Blog Post

Four reasons I switched to Safari after years of using Chrome and why I’ll probably switch back

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

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

After upgrading to OS X Yosemite last week, I got an interesting notification when booting up Chrome for the first time. Apple wanted me to give Safari on the desktop another try. Instead of dismissing it, I booted up Safari for the first time since I used it to download Chrome. After years of using Google Chrome as the primary browser on my Mac, I’m not going back, at least not yet. Here are a few reasons why:


1. It definitely feels faster

In my limited usage, it feels like Safari is quicker to load pages, is less likely to lag, and my whole computer just feels a little lighter. I no longer have Google Chrome Helper — a catch-all for rogue Chrome extensions and plug-ins — hogging the majority of my CPU cycles, either.

Other people are backing up my anecdotal evidence with benchmarks. [company]Apple[/company] claims that Safari beats Chrome and Mozilla Firefox on several JavaScript performance benchmarks including JSBench and Apple’s new JetStream test. Stephen Shankland at CNET ran a few benchmarks of his own that largely agree with Apple’s findings.

The one claim I’m a little more dubious about is that Safari provides longer battery life for MacBook laptops. I haven’t noticed a bump in battery life, but that might be because I usually have a lot of tabs up at once, including ones that are using Adobe Flash, like Spotify’s web client. It’s nice that Safari natively supports Netflix and no longer requires you to install a plug-in.

It’s also worth noting that Safari runs in 64-bit mode and the stable version of Chrome on OS X is currently is 32-bit, although that doesn’t make a huge difference to the end user.

2. Apple’s ecosystem pull is stronger than ever for iPhone users

Although there’s a great mobile Chrome app for iOS devices, I’ve tended to stick with Safari because it’s been faster. Changes in iOS 8 WebKit allow Chrome and other browsers to use Apple’s fast Nitro JavaScript engine, but Safari is still my choice because it’s the default — I like that it’s the browser that other apps choose (are forced to) to open pages in.

And Safari has largely caught up with Chrome in terms of browser sync features. The new Handoff feature is a very easy way to send a tab from your phone to your desktop, and iCloud can sync bookmarks, history, tabs and Apple’s read-later service Reading List.

I also started using iCloud Keychain as my primary way of saving passwords, and I’m finding its password and credit card autofill feature to be surprisingly good on mobile, and I feel that it’s a little more secure than Chrome’s way of storing passwords, which used to be in plaintext. I particularly like that iCloud Keychain requires an iOS device to have a passcode.

3. The new tab page is nearly perfect

I’m a big fan of Safari’s new tab page, specifically the favorites view. You get big, clickable buttons for the very few websites you designate as a “favorite” — like a Bookmarks bar — and below that, buttons for frequently viewed websites. You can easily drag a frequently viewed page into favorites.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 9.47.20 PM

Your “Favorites” sync with Safari on iOS, and I’ve found it to be the most convenient way to get around many of the problems surrounding mobile bookmarks, namely that nobody uses them. Chrome has a similar feature, but the way Safari syncs a small amount of core bookmarks is very elegant.

The left sidebar is surprisingly useful. Reading List is a very lightweight way to save a webpage to read later, which is appreciated after years of services like Instapaper and Pocket adding more features I don’t necessarily want. Although heavy Twitter users might find the list of shared links from your timeline superfluous, I thought it was a good way to find something to read before starting the aimless browsing that Twitter can encourage.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 9.45.31 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 9.45.18 PM

In contrast, Chrome’s new tab page has a Google search bar (redundant because there’s one at the top of your browser) and eight recently used webpages, but instead of favicon Google has opted for screen previews, which don’t really add any useful information and look kind of junky.

4. Native OS X notifications are elegant

Notifications on OS X has improved a lot in OS X Yosemite, thanks to a growing importance for calling features part of Continuity. Safari works with the Mac’s native notifications, as opposed to Chrome which has its own notifications system, which is the bell in your notifications bar. Aesthetically, I prefer Apple’s notifications.

I even found that I liked the Safari push notifications from individual sites. While there are some high-volume sites that will ping you several times an hour, there are many sites — including Gigaom — which only push notifications for stories that they think are important.

