Blog Post

Why Not Integrate Safari With Finder?

When Microsoft embedded Internet Explorer with Windows, it was an obvious anti-competetive move intended to thwart the growth of the Netscape browser and benefit from the company’s operating system monopoly. The tactic worked, helping to send Netscape into a death-spiral. But if you think about it, years after the dust has settled, and the court cases are history, it wasn’t a bad idea after all, to marry the browser with the desktop experience. And Apple has all the tools to do it themselves, the right way, without raising the ire of the legal system.

The WebKit engine underlying Safari also powers both Apple applications, including Mail, and many third party apps, like BareBones’ BBEdit. The next logical step, in my mind, is to WebKit-enable the Finder, letting me type in a URL, search Google, or access my bookmarks directly from my desktop, without having to open Safari. We can already see similar functionality with how you can play MP3 files within the finder without opening iTunes or view photos without opening iPhoto.

Click to See One Mockup of a Safari-Enabled Finder

There’s no good reason that I can type a URL in Windows to open a Web site immediately, and my Mac won’t give me the same option. And Apple’s low market share may actually give the company an advantage when competitive questions are raised. I’ve attached a quick mockup with one way today’s Finder (pre-Leopard) would look with embedded URL entry and bookmark access. What’s holding Apple back? Wouldn’t this be a useful feature?

34 Responses to “Why Not Integrate Safari With Finder?”

  1. You are thinking in the wrong way here. Safari should not be integrated in Finder, but Finder in Safari.

    I can’t wait to remove my harddrive from my laptop and use some diskspace in the cloud. Harddrives can fall, can crash, are always too small… whatever. Just gimme some space that acts like a hardrive and I’m a happy camper.

    Of course, that will take a couple of years, you know, to get sufficient bandwidth and OSS (open standards storage). But then you just fire up your browser (or Finder) to access your files… anywhere, anytime.

    Anyone have a screwdriver?

  2. I think this would only work if your files were stored on a server, like Google docs, and your files would open in webapps, too. But this would make it a thin-client. It would really only be useful if it linked your files to the web somehow.
    And yeah. The way Microsoft did it was retarded.

  3. No!

    Browsers are not tomorrow’s OS. Webapps are tomorrow’s apss though, but it’s not the same thing.

    Anyone still think that Thin-client is gonna take over the world? ;-)

  4. You write, “[I] think a lot more that today’s browsers are tomorrow’s OS’”

    That doesn’t make sense. Browsers are browsers and OS are Operating Systems that run computers. A browser is merely a programme that interprets data on the internet and displays it on the screen (or loudspeaker). An OS is the operating system that boots the computer and makes it read to receive further instructions to do whatever.

    I am with the other users that the Finder and the browser should remain separate. While I spend a lot of time in the browser, I spend time in the Finder organising files or opening them. A browser is not supposed to do that.

    Furthermore, as everyone else has said, integrating the browser into the Finder means you are breaking down a pre-existing security barrier between the internet and local folders/documents. Bad idea.

  5. ReginaldW

    Reading another blog tonight would explain a lot on why I vote no.,00.shtml

    ‘Make each program do one thing and do it well’, Doug wrote in a memo to ‘dmr’ and ‘ken’. ‘And instead of adding on bells and whistles at a later date you make a new program instead’, he added.

    So, instead of adding Safari or web-browsing functionality into the Finder, why not someone creating a browser that has file browsing functionality built-in that you could live with. Then, you could just stay in your browser of choice.

    So, webkit is available as the basic building block. That could be the start. Just add in file handing routines and stay in the browser. Just be aware of all the security vulnerabilities/holes that it entails.

    I don’t see enough benefits to bring the browser into the finder to change my mind. I don’t live on the web enough, though I visit often.

  6. Whether or not this is done, I would still not use the Safari application, I like all of my extensions in Firefox, even if it is slower than Opera or Safari.

    Unless this new “discoverer” application takes the best of all worlds, then I won’t use it. It would almost seem unnecessary, but who am I to say what is what?

  7. Poncho

    I’m afraid I think that would be a terrible idea. I know what you’re saying about converging the applications to make it easier to live every day on the internet as well as on the “desktop”, but I think it would only cause confusion to new and inexperienced users.

    For instance… My Dad has an iMac with the latest version of Tiger on it. After taking a basic computer course years ago on Mac OS 8, he has just about got used to the fact that he needs to open Mail to send and receive his emails but has to open Address Book to add or edit his contacts’ details.

    Not only do “power users” benefit from having dedicated applications for specific workflows, so too does the novice. It’s obvious what each Apple application does (for the most part), iTunes for music, iPhoto for pictures, Safari for the internet, so combining any of these tasks under one application would be wasted effort and wouldn’t really help you, me or my Dad. I also think Finder isn’t really thought of as an application, it’s just there, it’s “how I view and manage my documents”.

    I think the new Finder in Leopard could be really good, it’s obviously needed an upgrade for a looong time, but I think it could really start to display the “obvious” quality that other Apple applications have for their specific workflows. Safari is getting there as a decent browser and it’s now getting some recognition outside us Apple geeks that it is a good browser, not as good as Firefox but it’s still a young project. It’s only going to get better too :)

    In short… no I think it would be a terrible idea. You do have a point though, with more and more of our work and recreation being internet-centric, maybe “the browser” needs a boost in prominence on the operating system. How that would work I’m not quite sure…


  8. Along with the security issues others have pointed out how about that fact that Safari is pretty heavy at times (get a dozen or so tabs open and compare it to Firefox) and can still be easily crashed with bad javascript or even jacked up jpeg files.

    Louis you must be one of those swiss army knife guys who wants a single application that does everything. I am more of a switchblade type of person myself who just wants a quick and streamlined application that does what I need it to do. I need the Finder to browse my files, I need Safari… well I don’t need Safari since I use Firefox.

