Blog Post

A Safari User’s Switch to Chrome

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

I’ve used Safari (s aapl) as my default browser since 2008, but lately I’ve decided to give Google Chrome (s goog) a shot at becoming my new standby. The main reason I chose to give Chrome a chance was that one of the sites I use every day loads like molasses in Safari, yet loads quickly in Chrome.

Since I know some of you are going to mention Firefox, I’ll tell you right now that I’ve ruled it out. It just doesn’t feel right to me. I’ll use Firefox on Windows (s msft), but on a Mac it’s just… weird. Feel free to disagree in the comments.


I suppose Chrome has an attractive interface, but I do think it looks better on Windows, partly because it feels designed for it rather than OS X (look at Chrome’s bookmarks manager and you’ll see what I mean). It just looks better with Aero.

Some aspects of Chrome’s tabs implementation annoy me. Mostly, I’m pretty happy with them, but there are two drawbacks. One being that, because the tabs take up the title bar, there’s less room to drag the window. This isn’t a problem for people who maximize their browser windows, but I like to keep my windows a certain size and I move them around a lot, since I’m always dragging images onto my desktop.

Another side effect of having the tabs in the title bar means that Chrome’s title bar doesn’t really function like one; you never actually see the full title of a web page unless it fits within the tab, which seems like a small complaint, but it’s still annoying.


There were several features I missed from Safari when I switched to Chrome. Probably the one I missed most was Safari’s Reader view, which lets you reformat a long passage of text in an attractive drop-down that cuts out the clutter.

Fortunately, there’s an extension for Chrome that mimics Reader, and actually surpasses it in some ways. The extension’s called iReader and is available in the Chrome extensions gallery. When you hit the arrow keys to scroll through something in Reader for Safari, the cursor doesn’t disappear like it does in normal web pages, but it does in the iReader extension, which is less distracting for me.

Speaking of extensions, there aren’t any extensions I’ve come across for Chrome that aren’t available for Safari, or that I absolutely can’t live without. The opposite isn’t true. In fact, one of the unofficial Safari extensions that I love, ClickToFlash, isn’t available for Chrome, and it looks like that’ll be the case for some time.


It’s almost a crapshoot here. I can tell you that using Chrome feels faster than using Safari, but only a little. They both use the same rendering engine, WebKit, but they use different JavaScript engines, and from what I’ve learned about both Safari’s Nitro and Chrome’s V8, V8 is superior, but the difference in speed is also small.

On the interface performance side, I’ve noticed that when I have about six tabs open in Chrome, dragging the tabs around gets laggy. I don’t experience this lag with Safari, which I think has the best implementation of tab-dragging in any browser.


I can generally say that I’ve experienced more bugs in Chrome than I have in Safari. For instance, in Chrome, almost every time I go back to a Google search result from, say, a Wikipedia page, the page doesn’t display and I’m left with the cute little dead tab face, then I have to re-enter the search in Google. It’s almost a deal-breaker for me.

There are other bugs, of course, but none that are as annoying or pervasive as the above.


Chrome wins here, bar none. Safari is notorious for being a vector of vulnerability attacks, having famously been hacked in just 10 seconds at the annual Pwn2Own contest in 2009, while Chrome was the only browser that wasn’t hacked. However, security isn’t enough to make me switch to Chrome, as there’s very little chance I’d get a virus anyway, since there aren’t many viruses developed for the Mac and I’m a pretty safe surfer.

Will I stay with Chrome?

After using Chrome for a couple of weeks and getting accustomed to all its quirks on the Mac, I’ve decided to switch back to Safari. There just isn’t enough reason for me to stick with Chrome, and the Google search bug mentioned above is a huge annoyance, one that outweighs the poor performance of Safari on the one page that had me considering a switch to begin with.

Did I make the right choice? How’s your experience with Chrome been?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):
HTML5’s a Game-Changer for Web Apps
The Real Impact of Facebook’s New Approach to Gaming
Report: Google’s Voice Possibilities

41 Responses to “A Safari User’s Switch to Chrome”

  1. Chrome sucks on Mac because Steve Jobs is the new devil. I will likely not buy another Apple product….and just a few months ago I was buying new macs for everyone.
    He’s closed down all of his products. They no longer play friendly with a variety of other players…Google (Chrome), Adobe (Flash – ever tried to watch a video on Chrome on Mac?!), and others.

    He had a raving fan, now I’m going to switch back to either a pc (ugh!), or Chrome netbook.

    It is so sad. Someone needs to relieve him of his command. Steve….YOu’re Fired!

  2. Which site was loading slowly in Safari anyway, Alex? Did you ping them about whether they’re testing, even for 5 minutes, in Safari?