There’s a chance I may switch back to Chrome. Here’s why

Chrome is vastly superior at tab management. Safari doesn’t provide favicons in its tabs, which makes it easy to lose a page you need for reference. In addition, because of Chrome’s other life as a complete operating system, it handles web pages much better as apps. The pin tab feature is indispensable for the way I work, and really is perfect for Gmail or Calendar tabs.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 9.46.44 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 9.45.56 PM

I also missed a little bit of the Google integration, like the ability to left click and search by image, or automatic translation.

Although the way Safari presents tabs can promote focus, the fact is, if you’re a heavy browser user, the way Chrome handles background tabs is superior and better reflects the importance of web apps in many people’s workflow. But if you’re written off Safari in the past, it’s time to give it another try.

49 Responses to “Four reasons I switched to Safari after years of using Chrome and why I’ll probably switch back”

  1. Mark Fleming

    It is so crazy that Safari does not have the ability to Pin a tab. People can talk about all the other cool tab functions, but not being able to pin a tab for me is a deal breaker, the way I use a browser. I wonder why there is no extension for this.

    The other problem I have is that I cannot have distinct user sessions. Chrome lets me do this. Without this, I cannot run everything I need as I have cookie problems.

    I’m trying real hard to find a way to use Safari, because using Chrome (even 64-bit Canary) is killing my battery.

  2. PitBullCH

    I was a Firefox user on Windows for many years (IE was and still is awful) and this carried through with my switch to Mac in early 2008 – however Firefox performance got slower and slower and I gave up, switched to Safari for a year or three before switching to Chrome for the past few years as it was generally much faster and had more extensions available.

    I have generally been happy with Chrome – except it too seems slower than it used to be, plus it keeps switching Google notifications back on, and recent releases have taken to installing extensions for the various Google docs without asking. On top of that, the 64-bit (albeit still beta) release is quite buggy and prone to crashing.

    So I took another look at Safari on Yosemite – admittedly prompted by this article – and you know: it’s ok so far. It is slower than Chrome on startup, but after that they seem comparable. Not all my Chrome extensions were available (e.g. privacy badger, https everywhere) but by and large I found replacements for most of these. I miss the favicons (Glim is not yet updated for Yosemite/Safari 8 and the current version installs but does not work), but I do like the favourites page (there was something similar on Chrome – SpeedDial perhaps).

    So given the performance, suitable extensions, great integration with IOS, and further freedom from the increasingly evil Google, I’ll be sticking with Safari for a while.

    Thanks for the article which prompted this switch :-)

  3. 王昕烨

    Agreed. I already switched back due to the reasons you listed plus: omnibar for searching history; close tabs to the right; and command + number for switching tabs. Moreover I’m a developer and the dev tools in chrome is more familiar to me.

  4. Luca Hammer

    I switched back to Firefox on my Laptop because how it handles tabs. They are only loaded when the are active. All that weren’t active at least once in the actual session won’t be loaded into RAM. Awesome for mobile devices.

  5. Sorry Apple, while Safari integrates well with my iOS devices, Chrome still seems faster to me and definitely deals with multiple open tabs a lot better in terms of performance and UI. Also, there are tons more cool and useful extensions available for Chrome.

  6. I have two newer macbooks one with 8G ram and the other with 4GB, both run Chrome and Safari fine (yes Safari is now faster) but the Chrome pain is memory hogging … all those helpers….

  7. Howlin' Wind

    I resent Apple’s hobbling of Chrome in Yosemite and don’t want to reward the company for a cowardly move, but I also need to get work done. Interesting that in the face of stiffer competition from Google, Apple went hard right on its closed system approach. Maybe its leadership needs to watch that 1984 commercial again.

  8. The biggest reason why I switched from Safari is the lack of support for Profiles. I like to have a work profile and a personal profile in my browsers and while Chrome supports it smoothly (and firefox with some work), Apple flat out refuses to add any kind of profile support for Safari.

    Though I do switch between Mac and Linux, syncing profiles is not as big a deal as compared to supporting them in the first place. In fact I use Chrome on Mac OS X and Firefox on Linux just to avoid monoculture :-).

  9. James Reyes

    I went through a similar experience.

    As an iPhone and Mac user, Safari’s big draw is the iCloud syncing. I’ll often start an article or something on my phone and finish on my Mac.

