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Apple is not defending browser engine choice (infrequently.org)
267 points by bertman 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 441 comments

The article does an incredible job as painting Apple as a dystopian corporation that is strangling the web with forced WebKit, but spends so little time actually refuting the statement "if WebKit weren't mandated, Chromium would take over". It pretty much comes down to "if Apple were forced to open their platform, they would spend money improving Safari, and user's wouldn't switch because Apple has a gorillian dollars". The author seems to ignore that Google also has a gorillian dollars, plus the added inertia of Chromium itself, plus the pervasive network of Search and YouTube that would shove ads for Chrome down the throats of users. Money alone, even billions, cannot create a competitive browser engine. Microsoft tried. I'm not sure that, if you actually cared about browser diversity, that forcing Apple to open up iOS and then hoping they don't mismanage Safari trying to compete with Chrome is a losing bet.

You do see the implication of what you say: Apple produces a vastly inferior browser and only gets to maintain market share via absolute, monopolistic control over their OS.

You clearly believe that if they were forced to compete on equal terms with Chrome, they would loose.

Do explain how forcing inferior browser on iOS users is better than Chrome winning on merits?

The road to better products has always been competition.

Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla can, and do, compete with Chrome.

Apple not allowing competition is the root of all evil.

Neither Apple nor Google spends money on developing browser out of the goodness of their heart.

In a battle of two evil corporations I'll side with the one that's making a better product. And in web browsers, it's Google.

> …Apple produces a vastly inferior browser…

People say this all the time, have you ever actually used Safari? I use it daily and it’s rock solid, I have zero complaints.

Please consider the relevant viewpoint before commenting. This is about the reliability and capabilities of Safari as a target for websites and web applications from a developer point of view, not the reliability from a user point of view (although, being a Safari user myself, I can also definitely say it's not "rock solid" in that regard either).

From a developer point of view, Safari is widely lagging behind other engines in terms of features, and has been rigged with hundreds of show stopping bugs for years, including relative to very basic features like scrolling. As an example, as of today, it is still impossible to reliably prevent page scrolling in Safari on iOS. Don't tell web developers "Safari is rock solid"; for us it's the bane of our existence.

I’m a web developer, and I use Safari almost exclusively. It’s not the bane of my existence, I find it pleasant to work in, the dev tools are good. Just wanted to offer a counterpoint, not all developers hate Safari! I find it to be rock solid.

A lot of the developers who rail against it are in the advertising industry and those who want to push notifications to you as well as run their garbage javascript in the background.

Or perhaps people who search caniuse see it's flaring omissions

the biggest problem of safari (Apple ecosystem) is the same as IE or even worse, it is integrated into the system, and old devices like ipad do not have updates ...

Old iDevices who are stuck in a non-upgradeable Apple OS are a threat to humanity.


Not all developers hated IE either.

For much of the early 2000’s, IE was the only decent browser.

That is a subject statement, many people I knew preferred Netscape and then Phoenix.

I used Netscape through 4.x, up until 2000 or so. It took years before Phoenix / Firebird / Firefox was considered "stable" (I'd say Firefox 2.0?) There was a solid 4 or 5 years there where IE was your only real choice. Apple was even shipping IE with the Mac!

I find it hard to imagine anyone preferred Netscape 4.x to IE 5 and 5.5. I think even IE6 may have existed before Netscape 6, though I definitely made the switch to Phoenix as soon as I discovered it.

I certainly did. I used a lot of features in Netscape that IE never had, and at university it was _the_ browser used on campus in the late 90s.

IE 5 was a buggy browser lacking a lot of features, but was used often by people not building things online. And forced on people by bizarre site requirements. Though this came worse with IE6.

Microsoft was embroiled in legal issues of their browser at this time, and anyone with a sense of logic (most programmers) could see being locked into one piece of software instantly degrades the value of that software.

Sept 2002 was when Phoenix was released.[0]

IE 6 came out only a year before Phoenix.[1] And you if you were involved with Slashdot back in the day you were tracking browser usage as a daily trend. Phoenix was doing well.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer_6

IE had over 70% marketshare through 2005. In 2002, right after IE 6 was released, it was 85%. Everything else was in the weeds. https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/neil.the.analyst/viz/...

The difference from now is that back then there was an army of dedicated tech oriented people that _knew_ MS and IE were a problem that needed to be resisted.

I knew tech oriented people, myself included, that used a Windows desktops for a few years because the other browser alternatives were unacceptably bad.

Sure. As someone who had to build sites for both, IE was far superior. Vague css support and it didn’t crash if you nested tables more than seven layers deep.

> Apple produces a vastly inferior browser and only gets to maintain market share via absolute, monopolistic control over their OS

I must have missed the implied “for developers” preface there

> Don't tell web developers "Safari is rock solid"; for us it's the bane of our existence.

i've been a web dev for 20 years. safari is rock solid but has quirks, yes.

IE was "solid" as long as you only worked inside it's constraints.

So is Crome. That statement applies to everything.

It's not the same at all, IE/Safari are/were locked to their OS or abused through monopoly.

iOS/Safari is worse than IE because it's exclusive. At least with IE/Windows you could install something else.

OK, if you really think Safari is worse than dealing with IE hacks you probably were not writing anything for the web back then. This was already a tenuous argument, but come on.

OS lock-in and slow adoption of new web features is perhaps lame but Safari doesn't have anything even approaching it's own box model, or `-ms-filter` equivalent, or quirks mode... the list approaches infinity.

