Why I switched to Safari (again)

March 22, 2007

I’ve been a big fan of Camino. Ever since it was called Chimera. Whenever a new Mac OS would come out, that I didn’t have the hardware for, I could still use a modern, native Mac browser thanks to them. These guys have done a tremendous job bridging the Gecko rendering engine with a OS X L&F that in many ways feels more “Mac” than Apple’s own browser. I originally switched to Camino because:

  • Many JavaScript WYSIWYG HTML editors will just disregard Safari. And if you have to use two browsers sometimes, why not just completely switch to the one that does everything, right?
  • It tries to render XML instead of showing me the tree
  • Safari has a weird habit of tagging .txt to downloaded files it can’t recognize
  • Source view is very primitive with no highlighting and it also can’t be reloaded.
  • Bookmarks menu has to be one of the slowest in the world
  • Downloads can’t be opened with a double-click in the Downloads window. EDIT: Actually they can. Just click on the icon.

I liked Camino because it eliminated most of my biggest problems with Safari, but now I’m forced to swtich back because:

  • Flash performance in Camino is just terrible. I tried to go around this by disabling it altogether, but in this YouTube day and age it’s very difficult to do. And why should you? This got incredibly annoying at times - not being able to swtich tabs when a flash object was loaded in the frontmost window or having the whole app freeze for tens of seconds. Any kind of Flash content would also heaviliy bump Camino’s CPU usage.
  • Other plugins behaved oddly as well. Often an embedded QuickTime movie would stay inside every tab I would switch to. Clearly something’s not right with the Gecko View.
  • Window resize performance. I typically have about 10 tabs open at once and window resizing gets really slow. It’s not disastrous, but definitely not something you would expect on a 2-year old Mac with 1,25GB RAM.
  • Stability issues. Especially in the latest 1.1 branch which would regularly crash every day for me. Downloading the latest nightly seemed to help though.
  • No AcidSearch. You can add search sites to Camino by editing an XML file but that won’t give you the shorcuts that you have in Safari. This is clearly something that could be added to Camino but I personally have neither the skill nor the time and motivation to do this right now.
  • Startup time. Clearly no biggie, but in this day and age you would expect your browse to come up instantly. Almost so with Safari, but not quite with Camino. Here’re some completely bogus test results, Camino takes more like 5 secs to start up actually (open returns before all the NIBs are unpacked, I would guess):

    time open -a Camino

    real 0m0.504s

    user 0m0.080s

    sys 0m0.073s

    time open -a Safari

    real 0m0.272s

    user 0m0.079s

    sys 0m0.051s

In general, I’m not quite sure what to think of Camino anymore. Firefox is getting more and more Mac-like (to some extent) so maybe it would make sense for the two projects to just merge? That Camino would just be the Mac port of Firefox? Camino will run on anything starting with Jaguar which might be (?) a reason it’s still so rough around the edges. It is my understanding that backwards compaitility often comes at a high price on OS X (although maybe not so much in Camino’s case since it probably doesn’t depend on OS services that much).

In any case, I replaced Camino with Safari in my Dock today. Bookmarks would’ve been trivial but let’s be honest - who uses them anymore? del.icio.us, maybe. The biggest nag will actually be all the cookies that have already been set in Camino and the keychain items…