    However, Chrome remains my default browser. It’s just better for the way I work.
    Pinned tabs are indispensable. One other thing that has become indispensable to me is the ability to highlight and drag text or links into a new tab. I also like the developer tools in Chrome a lot better.

    I was hoping the Yosemite upgrade would work better for me (the UI is nicer), and I gave it a shot for a week, but ended up back to Chrome. I’m rooting for Safari. If Safari solved these problems, I’d default to Safari.

  10. kesavkolla

    The one important feature I’m sticking to chrome is multi profile. I typically differentiate my personal and office work. Chrome lets me have different profile for each and thus I can have different search history, book marks and also google signin. This is by far the most standout feature for me.

  11. “It’s also worth noting that Safari runs in 64-bit mode and the stable version of Chrome on OS X is currently is 32-bit, although that doesn’t make a huge difference to the end user.”

    Yes it does — I actually was forced to switch back to Safari because one of my research programs (using Markov logic networks if I recall correctly) required use of a 64-bit browser.

  12. I fully agree with this article. I switched last week and Safari is definitely faster, I’m surprised that all of the extensions I needed were available, and I feel that Apple isn’t tracking me the way Google does. That said, the lack of favicons is a huge PITT and maybe enough to force me back to Chrome.

  13. Like Kif I switched to Safari after using Chrome for many years. Safari will remain my main browser, but I will use Chrome from time to time too as it has some advantages.

    • James Champlin

      I only have Chrome installed to use Flash stuff. That way I can have it available without having to F up my Macintosh with the damn plugin.

      For me it’s mainly about how I’ve fallen out of love with El Goog as they’ve turned into shysters.

  14. I prefer Safari as my main browser especially since I don’t install Flash on my Mac. I use Chrome as my backup browser which works out nicely since it has Flash built-in. I get to avoid Flash on the web except when I specifically want it.

    I like Safari Reader view, the way it handles bookmarks, the synchronization with my other macs / iOS devices, speediness and that it feels like a Mac app.

    For the folks who mention Favicons – why are they important – how do they help you?

  15. Nicholas Paredes

    I am looking forward to a new Mac for one single reason — to switch away from Chrome. Why? Because Chrome is a memory hogging beast that runs my battery into the dirt. I like it, but not enough to maintain it on a machine with the fan continually running. As soon as I disable Chrome, my Air seems to run a lot more smoothly. Why wait? Because I want to spend a week and completely clean out my system and services, including iTunes.

  16. Kif, I had similar experience like yours. Just after upgrading to OS X Yosemite, I did switch to Safari and then back to Chrome. Favicons – well spotted, second thing is shortcuts, I got so used to Chrome (FF has similar shortcuts too), it became difficult switching tabs and even from developer perspective, Safari lags in terms of plugins available and other tools.

    Overall, Safari did come a long way and has much improved features.

  17. Peter Ghosh

    Since Mavericks, I’ve definitely noticed improved battery life thanks to app nap when using Safari. Safari also does a better job putting flash-based ads to sleep when you’re not in that active tab. With Yosemite, overall browser speed finally caught up so that it is “good enough”. Firefox64 still seems faster but my basic extensions (Evernote, lastpass, pocket, and one or two others) still seem to needlessly waste cpu cycles. With my mid-2013 (Haswell) MacBook Air running Mavericks, I got 6-8 hours of use in a typical workday (ms office, apple mail, and at least 8 open browser tabs). With Yosemite and the new Safari version, that moved to 7-9 hours of use. Chrome64 (beta) still seems to suffer the same problems as its 32 bit predecessor, so I can’t go back unless I want to carry my AC adapter around again….

    • orthorim

      I like Chrome but the reason I’m not using it is it sucks CPU and with that battery on my laptop. Even if it’s in the background, it runs and runs and runs. I guess not a big deal for all the desktop users out there, but for laptop, running on battery, Chrome is a monster. They could at the very least support app nap.
      Apple’s clearly spent a lot of time energy optimizing Safari – it’s really good by now.

  18. Jeff Ventura

    Favicons – the single reason I haven’t switched to Safari. Apple is adamant about not adding them, and I’m adamant that I need them for my workflow. Cest la vie.