

    Something like Safari is required because you can’t have a “digital hub” machine with a slow, untrustworthy web interface (ie, browser).
    I’m a switcher. I switched from an old Compaq to the new iMac with OS X in Feb ’02 and SWITCHED BACK to a 2GHz Dell with XP-Pro a month ago because I couldn’t stand the speed penalities anymore. The new iMac was never any faster than my four year old Compaq. Plus many sites important to me, like Citibank’s online banking, simply didn’t work consistently on the iMac.
    Luckily my old iMac retained an impressive percentage of its value (go eBay!). When I ran the machines side by side on the same network (with a high-speed cable modem) for about a week, the Dell smoked the iMac every time. It wasn’t even close.
    I hope for Apple’s sake they get Safari to be everything they claim it is. I heard about Safari about two weeks after my auction and was initially bummed because I really wanted to keep the iMac. But now after reading some reviews, I’m much less so.

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  2. David Reeves

    Agreed, and I think you’re right on about the problems with MSIE. It’s simply not in Microsoft’s self-interest to put a lot of effort into speed optimization. But but after using Safari a while, I don’t find it that much faster than good Gecko-based browsers like Chimera.
    But your basic point is right on — Apple had to develop their own browser because it’s in no one else’s real self-interest to develop a good one.

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