Week of Safari 4 – Days Four and Five, Comparisons to FireFox

Picture 6.pngSo far during this Week with Safari 4, I’ve been making numerous comparisons between Safari 4 and FireFox. Bearing that in mind, I thought the mod way point in this little experiment would be a good place to pause for thought, and to consider why a comparison between the two browsers will never be fair.

My History with FireFox

I have a long history with FireFox, picking it before it officially hit version 1, so I’ve become used to its features, layout, workflow and quirks. In the very first post of this series I mentioned my delight at the fact Safari has now adopted FireFox’s shortcuts, and that delight stands as a testament to my familiarity with the browser.

Over the last few years I’ve also become accustomed to a number of FireFox’s plugins, which up to this week I genuinely believed were essential to me. They’re not.

The point I’m trying to convey here is that my browsing habits are entrenched in FireFox, and have been for a number of years now. Switching to another browser is not an easy or trivial task. It also puts the alternative browser as a severe disadvantage. As those of you who are familiar with usability will know, the longer you spend with an application, the closer you become to being an expert user. An expert user sits at the opposite end of the scale to a novice user. Novice users rely on big, obvious signposts so they can complete tasks easily. Expert users are more likely to know how to use the application already, and will be familiar with advanced options and shortcuts so they can complete tasks quickly.

Unfair Comparisons

I’ve pointed out above some of the reasons I’m apprehensive to do a direct comparison between Firefox and another browser, in this case Safari 4. It’s not a one way street though. Because of my continued usage of FireFox over the last few years it’s become a bit of a bloated mess. I have many many extensions loaded, custom skins, numerous Greasemonkey scripts and who knows what else running all the time.

As a result, the relatively poor experience I sometimes have with FireFox, and the semi-regular crashes, might be the fault of something I’ve chosen to add to the browser, as opposed to the browser itself. This makes comparisons difficult, unfair and dangerous. Not only am I reliant on features that do not ship with FireFox by default, but they may also be causing me to have a less than stellar experience.

It’s unfair, but it’s where we are.

Note: Sorry for the delay in getting these last few articles out. Out host had been experiencing some serious downtime over the weekend.