Paul Thurrott: Safari is From Apple, Therefore I Hate It

Paul Thurrott has weighed in with his opinion of the new Safari 4 update, and he’s not impressed. While no surprise, it’s the manner in which he blasts the product (and, of course, Apple’s users) that was especially interesting.

I was wondering how Thurrott was going to counter the incredible speed of the browser engine. Apple’s own marketing aside, others have tested it and confirmed it to be the fastest web browser available. I assumed he’d blast the test methodology, or claim that IE 8 would be better (though IE 8 was in the tests), etc. But no, he took a different tack altogether. He simply acknowledged the browser engine is good, and then blasted the UI because he’s apparently a manly man who doesn’t need no steenking graphics.

I Don’t Like Apple’s Products, They Shouldn’t Either

So let’s see what pearls of wisdom we get from Mr. Thurrott:

Of course, Apple being Apple, they are promoting Safari 4 as if it were the second coming. It’s “the world’s fastest, most efficient, and most innovative” browser, according to the humble folks in Cupertino.

Good point. Why can’t Apple’s marketing department just say their stuff sucks and be done with it? One question, though: Why is it when Microsoft lies (the CEO, no less) Thurrott doesn’t care? Odd that he has a lie detector on everyone at Apple, but seems to ignore Microsoft’s own CEO.

Tabs on Top, Thinking on Bottom

Apple’s worst decision in this browser is the way it handles tabs… in Safari, tabs are integrated into the title bar area.

Apple claims that moving the tabs to the title bar saves space. But it only saves space because Safari now uses a native-like title bar: In previous versions of the browser, there was no true title bar, so the tab row didn’t really add to the height of the UI.

Huh?

safari3titlebar

Apple also claims that the new Tabs on Top reduces clutter, but the truth is, on Vista and 7, it looks horrible and cluttered.

Lots of people have opinions on this, Mac and PC. I see no reason for a window’s title bar to be sacrosanct. In my opinion, using it for tabs means the title bar is, in fact, showing the title of the currently displayed window (tab). I could make a valid case that putting tabs there lets the title bar do what it’s supposed to do.

Top Sites (and Top Shots at Apple’s Users)

Now let’s see what Thurrott has to say about Top Sites:

Apple fanatics–you know, those idiots who would buy anything with an Apple logo on it–will get all giddy and clap like little girls at a Hannah Montana concert when they see Top Sites, the new default Safari 4 home page. But these people are missing the point (what else is new?)

Hmm, that isn’t really about Top Sites at all, is it? Of course, no Thurrott opinion piece is complete without blasting Apple’s user base. Odd that he does so while still claiming that Mac users are the smug ones, isn’t it?

Top Sites’ curved, TV-like display would look wonderful on, well, a TV. But it’s pointlessly visual in a tool that, by nature, is used to find information online.

Fifty bucks to anyone who can honestly decipher that statement. What the heck is “pointlessly visual” supposed to mean? Hey, maybe Thurrott’s whole post is “pointlessly textual!” And what the heck does finding information online have to do with whether it should be visual or not? Geez, most of us don’t use Lynx any more.

It’s unclear why a simple grid of Web site previews wouldn’t be just as useful, and more in keeping with the Web browser aesthetic. Oh, right: Microsoft did it first, in IE 7, over two years ago

No they didn’t, but I don’t expect the Windows SuperSite to know the difference. The IE feature shows a visual grid of the tabs currently running. This is hardly the same as showing a visual grid of the sites you visit most often. But, as long as Thurrott brought it up, why isn’t IE’s feature “pointlessly visual?” Because IE’s grid is not curved? Really? So I guess the problem with Apple’s display is that it just looks too good for simple, hardworking Windows folk.

The nicest thing about Top Sites is that you can turn it off:

No, the nicest thing about Top Sites is that it’s customizable in terms of what, where, and how many items it shows. Unfortunately, it’s just too visual for poor Thurrott! If only Apple had made it uglier.

As for me, my “top sites” have always been in my Bookmarks Bar so I can access them via keyboard, but I’m going to use Top Sites for the visual history search that, as we’ll see presently, Thurrott also doesn’t believe in.

Cover Flow (Or, More Visuals? Ahhhhh!!!)

And speaking of pointless visual effects, allow me to point out the most recent and most egregious use of Apple’s Cover Flow display… it makes absolutely no sense at all in a browser. Naturally, Apple added it to Safari… it’s hard to even know where to start, and of course we’ll have to discuss it over the giddy clapping of those easily-impressed Apple geeks in the corner.

From some of the articles and comments I’ve read elsewhere, Thurrott is not alone in this thinking, but people need to give it a rest. When it comes to Cover Flow, it appears there are only two kinds of people:

  • Those that recognize it can be useful sometimes, and use it for those occasions.
  • Those that have no idea how to grab a handle and drag it to the top.

Well, here’s my view of it, and I better speak up lest Thurrott not hear me over my “giddy clapping” (quick question: is clapping “pointlessly audible?”). Below is what my Safari Collections look like.

coverflow-closed

As you’ll see, there’s nothing there but the search box (which, being text-based, I’m sure Thurrott approves of). I do this because for my bookmarks I don’t normally need a preview. I generally know them pretty well. And I’d rather have the real estate for dragging bookmarks around or deleting them, which are the primary reasons I visit this page.

On the other hand, when searching through History, I find the page preview tremendously helpful. These are pages I haven’t bookmarked and don’t know as well. To access this I go to the Top Sites page and hit the search box.

As just one example, I wanted to go back to a specific Lynx page I had stumbled across after finding the link above. No way I’d remember the URL, but the page preview made it easy to find the page amongst all those in search for Lynx.

cf-history

Another example was last night when I had done some comparison shopping for a new digital camera. The pages really add up, and then I wanted to get back to one I’d seen earlier. A visual search made it a snap to find the page I wanted.

So, for me, Cover Flow is less useful for sites I know (bookmarks), but in only 24 hours it has already been extremely valuable for searching history. But, alas, it’s just so…visual. Thurrott’s eyes!

Look, I’m no Luddite. … This stuff is pointless.

The last sentence above negates the first.

In Conclusion (Or, How I Explain That Internet Explorer Is Just Fine)

So, how does Thurrott wrap this all up? Exactly in the manner you’d expect:

I still feel that Internet Explorer (7 or 8) and Firefox 3 are better Windows Web browsers than their WebKit-based competitors, and that has nothing to do with the underlying Web rendering technologies involved and everything to do with functionality. Both browsers are simply better in day to day usage.

Hmm, yes, who wouldn’t prefer this dazzling interface:

ie-menu-21

to this one:

safari-menu

I suspect most people who excitedly try Safari 4 will very quickly move back to the more comfortable confines of IE or Firefox. I already have.

Amazing. In less than 24 hours Thurrott gleaned that Safari is too visual. He also learned that IE is confining, and that he prefers those confines. Good for him.

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