Firefox 3 Kills Safari

by Chris Howard Jul 30, 2008

On Macs. Safari has ruled the browser space since its release in 2003. Serious challenges were put up by the likes of Firefox and Opera, but most users found themselves returning to Safari. Firefox 3, however, will stymie that return to Safari.

I'm not sure when was the last time anyone wrote a piece about Apple without mentioning its cellular device. Well rejoice, because you're not going to hear it from me today. In fact, since I'm talking Firefox and Safari, you won't hear any "i" words mentioned.

Safari has been my browser of choice ever since it came out. I've dabbled with others, such as Opera and Firefox and Flock, but always found my self coming back to Safari. However, because Safari (despite claims otherwise) is incompatible with more websites than Firefox, I've always kept Firefox at hand. Doing a little web development sometimes, I also kept it handy for testing purposes.

Firefox's biggest problem in the past, and reason I never switched to it, was it was a memory hog, worse than even Safari.

Earlier this year though I upgraded my Mac's memory to 3GB. As you'd imagine, everything runs better.

Except for one application. One app still gave me grief. Still gave me incessant beachballs. Still hangs or crashes every couple of days or so. Every other app is performing better with the memory increase -- except one.

And that rogue app is Safari.

I will acknowledge that it has improved in its stability since version 3. With version 2 hangs and crashes occurred every day. Now they're just every two or three days.

A few weeks ago I'd had enough. I decided to force myself across to Firefox full-time. I say forced because we all know that switching - although beneficial - can be a chore. Even when it's a little thing like switching browsers. Familiarity breeds content, after all.

The easiest we way to force yourself to switch browsers is to go into Safari's preferences and change the default browser to Firefox (or your preferred browser).

I have been using Firefox 3 as my primary browser for a month now. In that time it has not hung, beachballed, or crashed once. Let me repeat that:

In one month of heavy usage, with dozens of pages open, Firefox 3 has not hung, beachballed or crashed once.

I'm converted!

The only problem I've encountered is very occasionally the address bar stops retrieving pages when your press enter in it. That's easily remedied by opening a new browser window.

Firefox does have some frustrations still. It's not a real Mac app. It's print dialog doesn't bring up the preview pane lieke Safari, and dragging and dropping images from webpages still doesn't work as smoothly as in Safari. But the thing I miss most is not having access to OS X's dictionary lookup. But I'm sure with a bit of hunting, I'll find a plug-in to do the same thing. It's also annoying having to restart it every time you install a new extension.

I have to admit though, it does seem slightly slower than Safari at loading pages, although, only on large pages. So it's not a problem or hindrance.

Basically, Firefox 3 kills Safari. After the fact it never hangs or crashes, Firefox 3's next biggest advantage is, as I mentioned earlier, that it's compatible with more websites than Safari. And the plethora of plug-ins for it is also a home run for Firefox.

Apple, Safari sucks. Sucks resources that is. If you don't fix it fast, Firefox will quickly swallow Safari. Because I know I for one can't stress enough that people are better off with Firefox 3.

So, folks, if you're fed up with Safari's bogginess, now is the time to give Firefox a serious look. And don't just look, make the switch.


  • First, let me say that I am in no way a Firefox hater or a Safari fanboy. But I have to ask…

    Do you have any data to support your claim that Firefox is compatible with more sites? Cause that has not been my personal experience. Some of the compatibility issues have been fixed with Firefox 3’s release, but not all. I use both browsers for hours on end each and every day. And I can tell you with 100% certainty that Safari tends to give me fewer issues than Firefox.

    I’m a fan of what they are doing with Firefox. But I am not one to subscribe to the recent hype without numbers to back up the claims. So exactly which sites are you referring to when you make these claims? Without details and data, this post comes across as fanboism and hype. (no offense).  My last check shows that Safari still ranks higher on the Acid test than Firefox, unless something has changed recently.

    And as far as resources? I don’t think you are giving an accurate review there either. For quite some time, it has been Firefox that has had the major problems with memory leaks, leading to bloat.  Of course, this was before FF 3. But most people load up FF with a plethora of plugins (FF’s biggest pro and con) which ends up bogging down the browser. Without plugins, FF is fine. But who the hell wants to use FF without plugins?

    Please provide some hard data as to which sites you used to compare the browsers. I’d love to check it out myself. For your sample, your claims may be accurate. My experience has been different.

    Lance_G had this to say on Jul 30, 2008 Posts: 1
  • I only use FireFox on Windows, but even the new version doesn’t best Safari in my mind. I occasionally run across a site that won’t render properly and I will open FireFox in that case. But is that the fault of Safari or of poor website design?

    Oh, and the saying is ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. That puts a whole new meaning to your statement.

    LorD1776 had this to say on Jul 30, 2008 Posts: 19
  • Firefox3 does not show all sites made in iWeb or Homepage correctly, such as Gallery or Movie screens, especially on black. I have seen firefox3 crash on more than 4 occasions and the speed difference is of no consideration.

    Safari 3 won’t store more than 1 password to a site, such as webmail, where you may have more than one address.

    iMatter had this to say on Jul 30, 2008 Posts: 2
  • First off, Chris, great piece…here are my thoughts.

    I am a diehard Safari user. I rarely, if ever, notice Beachballs, and I use Safari on multiple machines. I also very very rarely come across a site that doesn’t work in Safari and when I do Camino is there for me.

    I haven’t checked out FireFox 3 in depth but I’ve always felt like FireFox isn’t a Mac program. When I have to use another browser I typically go to Camino, which at least feels like a Mac application.

    The main reason I prefer Safari, however, is the main reason I prefer Macs. It is minimal, fast, and, at least for me stable.

