Safari

Day 13 in #100DaysToOffload

Introduction

I am a heavy user of MacOS and iOS (I have no shame in admitting my love for the Apple ecosystem). Although I frequently fanboy about Apple's hardware and software, for a long time I always used another browser. No matter how many times I “browser-hopped,” I never seriously considered Safari. Oh boy was that a huge mistake.

Browser Journey

As mentioned, I have browser-hopped a bunch over the years. My first computer ran Windows 7, but I promptly installed Chrome instead of using Internet Explorer (I do not think I need to explain further). A few years later, I got a Macbook. First thing I did? Install Chrome and make it the default browser. Looking back, I did not even try Safari. I had used Chrome for a few years and generally liked it, so I stuck with Chrome. Then, at some point, I got interested in internet privacy which caused me to switch to Firefox and make all the tweaks[^1] and extensions[^2] for “privacy.” While I was (then, at least) satisfied, at the time Firefox preformance on MacOS was atrocious and killed the battery, so I switched to Brave Browser and used them up until last month when they started hijacking links for affiliate marketing. Firefox had fixed their MacOS preformance issues by then, but I also became aware of their multiple security flaws.[^3] I found Ungoogled Chromium (I still have it installed just in case), but as they are provided by other users and I am too lazy to build it myself every release, it is hard to trust.[^4] Finally, I considered Safari as a choice for my browser.

Made by Apple for Apple

Apple creates, thus optimizes, Safari for MacOS. The speed and battery improvement compared to the oh-so memory-hungry Chrom(ium) was convincing enough. I distinctly remember Chromium-based browsers making my computer fans audibly run, with Safari, I will have to do something extreme to make that happen. The design is nicer too, so bonus points there. I also use Safari on my iPhone (cannot change the default browser, but even when I can, I am going to stick with it), so I can access my tabs easily on either device, which I missed after leaving Firefox.

Privacy & Security

Both privacy and security (two different, yet intertwined, concepts) are important to me, and Safari has both. Even if Apple did not add privacy-enhancing features out of the box, it already has solid anti-fingerprinting due the homogeneity of Apple devices.[^5] Then, Apple bakes in extra anti-fingerprinting measures. I sound like an Apple shill maybe I internally am, but I applaud Apple for taking actual, serious approaches to user privacy. Even ad/content blockers are restricted and cannot violate your privacy. They merely instruct the browser on what to block, and cannot access the contents of the page. Safari also fits into my security model, as I already trust Apple for the OS, so using the browser means less trusted parties.

Extensions

Safari has gone through a lot of extension changes over the years, and as one now needs an Apple Developer account ($99/year) to submit them to the App Store, which is the preferred way as extensions are added through a MacOS app in Safari 13. In the next version, Safari is adapting a WebExtensions API similar to Firefox, so hopefully it allows for more useful extensions to be added. In a way, though, it is nice having limitied options I do not go and install a bunch of random extensions, but in the end still a net-negative for me. In case you want to switch, here is a list of my most used extensions (in alphabetical order):

Will I Stay?

Safari is the most recent chapter in my browser journey, and I think I finally have one to stick with, espiecally with the upcoming Big Sur improvements. At this point, I would only switch if I left the Apple ecosystem.


[1] Not the post for this (maybe later), but all this does is make you far more unique, especially if you do not use TOR as you would then have a TOR-like browser not on the TOR network. Tests like Panopticlick are simply unreliable. [2] Fine, one more thing. Many privacy extensions (cough Privacy Badger cough) only make you more fingerprintable. [3] Worth pointing out the conversation is complicated. [4] The MacOS binary, though, uses Github Actions to create the release but still has the risk of the user's GitHub account getting compromised, but that could be checked by comparing the code to the base Ungoogled Chromium code. [5] This is even more amplified with iPhones. Using Safari on an iPhone allows you to really blend in.