Is Safari on Windows a good thing or a bad thing?

The first thing most web developers probably thought this morning when they learned about Safari for Windows was "oh man, yet another browser to test in". And yes, for the moment, that's what it amounts to. Coincidentally, I have spent a good part of last week making the history management in Microsoft Ajax work in Safari 2.0.4. I got it to work fine (after much Apple cursing), so the first thing I tried after I downloaded Safari 3 beta was my history tests. And sure enough, it breaks in new, unexpected ways. History management is pretty much a big hack that is different on about all browsers (Firefox and Opera are the nicest ones here, with predictible, similar behaviors). And sure enough, Safari 3 brings a totally unheard of model. I didn't find a way yet to create a new entry in history from script that doesn't navigate away from the page. None of the old Safari tricks work anymore (they were probably and rightfully considered bugs and were fixed). They weren't replaced by the more rational things that work in Firefox and Opera. Even the iFrame trick that we use on IE doesn't work because Safari now crashes if you try to dynamically add a frame to the DOM. If anybody here found a way to do that, I'd love to hear about it.

But there is at least one thing to like about this new version: Apple is going to release it for MacOSX Tiger (the current version of their OS), which means that thanks to auto-update, the horrible, horrible browser that is Safari 2.0.4 is going away in the not so far future. When I say that it's a horrible browser, that's entirely from an Ajax developer's perspective. Your mileage may vary, but the latest Webkit, even with its flaws, fixes the most serious problems that plague Safari 2, and the new Safari 3 is based on that better codebase.

Another thing to like is that it seems like the behavior of the browser on Windows is very very close, if not identical, to the behavior on MacOS. That doesn't entirely remove the need to test on both platforms, but at least it promises to make it possible to automate test runs on all Windows browsers as part of your integration process. This way, you'll catch most Safari regressions earlier, and that's only goodness.

So sure, it's never fun to have yet another browser to test, and this release has its problems that hopefully will get fixed (I filed several bugs already today, and the total lack of error feedback doesn't help), and others that probably won't (why can't they respect the conventions of the host OS?) but I'm convinced that in the long term, we'll all benefit from this move from Apple. But there may be a few difficult months ahead of us as we work around new Safari 3 bugs and still have to work around old Safari 2.0.4 bugs.

What do you think?


  • > This way, you'll catch most Safari regressions
    > earlier, and that's only goodness.

    Totally agree with you there, it will be worth it in the long run.

  • You say "why can't they respect the conventions of the host OS?"... Have you tried asking MS's own Office 2007 team this?!

    I realise many new Windows GUI features debut in Office (from the original combobox in Word 2.0, which appeared *later* in Win3.0 to the cool new ribbon UI, which I'm sure will find its way into Windows soon), but simple things like colour scheme / theme should really take the OS conventions & user preferences into consideration, shouldn't they?

    If I came out with an application that didn't work or look like any other Windows app I'd be crucified for not following the Windows Style Guide, yet the Office 2007 team seems to have thrown the WSG out the window!

    Anyway, I agree that Safari for Windows has got to be a good thing. Good on them!

  • I'm quite glad its out on windows, now all the developers whose excuse for not testing their sites in safari was that they didn't have access to a mac can make their sites work (Which, by the way, is not hard)!

  • I tried it on a .net app here and about half of the functionality was there. I the tried it on a classic app that one of my clients is still using and I couldn't even get passed the login screen. With a large base of people used to using IE, I don't see it getting widespread acceptance without some major changes.

  • quote: "oh man, yet another browser to test in", erm... any developer worth his salt and ready to build cross browser would have already included testing for all the major browsers including Safari surely? As it is a standards compliant browser (like Firefox for the main part) anyone developing to the standards would have won half the battle. It's IE that is the weak point in all this as it follows it's own damn standards :0)

  • This is a good thing ONLY if Safari for Mac vs Windows work the same way. What a nightmare if we have to test for Safari on Windows & Mac. From looking under the hood, Safari on Windows does identify itself differently then on a Mac which scares me to start.

  • It's a "could-not-care-less"-thing. Safari will not have a marketshare over 2% on Windows.

  • Maciej: thanks for the response. As I've said in the post, I did already report any bug I found. I know what it's like to ship software and hope I'm not being too harsh. I'd love to hear how you see history management in the new version. It certainly wasn't obvious from my initial experimentation yesterday and I'm glad to read you have a story, I would just love to know it. Feel free to drop me e-mail through the contact form of this blog.

    Philip the duck: No I haven't. I thought that the Mac Office integration was pretty good but apparently I'm wrong. If it's that bad, I won't defend it but that doesn't make the Safari integration good.

    Shaun: first, Safari 3 on Windows is a different browser, and one more that you'll have to test on. It's a different platform and it's a different version number. It's also very, very different from Safari 2. Mostly for good, but definitely different. You *will* have to test on both, so that's one more.
    Second, the view that writing to the standards gets you halfway there is in my opinion very naive because this "second half" is by far the most complex and difficult. And it's the one that will break with a new browser and that will require additional testing. So short term, new browser => more work. But it's ok, that's part of the job and as I thought was clear from the post, I really think long term it's a good thing.
    Third, I'm not defending IE. I do report bugs to them too.

    Tim: so far so good in our own short experience. They seem to be very consistent. Safari 3 for Windows actually identified in our browser API as Safari with version 522 (IIRC) with no modification. It's actually a good thing that they would show the platform in the browser string if you *need* to differentiate them. You will have to do some testing on the Mac still, but as a less frequent routine which will probably very rarely report problems.

  • It's a great thing.

    I think MS should get out of the browser business, they murk it up too much

  • Somehow it just won't install on my XP upgraded to Vista Professional machine. Complains something related to VBScripting based on the error it gets

  • Kearns: you should report it to Apple. Bugs can be filed at

  • It does annoy me a little that Apple decided to use Aqua-style UI widgets, but I suppose the benefit is consistency between OSes -not just in the appearance of the application, but also in the appearance of sites the application displays. A large percentage of the site rendering errors I see when using my Mac are due to a windows-based developer having no idea how buttons, drop down lists etc work on other OSes.

  • Bad Bad Bad !! Aple should stop wasting their time with windows. They should use their installed base with the ipod to force people onto osx. Leave itunes where it is on windows and only move it forward on the mac. It will still work just not as well as on the mac, thats the way it should be, isnt this obvious (its an Aplle product, it should work best on Apple hardware). Safari is just another case of Apple giving up one of its assets, however small. Whats next? iLife?

  • Mark and Mac User: way to go, guys, let's "force people onto osx", even if they don't want to. You're showing a superb example of "thinking different". Congratulations.

  • Mac: Hi I'm a Mac.PC: And I'm a PC.Safari: *standing in the middle* And I'm Safari.PC: Thanks Mac for letting me borrow Safari.Mac: Oh no problem PC, I hope you like him!Mac: *whispers to Safari* Remember, wait until he's asleep...PC: I think we'll get along famously!

  • Rich: I'd love to. I know how to enable it on the Mac but not on the PC. I was unable to find that info on Apple's web site. Can you explain, please?

  • Even though many are saying that it's fast, I'm saying that it sucks...i'm still waiting to see links rendered correctly (90% of the sites i tried opening on it just don't render correctly and i'm not talking about css positions and stuff like that; i'm talking about not seeing on the pages...)

  • Anything is better than IE

  • but do you think Safari 3, is good to download on Windows.

  • @Jasy: sure, Safari 3 on Windows is a very decent browser. I still find the Mac-isms and font rendering hideous but as a browser it's definitely one to consider.

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