    Hadley Stern had this to say on Jul 30, 2008 Posts: 114
  • Like Chris Howard I always keep Firefox as a reserve because the pages that Safari won’t show- not a rendering problem, they just don’t appear- work properly in Firefox. That said, Firefox is slower (but I’m not using version 3), too complicated, and generally less attractive. And I can’t one-click save my bookmarks to another Mac as I can with Safari.

    TonstantWeader had this to say on Jul 30, 2008 Posts: 3
  • The RSS feature of Safari will keep me a loyal user.

    phinias had this to say on Jul 30, 2008 Posts: 2
  • Today, the MSN video page tells Mac users to use Firefox, and on that same day, MS shill Chris Howard in AppleHatters tells us Safari sucks and Firefox rawks.

    Plenty of MS weenie on the menu at AppleHatters.

    zato3 had this to say on Jul 30, 2008 Posts: 26
  • Nothing said or experienced changes my belief that Firefox 3 kills Safari. (Again, this is Firefox 3 I’m talking about. Firefox 2 was worse than Safari 2, and ugly to boot.)

    The Acid test is largely irrelevant since its not a real world test. In the real world, websites are often badly written and at worst sometimes are browser specific. I have found sites that work in IE only, not even Firefox.

    Mostly nowadays site developers will at least guarantee their sites work with IE and Firefox. Safari and others seem to be a bonus. (This is one area the iPhone will help.)

    I have heard and read that most Safari users keep Firefox handy for sites Safari doesn’t work with - usually sites that are more IE specific. I haven’t heard that of Firefox users (nor experienced it myself).

    One site that springs to mind is Aussie Home Loans. The link to process a redraw does nothing in Safari but works fine in Firefox.

    As Zato demonstrates, the real fanbois are those who can’t accept that anything not from Apple could be better than something Apple makes.

    I keep Safari in use though because I need to login to sites I’m developing to test users’ profiles. So I do that in Safari so I don’t have to logout of admin in Firefox.

    Today, after reading your replies, I checked Activity Monitor. I had 3 windows and 30 pages open in Firefox. VSIZE=890MB, RSIZE=360MB. I had just three pages open in Safari, VSIZE=1.5GB, RSIZE=520MB.

    I have 18 applications open including most of Adobe CS3 apps. This is all pretty normal for me. If I was using Safari solely it probably would have hung or crashed for sure with all that load on my system. Firefox 3 on the other hand is cruising.

    I have also experienced Safari’s crashes on the Macs at the college I attend (just yesterday in fact, as did another student I heard swearing at Safari).

    By comparison to Firefox 3, Safari sucks. If Apple kept track of its crash reports you’d see a nice trail of mine every couple of days (daily on Safari 2).

    Why you all aren’t experiencing the same problems, I don’t know. But I’ll still tell anyone in earshot to ditch Safari for Firefox 3.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 31, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • Also, Lance_G, I’ve found WYSIWYG editors such as used in blog systems like Word Press, don’t work or are unreliable with Safari, including the one used in the backend of Apple Matters which I’ve found sometimes disappears of its own accord.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 31, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • I would reiterate that Chris is talking about Firefox 3, not Firefox 2.  The differences are substantial.  Firefox 3 is prettier, more stable, faster, and less hoggy.

    And the Awesome bar.  My god the awesome bar! 

    Plus, it allows you to remember passwords now AFTER you’ve logged in to see if the password works.  It can delete all of your history at the click of a button.  And of course there’s all of the extensions.  The list of useful features is virtually endless.  Even if Safari didn’t suck, which it does, I’d still choose Firefox.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 31, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • Well, Lance, you I just tried to login to Google calendar on Safari and it’s going nuts. It’s in a mad loop continually trying to load the page but showing a blank page.

    Works fine in Firefox. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 31, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • Just dropped an embedded Google calendar into a web page. Not working in Safari.

    Works fine in Firefox. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 31, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • I have both Safari and Firefox 3 installed. But neither enabled me to log in on the Visa site. Then I was alerted to the obscure Omniweb browser and lo and behold I could log in and use the site. So I use Safari all day and Omniweb for the sites that do not render correctly on either Safari or Firefox. As for Safari crashes, I cannot even remember the last time that happened.

    Charel had this to say on Jul 31, 2008 Posts: 6
  • @iMatter: Safari *does* store multiple passwords for a site. When you get to the log-in page, just enter your alternate username & password and this will be remembered *in addition* to any existing usernames. When you go back to the site, Safari will display teh most recent username. To change, just begin to enter an alternate username and, if it has alreaqdy been entered, Safari will recognise it and auto-complete both the password and username. I do this with gmail all the time (and is one of the many reasons I love Safari).

    However, having said that I use and love Safari, it *is* a memory hog and if left running long enough, will crash. I tend to pre-empt that by periodically closing all of Safari’s windows and restarting it. I shouldn’t need to and Apple need to address this.

    If Firefox offered access to all of OS X’s goodies (like system wide dictionary) then I might switch. Until then it’s my backup for the few sites that Safari still doesn’t render (not many, and often Firefox can’t display them either - damn those IE coders!!).

    oz-nom had this to say on Jul 31, 2008 Posts: 13
  • I use my kid’s favorite website,, as a benchmark for any browser. It has TONS of animation, flash, who-knows what else. Firefox runs the animation and Flash faster, but, it doesn’t load the whole page. The background and a couple of other things are missing. Safari displays all the page with the background, but runs like molasses, with the rare freeze-up. I occasionally use Wyzo, and it has the same problems as Safari with this page. My browser of choice, Camino, also runs the animation slowly but it does load the entire page. Verdict: Camino for everyday use. Has been for over a year now.

    jtrek154 had this to say on Jul 31, 2008 Posts: 1
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