Blog Post

Why Firefox 4 Replaces Safari as My Default Browser

I’ve tried all the browsers you can possibly think of, but I’ve always ended up going back to Safari (s aapl) after a while, because it offered a better experience. Today’s release of Firefox 4 may be able to change that pattern.

The latest version of Mozilla’s browser includes a lot of new features, including tabs-on-top (a feature many people missed when it was removed from the Safari beta), App Tabs (similar to Google Chrome’s (s goog) pinned tabs) and a new full screen mode. All are features which aren’t present in Safari, and ones that have me eager to stick with Firefox 4 for the long haul.

Firefox's Full Screen mode offers distraction-free browsing.

Of course, there are some features of Safari which Firefox doesn’t offer; the Reader view for one, but I rarely use it anyway, and there are plugins that can take its place. I also like the fact that Safari is based on WebKit, which enables some pretty nice effects on the web such as fading and other animations, but these aren’t yet widely implemented. So far, the benefits seem to outweigh the pitfalls.

One of my favorite new features is the App Tabs part of Firefox. This allows you to pin a certain tab to the tab bar so that it has a permanent place in your browser. This is great since you can have a bunch of these open and they take up hardly any space in the tab bar.

Another new feature is the Tab Groups, which takes a bit of time to set up, but is incredibly useful once it’s done. You can organise your tabs into groups, and then those groups can be manipulated as one, letting you do things like close an entire group of tabs simultaneously. You can resize and drag groups to arrange them however you like. I find that looking for a specific tab is much easier when I have 10 or 15 tabs open if I can look in these groups. It’s nowhere near as easy as this if you’re using Safari.

Mozilla claims that Firefox 4 is significantly faster than the previous version, but I haven’t noticed much difference. However, I have noticed that scrolling in webpages seems to be a lot smoother in version 4. There are also a lot of UI effects which add to the experience; new tabs ‘slide’ into existence rather than simply appearing. Safari doesn’t offer such a smooth experience, in my opinion.

Even though Safari 5 introduced Extensions, the Firefox Add-Ons library is a lot larger and offers a greater range of add-ons than you can get for Safari. For example, the Tab Badge add-on offers something unavailable to Safari users: a badge in the tab bar alerting you to new content, such as a new message on Facebook.

Overall, I’ve found that so far, Firefox 4 offers a better browsing experience than Safari. Unless Safari gets a major update, I won’t be switching back anytime soon. Which browser do you prefer?

31 Responses to “Why Firefox 4 Replaces Safari as My Default Browser”

  1. Terence

    Anyone else notice the change in text rendering from Firefox 3 -> 4? It’s now much more distinct from Quartz’s text rendering and looks very odd next to other Mac applications.

  2. Addison

    When change the tabs on FF4 from on top to underneath the top bar goes narrower & that to me is better. As an apple guy I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if there’s on feature of IE9 others should copy it’s combining the tab & url bar.

    Funny he mentions extension ’cause right now I’ve got customized ones that won’t work on 4 & they’re the only reason I use FF sometimes so I won’t ugrade ’til that’s possible.

    Safari along w/ a build because you run both same time & all setting are same is the way for me. I like topsites, the keyboard short cuts.

    To all the traitors praising chrome, you do know that it’s malware & google tracks & logs your browsing history so it can use the info to better target people with advertising? That’s why you have to agree to a disclaimer before installing. You can be google’s guinea pigs, but not me.

  3. FF4 is an improvement. I like what they have done, but it hasn’t won me over yet. I do like tabs on top and I LOVE the pin tabs feature. I keep considering it and Chrome as a replacement for Safari but Camino is still my second favorite browser. Too bad it doesn’t have the developer resources other browsers have because it could be a real contender.

  4. Dude, NO WAY! a brand new browser is better than an older one!!?

    Pfft…There is no way I am switching to FF. It’s a bloated POS. All the extensions on FF are also on Safari. (in fact there are some that FF doesn’t have) There is no reason to switch.

    Tab groups? Really? Who cares. Eye candy that is barely functional. I get to sites faster with bookmark bar folders.

    Why don’t you chill and see how Safari will perform in Lion. (Safari will have full screen mode in Lion too) It’s right around the corner. Then you can actually compare two “brand new” browsers and it will be a fair fight.

    Chrome is amazing on Windows but is a buggy mess on the Mac.

    Safari really is still the best browser on that operating system, hands down.

  5. Cold Water

    I’ve long considered Safari the least-essential component of the Mac experience, and it’s annoying that updates require a restart. Though I understand why, and know that Lion might make that more tolerable, I’d much rather have a separate HTML renderer for non-Safari apps that rarely, if ever, needs updates requiring a restart.