    Interesting comments about your browser choice. I’m surprised you didn’t mention looking at Opera, given Opera v10.6x is testing faster than Chrome/Safari (and Opera v10.7x snapshots are scoring even faster), if performance is big for you.

    I’ve been using Opera for years, and it’s interesting to see lots of innovative features trickle down to others (much of them mentioned in the comments, integrated searching, full-text history, inline Find — all from address bar, tab dragging, blocking Flash, etc…).

    Some I didn’t see, that Opera has: Rewind, fast-fwd, paste & go, inline search suggestions from Bing & Wikipedia from URL bar, mouse gestures, draggable Visual Tabs-on-the-side for bigger viewport, remote debugging with Dragonfly and more.

    A feature I’ve liked for about 2 yrs in Opera called, “On-demand plugins” taken from Opera Turbo (in opera:config), Opera speeds up ~20% by blocking all the Flash ads, mostly. Basically, a “ClickForAnyPlugins.”

    I do like Safari’s text box resizing. Very nice. So, I did snag an Opera user.js extension to do that.

    So, if you never tried Opera for a week, lately…since it’s rewritten in Cocoa now, check it out, if you want.

    Btw, what do you think about Google still blocking Opera users from using Instant? One line of browser-sniffing code by Google to make non-techie users think Opera is broken (who don’t know how to go into Opera’s site-prefs to change to ID=Firefox).

    Not. Cool.

  3. I tried other browsers different than Safari too, but never got to make the switch. Even in Windows I’m still using Safari even though it’s not -that- great.

    I’m a MobileMe subscriber and I love to have my bookmarks synced across all my devices, MobileMe sync doesn’t work with Chrome or Firefox; only Safari and IE, which of course, I uninstalled from every Windows computer I own.

  4. I’ve switched to Chrome for one reason only. When I launch Safari my hard disk starts working like crazy and performance is poor. I never experience this with Chrome. Frankly I prefer Safari’s design and features (especially the RSS reader), but the sluggish performance irritates me. Surely the native Apple browser should perform best on the Mac?

  5. I used to be a hardcore Safari fanatic but on my computer I’ve since moved away from webkit browsers now that my internet is super slow. For some reason Safari and Chrome always hang up on my computer with a slow internet connection… and although Firefox isn’t the fastest, it still seems to load everything more reliably than Safari. Dunno why… it seems stupid. But under a 10meg connection Safari wins out by far. Chrome is okay… but the interface is ungodly ugly.

  6. Moritz Schmale

    After a long time using Safari as my primary browser, I switched back to the Firefox 4 Beta. I Have noticed that it uses just a half of the memory Safari uses (It often owns ~600 MB, thats 2/3 of my total memory). Also there are waaaay more extensions for Firefox and since version 3, it feels really home in OS X. I also experienced many crashes with Safari 5, now with Firefox 4 (which is a beta, I said it before) I haven’t got any crash.
    Now Firefox Sync is build-in from the start so I sync my whole profile with the other PC at home (Which has one Ubuntu 10.10 and Windows 7 installed).

    All in all, I’m very content with Firefox. More Addons, Less Memory and the (free) Sync-Service are just a few of the Pros of Firefox.

  7. I have been using both Safari and Chrome side by side since Chrome was released. I was initially enamored with Chrome for its speediness and extensions, but I think Safari has caught up in both areas. But Chrome sometimes has a problem loading many tabs but I found that turning off DNS pre-fetching helps page loads a lot. Go figure.

    I like Chrome’s clean look and lines, I like Safari’s integration into Mac OS X. I never was that big a fan of Firefox. It’s Netscape without the mail client.

    My hugest complaint about Chrome is its total lack of implementation of Mac OS X Services. I use Services all the time, to copy text into a new document in another app, to look up a URL quickly in a different browser, all sorts of things. For instance, if I highlight some text in Safari and bring up Services, I can create a new BBEdit or TextEdit document, add it to OmniOutliner, send it in an email, make it a TextExpander snippet, all sorts of things. I find people don’t use or know about this treasure in Mac OS X but it’s a pure delight and implemented in most OS X apps – but not in Chrome. This is a serious oversight.

    I use Google Docs every day, all day, and Chrome obviously shines in that area. I edit many websites in GoDaddy, which does not like Chrome at all but loves Safari. So I have needs for both, and they both work well.

    Other than the lack of services, Chrome is a winner, just like Safari. (They are my browsers of choice when I use Windows as well.)

