On the Safari for Windows Controversy

As you may or may not be aware, with the release of Safari 3.1 for the Mac, Apple started offering Safari for Windows as an optional install through its Windows updater for iTunes/Quicktime.

Initially, Safari was offered in the Updates list, with the selection check box already selected. So if the user simply clicked ‘Install’, Safari would be installed. It looked like this:
Old Apple Software update for Windows

When that happened, many of the usual Windows/Microsoft shills got up in arms against this ‘heinous crime’. Most vocal however was Mozilla’s CEO, and of course he got the most attention.

Initially, I agreed that it’s not exactly good to offer new software as an update.

With the release of Safari 3.1.1, Apple modified their update panel to have a separate pane for new software and it was clearly labelled as ‘New Software’.

Updated Apple update panel for Windows

As far as I’m concerned, this change addressed all the concerns that I had about the previous behaviour. Safari is now labelled as New Software for those who hadn’t previously installed it. So it’s now completely up to the user to decide and opt-out of the install. And even if you install it by mistake, there is no harm done to you as a user. If you don’t actively launch it and mean to use it, it just sits there on your hard drive doing nothing. It wouldn’t affect your system in any way (other than the miniscule space it occupies on the hard drive). It doesn’t launch automatically and it doesn’t set itself as the default browser without your knowledge.

However, it’s still not all well in Mozilla-land (and quite a few other blogs). Few of Mozilla’s people spoke up about this recent change and they’re still not satisfied. They want Apple to set the check box as unchecked by default and make it up to the user to opt-in on the install.

The recent whining makes me almost sure that if Apple were to make this small change and unchecks the box by default, Mozilla people would still whine and would probably want Apple to stop offering Safari altogether.

In the early days, Mozilla with its Firefox browser was perceived as the underdog or the David that is standing up to Microsoft’s Goliath with its default Windows browser IE. Many, many webmasters like me pushed Firefox and managed to convince their visitors to switch to it. Firefox’s browser share rose and now it’s reported to have a world market share of 17%. I pushed Firefox on my site too. At one point, the site sat for three whole days on the top of Firefox’s referrers list. I still have the link to Firefox on the site’s home page. The effect of this support shows in my logs. According to my stats, Firefox users comprise 38% of the site’s users, double the average that Firefox enjoys. So my efforts have been very effective in supporting the Mozilla Foundation.

However, this recent whining and bitching by the Mozilla people is starting to annoy me. They are being selfish, greedy people. You may not know this, but Mozilla makes a ton of money from having people use its free browser. They make that money from search engines (like Google) that pay a referral fee to browser makers that send their users to Google’s search engine.

Obviously, Mozilla’s people are afraid that if Safari gains market share, that would mean that it could take some of that share from Firefox.

Personally, I don’t care about one company or the other. Apple has billions in the bank and Mozilla is making tens of millions of dollars per year (for a supposedly non-profit organization). So neither is poor and neither needs my support.

I’m supporting alternative browsers (alternative to IE) for purely selfish reasons and I believe you should too.

I’m a webmaster/developer. I create websites. I would absolutely love it if each of the four major browser engines (IE, Safari’s Webkit, Firefox’s Gecko and Opera) gets an even 25% market share. This way, no single browser would have a commanding market share, and web developers like me wouldn’t have to cater to a specific browser.

In a world where all the browsers have an equal market share, it wouldn’t make sense to cater to any one of them. Web developers would create websites according to standards and it would be the browser’s job to be compatible with these standards. This equality would benefit the internet community as a whole. It would take away any control that any browser maker would have on any part of the internet.

This benefits the users in an indirect way. As a user, you would have the choice of whichever browser you would prefer to use and all sites would work with it equally well. It would push browser makers to compete for your attention. Competition would mean better browsers and better features. When Microsoft had 90%+ market share, it stopped developing its browser and disbanded its IE group. The browser market stagnated and there was nothing new until Firefox came into the equation.

So think about where you stand.

To help my wishes come closer to becoming true, I’ve changed the way I support Firefox. It’s still linked to on my site, but now it has to share attention with a link to Safari’s download page.

For those of you who haven’t tried Safari for Windows, I suggest you give it a try. It’s fast, very fast. It’s elegant and the most standard compliant browser out there. It renders pages like Safari for the Mac, which in my opinion is the most beautiful web page rendering style there is.

Download Safari