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by Tony Chang

All opinions on this site are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Creative Commons Attribution License

support Safari?

Jan 25, 2005, 12:32am EST



I overheard a discussion the other day from some web application developers about whether or not the application should include Safari support. The application was to include a rich client UI by using lots of javascript, like gMail or webnote. The developers had already decided that Internet Explorer and Mozilla/Firefox would be supported, and the next question was whether or not to support Safari. The obvious arguments against supporting Safari was that it’s a small user base (1% of current traffic was cited) and adding support for Safari would significantly increase development time. The argument for supporting Safari was to increase the user base.

While those are valid reasons on both side, I think an important point was overlooked: supporting Safari makes it easier for everyone to move away from Internet Explorer[1]. Obviously, people who already use Safari as their primary browser have already moved away from IE so they aren’t the people that need to be converted. On the other hand, some users may avoid using Safari, or worse, all Macs because some webpages don’t work. This mentality may prevent the user from trying alternate browsers because of the belief that IE always works while other browsers don’t.

As web developers, I believe that it is our responsibility to try to break this myth. I’m not saying this because I’m some Mac zealot or because I love Safari (I’m not even sure I like Safari), but because I think this opens up opportunities for all alternate browsers, including Firefox. It puts the notion into people’s head that they don’t have to use IE to get a rich web experience; any browser will work and some might even be better than IE.

[1] Of course, an implicit assumption is that not using IE is a good thing. I don’t think I need to argue that point here and now.

DC at Jan 25, 2005, 11:57am EST

This post read and replied to using IE 6.

Brutal at Jan 26, 2005, 12:20pm EST

This post read and replied to using Safari.

Brandon at Jan 27, 2005, 08:57am EST

This post read and replied to using Firefox.

W8TVI at Feb 06, 2005, 09:46pm EST

This post read with Firefox and replyed with lynx. So there. :)

Anonymous Coward at Mar 22, 2005, 07:26am EST

But by supporting safari you prevent people from moving to Firefox. People will already move away from Internet Explorer on Macs, that is not an issue at all. Obviously you hate IE and Microsoft, but if we talk about reality, IE on Macs is obsolute anyway. Also you probably will end up wasting too much time to make your program work on Safari, and you may even need to sacrifice features. Instead I would simply support Firefox and IE for Windows. You may be an Apple zealot, but the reality is that Safari is not ready for the prime time. If your purpose as a developer is to bash Microsoft and try to hurt Microsoft, then I agree you should support Safari, but then you shouldn’t support IE at all.

tony at Mar 22, 2005, 11:16am EST

What makes you think I hate MS? I may hate IE, but that’s because it’s a poor product (i.e., not standards compliant). I have more css/javascript hacks in my code because of IE than because of Safari. I’m also not an Apple zealot, the only reason I have a Mac is so I can test web apps on Safari. I never use it for anything else.

I’m sure that once IE7 comes out, my opinion of IE will change, but IE6 is a compatibility nightmare.

As a developer, I think the main goal is to provide a positive user experience. To achieve that, it’s necessary to support IE6 as well. Not supporting IE isn’t a viable option.

Doug at Mar 24, 2005, 11:47am EST

Isn’t the idea that if browsers are standards compliant, you only have to make one set of code? So you tweak your code to work in IE because it has the largest install base. But you don’t tweak your code for flaws in otherwise standards-compliant browsers because the assumption is those browsers will eventually catch up with you; not the other way around, right? (This is written by someone with minimal coding experience who has never had to make such decision.)

tony at Mar 24, 2005, 12:05pm EST

Sure, but in reality, major browser still act different. One can either lose functionality and use the set of standards compliant code that most browsers render the same, or one can put in lots of hacks to make it work better in popular browsers. When creating a rich web app with lots of javascript, I normally take the latter approach.

The average user doesn’t care whether a site is standards compliant or not, they just want it to work.