  9. @Louis

    Your original comment (#13) made it much more clear what your overall point is. That said, I still think “the web as the next OS” is a flawed concept. As an example, I don’t spend a lot of my time in Garage Band, but when I do, if I had to use a safari/garage band hybrid—or worse, a Web 2.0 garage band replacement—I would be miserable.

    The finder represents a high-level view of the user’s hard-drive(s)—so being able to quickly grok a file’s contents is naturally a benefit, but there’s no reason to try to take that and run with it. Like you said, the finder can play MP3s (and has been able to for a few 10.X versions), but I don’t see people ditching iTunes for it any time soon. That doesn’t even get into the fact that all the apps (other than safari) you mentioned were designed with the intention of reading/editing local files (network mounted drives aside): safari is a completely different kind of beast. The aethertubes represent a paradigm that has come to be worlds apart from disk-browsing; combining the finder and safari would be like combining a honda civic and a yacht just because they both go places: you probably could, but it would be an abomination.

    That said, rolling with the punches a good talent for a blogger :)

  10. Sorry, but I’ve got to agree with Izzy. No offense.

    Not a good idea (why else would Microsoft do it… it’s a bad idea). Safari is for web browsing, and Finder is for file management (though many people agree it’s a slow clunky monster, and use PathFinder or Quicksilver to accomplish things instead).

  11. rjschwarz

    You can browse your folders using Safari so you can sort of do what you want already, just without integration. Try it for a week and see what you think. I’m guessing you’ll find that extra click isn’t even a problem if you just keep Safari open.

  12. Kendall Tawes

    Didn’t Vista actually re-separate IE and the file browser. It would seem odd to do something Microsoft found to be too bad to continue. Besides I knew many people who got the Windows 98 version that used the Windows 95 file browser just to have less exploits. Some things are better separated and I hope there will not be some iTunes exploits in Leopard’s browser due to those upcoming updates.

  13. Looks like the votes are 11-1 against. Fairly one-sided. Yet, I’m beginning to think a lot more that today’s browsers are tomorrow’s OS’s. It’s my feeling that most of us spend a lot more time in Safari than we do Finder. (Or E-mail)

    Could be worth a later discussion. Thanks for your feedback!

  14. I will also echo the 9 other people here and say that putting WebKit into the Finder and/or the OS is a really really bad idea.

    I see no need to put an internet address bar in the finder so that a user could enter a web address and now show a webpage instead of a folder on their hard drive. The two workflows are completely different.

    If you want to jump to a webpage while in the finder, use Spotlight, or use one of the many programs out there that allow you to search the web from outside a browser like Huevos.

  15. michel

    it was a really bad idea

    and ie 4 was very ugly

    and ie5, ie6 and now ie7 was in fact reversing the damage of ie4

    webbrowsing is NOT local file.

    even kde switch from that with kde4. konqueror is splitted in two specifics application (old konqueror is still alive, don’t be afraid ,you power users)

    so : NO !

  16. Safari, including 3.0 beta, is the most bug-filled application I run regularly. It has so many memory leaks, I have to close and restart it several times a day. And it crashes more than any other application I use.

    Building Safari into the Finder would be a foolish idea. Safari needs to be fixed not integrated, where its problems cause other problems.

  17. You know, I think that this is actually a very good idea. It would also mean that there is only one codebase to work from which would mean more developers to work on the product. Unfortunately it will not happen though.

  18. Why not?

    Because we aren’t Windoze and don’t want to be.

    And Safari isn’t the best at everything, so why foist it on the rest of the OS?

    We have enough problems with Apple trying to unify Leopard with an iTunes interface – which we don’t need. Safari-fying would be equally bad.

  19. The whole issue against IE and OS integration is the fact that if IE is breached so is the entire OS.

    Webkit and Finder would mean exactly the same thing. BAD BAD MOVE.

    And by your argument why not just stick iPhoto and iWeb into it too, integration is a good thing when apps talk to each other, but not necessarily combining things for the hell of it.

  20. MT36000

    Finder is for the OS and Safari and WebKit for the internet…

    and I don’t think it will be safe and great to be as idiot as Microsoft is !

    You are saying : “But if you think about it, years after the dust has settled, and the court cases are history, it wasn’t a bad idea after all, to marry the browser with the desktop experience.” Personally, I cannot say that (I’d rather say : “It’s the worst idea they (Microsoft) had maybe with the one of using bad photocopiers!”)

    I feel a lot more secure with OS X than I felt with Windows!
    Thanks a lot again, Apple to have made OS X as it is and not as some poorly minded people would want to have it!

  21. I think I prefer the Finder to Microsoft Explorer, thank you very much..

    The good thing about Apple apps, is that they tend to do one thing, and do it well… Not only are there severe security-implications of integrating WebKit into the OS, you’d also end up with an app that potentially would end up trying to do too much, and fail at it all…

    (See: Windows File Explorer)

  22. Michael

    There is the malware concern raised by an earlier poster.

    From the user experience perspective, the integration of safari and finder to be the same thing blurs the distinction between a web page and a folder on the system. As we have seen on Windows, this blurring results in users not distinguishing between a web page and what is on their system. The resulting confusion is problematic.

    In principle, there is no reason why the Finder address bar could not be extended to be aware of Safari. That is, if the user types a web address into the Finder, then the Finder launches Safari to open the web page.

    But to a large extent, I think that integration of Safari into Finder is a solution looking for a problem. With the additional drawback that this “solution” introduces user experience issues and possibly opens malware holes.

  23. Considering 90% + of Windows malware gets into the system due to the close integration of Explorer with the OS core, Apple’s following suit would be a mistake of MASSIVE proportions.