  8. Hi! I just want to say I did it the same way for the same reasons few moths ago. I liked that Chrome launches so quickly opens sites faster than Safari.. But the thing is that Safari is more friendly to osx then any other browser. For example Spotlight search. You can search there for websites you’ve visited with Safari browser, no other. Then you’ll find that Chrome has some issues with flash. I’m not sure, but i think it shows less fps and you can feel some kind of latency.. Despite that i continued to use chrome. I needed RSS browser for chrome, so I started to use Google reader. I deleted then all my rss feed urls from safari and the change was huge. It started to work as a bee again. So It has this good rss feed option but it’s laggy. I have Safari, Chrome and firefox now. But i love Safari the most. Chrome is for the times when I give my MacBook to someone to check email or facebook in some situations. And firefox just for some plugins i need.

  9. neofactor

    1Password is on Chrome… but a half breed at best! No thanks. Safari wins. Plus… I hate to say it but our School uses Microsoft’s [email protected] and Chrome is not supported… safari is though.

    I like Chrome… don’t get me wrong… but I have been very happy leaving Firefox for Safari… no issues here. I still play with all the rest but my default WILL remain safari.

  10. Hhmmm. Let’s see now: not safari, not the iPad as an iPad, not the new innovations in tunes, but the old ones. Misrepresentation of the Apple TV. There seems to be a pattern here. LIES AND DISTORTIONS! You guys need to change your name: not the apple blog, the anti-apple blog. Later, gator!

    • Cold Water

      I share the gripe about the tiny space often left for the title, but otherwise, yeah, I’m really not sure what’s wrong with his setup.

      I was never very fond of Safari, but Chrome makes my Mac happy.

  11. Firefox was one the shining star in the alternative browser market, but in its race to beat explorer, it has become explorer. It is slow, buggy, and deleted from my dock.

    I like the idea of chrome as an alternative to Safari, but it offers me virtually nothing I cannot get with safari.

  12. iBookmaster

    Hard to beat Safari. I like it best because of 2 features Chrome & Firefox don’t have. Command, Control, D for instant word definitions and Control clicking on photos to add to iPhoto library. I try other browsers but always come back to Safari.

    • There’s a great extension for dictionary lookup for Chrome – Google Dictionary. Double-click a word and the definition pops up; or, highlight and click it’s icon in the address bar.

      • iBookmaster

        Thanks doog, I have that installed in Chrome. Chrome is looking good for sure. I will still be trying it out from time to time. Who knows, I might end up switching! Chrome does seem to not be such a memory hog as Safari over time.

  13. @roofus, yes it does. It’s not as full featured yet, but there’s an extension for Chrome.


    You failed to mention THE best features of Chrome … maybe you don’t know about them?

    The omnibox is phenomenal! Why do the other browsers (Safari included) have two text boxes, one for search and one for addresses? It does not make sense. Plus, in the omnibox you can search through your history and favorites. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you like to keep your hands on the keyboard and off the mouse, this is really great. I have a “read later” bookmarklet for my instapaper account. I do ‘ctrl+l’ and start typing ‘read …’ and press enter. Done.

    One of the coolest and under-publicized features of Chrome is the ability to search within any website from the omnibox. So, assuming you’ve visited youtube (as an example), Chrome knows how to perform a search there. So you start typing “youtube” in the address bar, then press ‘tab’ and whatever your query is, and press enter. Boom, you’ve got your search results on without having to go to the youtube website first.

    There’s so much more I could say, but I have to mention the download manager. It stays out of the way and yet is always visible when you need it. Also very easy to use.

    I’ve only had the ‘sad-tab’ crash happen twice … and I’ve been using Chrome on the Mac since the pre-beta days (chromium, actually). There must be another issue with your configuration. And I’ve never had problems dragging tabs, even with 10 or more tabs open.

  14. Good article. I gave Chrome a shot when it was first introduced to Mac OS X and didn’t like it for a number of reasons. Tried it again about a month ago, saying I’d give it a week. Well, I’m still using it as my primary browser. Go figure! I was a FF and Safari user for years. Chrome definitely needs to add 1 Password, as was already mentioned, but it is much faster to me than Safari. I’ve gotten used to its quirks.

    Definitely not for everyone, but a very capable, safe browser.

  15. tangobozo

    I think you gave Chrome a fair shot. Similar story for me, except I’ve been using FF for 5 years and Safari and Chromes as backups. I had to give up on FF completely because of too much trouble managing busted extensions, slow startups, choppy video, etc.

    The big advantage for Safari is that it well connected to the system, loads quick, some nice extensions now. Chrome, no 1Password, no Netflix. Can not abide that.

    Safari is pretty nice, though it took them long enough to get there.

  16. Interesting notes. It seems like the mac version is not going so smoothly. Windows versions are far more stable than any browser I have used before. The dev builds of chrome go through various stages but often are fixed within a few days. To me this just means they are making bigger changes for bigger benefit, maybe, I like to think so at least.