  6. Firefox 4 in combination with AdBlock & DownloadHelper Add-on is the best in my opinion! No adds and a easy way to download YouTube video’s and more..

      • It’s not a AdBlock to stop pop-up windows or something it just make all the unnecessary publicity at the side of internet pages invisible. And there is no option to download YouTube video’s in Safari or other music, video’s,..

    • Stephane

      Actually, Safari has a plugin called AdBlock that looks to be doing exactly the same thing as the Firefox extension. There’s also a plugin to download video on YouTube.

  7. Move to Chrome. I did and won’t go back. Webkit base, frequent updates and extensions. Why would anyone use Firefox? Will Safari ever get me back? Let’s see what Webkit2 has up it’s sleeve.

  8. I use FF for development because of Firebug. Other than that, I use Chrome. I haven’t installed FF4 yet because I don’t know for sure that my development plug-ins work with it. FF3 got to the point that it crashed too often to use as my main browser. The only time Chrome crashes is on Google’s own pages, like GMail, and it doesn’t take the actual browser with it, it just does that “Aw, snap!” thing. Safari just looks clunky to me, never have liked it.

    • I’ve been using ff4 for a few months now. Finally, web developer, firebug and measureit work with ff4.

      If you use jsview, it still doesn’t work unfortunately.

  9. Most of these features have been in Chrome for a long time. I sense some bias.

    Plus Chrome will sync your stuff between installs and has always been faster for me. And more handsome.

    And why do I have to keep downloading new versions of Firefox? Chrome updates itself. Already it’s superior.

  10. I really like the new fire fox. But I will decide my favorite browser when Mac OS X Lion is released. I think Apple has a chance to make Safari something great in the next OS release.

  11. I made the switch from Safari 5.0.4 -> Chrome at the beginning of the year.

    Had no real reason to switch except that I wanted to try it out and see what the raves were all about. Ended up staying with Chrome for a few reasons:
    1. Tab undo retains your browsing history, so you can use the back button. In Safari you only get the tab, no history.
    2. Automatic browser sync with different computers. It syncs everything, even extension, very handy.
    3. Middle button to close a tab

    The things I do miss about Safari:
    1. iTunes integrated bookmark syncing to iOS devices.
    2. Command + 1,2,3 will open up bookmarks from the bookmark bar

  12. Why does everyone keep calling the full screen mode “new”? It’s in Firefox 3, at least on the Mac.

    I have to say, I’m not yet impressed with Firefox 4. Some sites, like Facebook, seem faster, but others are unbearably slow. When I browse to the Chicago Tribune’s website (, it takes ~25 seconds for FF4 to display anything at all on the screen; it’s blank until then. I can see it working, but it doesn’t load progressively. Safari displays the page in under two seconds.

    I also dislike this move, started by Chrome, to remove the bar along the bottom of the window. I just like having that border around the window. I turned the Add-ons Bar back on, but it behaves different. This pop-up location bar is distracting, and it’s one of the big reasons I don’t use Chrome.

    Finally, they still haven’t resolved all the memory leaks. I have only five tabs open, none of them heavy on JavaScript, and Firefox 4 is hogging more than 420 megs of RAM. This is even worse than FF3.

  13. I agree that Firefox 4 is way better than Safari, but how come you dont use chrome? I find Chrome to still be faster than Firefox. I’ve switched over to Chrome exclusively about a year ago for the Mac, and even though I do enjoy Firefox 4, I still find it to be a lot slower than Chrome. I’ve come to value speed for browsers above everything else, considering all the time I spend surfing the web, and though safari seems to focus on appearance and firefox focuses more on power and customization, I’m going to take Chrome’s speed over the two.

      • I KNOW chrome is faster. I’ve watched co-workers wait on Safari to load while I bring up the page completely loaded in Chrome. I know they both are built on webkit, but Google’s rendering of Javascript is incredibly fast and the one-input-area always out-performs Safari. I did notice today that Firefox’s rendering of pages has had a big jump in performance, but for me it will be a matter of whether or not it can properly manage RAM.

  14. Safari

    I am an Apple Fanboy. I’va also tried all the web browsers, and I feel that Safari is the most stable among all.
    I only use Google Chrome instead of Safari for Google websites such as Gmail and Google Docs, because its a lot faster than any other browser.

    I kept Safari as a default browser.

    It seems Apple is working on fixing security holes in the mean time, which is much important than working on improving the UI.

  15. Like you, I have tried all of the browsers and always ended up coming back to Safari. That was until I tried Chrome. It’s fast, minimal UI bulk. The only feature I miss from Safari is the SnapBack to your search results.