Also, "install something else?" Do you know what the browser landscape looked like back then? IE had >80% dominance for years, and your other option was Netscape, which lacked huge swaths of custom features in IE.

If the one key feature in an iOS webapp _kills_ your business, then _yes_ iOS/Safari is magnitudes worse than IE ever was.

The expectations and businesses relying on browser functionality back then is minimal compared to today which amplifies the core issues at hand.

Try building an PWA with offline capabilities (trivial in modern browsers) that's your core of your business, and you will see what I see. Apple is _trying_ to strangle non-app store apps. Where IE was just a dumb lumbering problem by comparison.

> Try building an PWA with offline capabilities

I have, for one of the world's largest companies. You're missing the forest for the trees if you feel PWAs are this much of a linchpin to the broader conversation.

The only programmers that had issues with IE were when IE broke something they needed, it hardly matters what it was. Apples to apples comparisons are the relevant issue.

So if your PWA works on iOS/Safari, great for you, but it doesn't mean everyone's does.

Notice, none of these reasons why Safari is worse have anything to do with the technology whatsoever. They're all ideological.

Try using offline first features that all browsers support properly except iOS Safari. Pure tech issue.

I'm not going to argue there are no technological issues, I was just pointing out a feature of the discourse here.

If you've checked mdn or caniuse anytime in the last 2-3 years, you'd notice that Safari has been leading the gang in standard web feature adoption.

Safari offers the most refined developer experience for web dev and testing (my favourite are the automation capabilities which are incredible and private as it separates my data from test data during a run). With technology preview updates delivered directly in macOS, I'm always confident I have the latest setup to test my web apps...

You've got be joking right? ok so lets go through some stats:

1. Safari, performs worst on wpt.fyi by a VERY wide margin 2. In State of CSS last year had the most number of complaints in relation to bugs. 360 related to Safari, compared to 30 for chrome and 10 for firefox. 3. In the MDN developer Survey developers ranked Safari as the second biggest problem after IE. A browser that's no longer supported. 3. Doesn't really support Web Apps, no user findable method of install (install prompts), no push notifications. 4. Huge numbers of bugs (some of which haven't been fixed in over 7 years) 5. and the devtools are still far behind chromes. 6. and missing all of these: Notifications / Push API No AppStore Support App Store Support for Web Apps Fullscreen API Badging Deep Links Screen Orientation Lock Bluetooth NFC Web Share Target Screen Wakelock Keyboard Lock and Keyboard Layout APIs getInstalledRelatedApps() Background Fetch API Background Sync API WebGPU WebXR Offscreen Canvas Declarative Shadow DOM SQL SIMD WASM Threads Shared Array Buffers AV1/AVIF and VP8/VP9/WebP (Open Media Codecs) Compression Streams Scoped Custom Element Registry ElementInternals

I'm not joking.

You can see other replies for details lists of functionalities and capabilities often pioneered and supported by Safari long before other browsers (even Firefox).

Some loud voices from the community have very selective memory, and they momentarily forget all the evilness pumped into Chrome regularly. (remember FLoCs? Advertising API? AMP?)

All that hate for Safari can be much more productive if channeled as constructive feedback on browsers' bug trackers and governance discussions, improving the ecosystem as a whole (which is what you want if you care for the web). Such conversations can even lead to the natural evolution of standards and implementations towards more refined engine customizations on each platform.

Today, iOS allows for open browser choice on iOS, so any technical requirements for the implementation are of no meaningful consequence to iOS users. Everyone can get the look, feel, and service integration with their preferred vendor's ecosystem. Consumers and developers also get a consistent experience throughout the entire operating system - a piece of content will appear the same in any context. Simple, efficient, and reliable. All this will be lost the moment someone decides to prop a "To view this website, download browser XYZ." Imagine you are faced with this in a stressful situation when you need your phone to work the most.

> Some loud voices from the community have very selective memory, and they momentarily forget all the evilness pumped into Chrome regularly. (remember FLoCs? Advertising API? AMP?)

Hell, remember logging users into Chrome without permission because they logged into a Google website like Gmail and then "accidentally" synching all the user's bookmarks and browser history to Google?

iOS does not allow for any meaningful choice, it’s all basically Safari.

Says who?

Mozilla, Google, Microsoft, EFF, the uk regulator, the Japanese regulator, the EU and most importantly the group of people who actually build web software on iOS.

As for feedback. we gave up after 10 years. That’s literally how long we’d been asking for notifications.

> Bluetooth NFC

Chrome-only non-standards that both Firefox and Safari are against.

> Declarative Shadow DOM

Actually proposed by Safari, and stalled for multiple reasons. Moreover, at the start of the whole web component brouhaha Safari wanted to have declarative ways of specifying Web Components, but Chrome said "no, we want to move fast and break things"

> WebGPU

Proposed by Safari


Can't be bothered to check others, but off the top of my head, but most of other standards that you just dumped without understanding fall under the following categories:

- Chrome-only non-standards with multiple issues that have multiple objections from both Safari and Firefox

- Originally proposed by Safari

- Have specific technical objections from Safari, and specific reasons for not implementing

- (very small minority of specs) No idea why they haven't implemented these yet

Would you point me to Apple's alternative implementation for access bluetooth / nfc? That's right it doesn't exist. Instead they offer for you to install a native app which once granted bluetooth access can continuously scan and connect to any bluetooth device they want.

- Install Prompts 7 Years behind. Many thousands of requests. - Notifications 7 years behind. - Fullscreen API 11 years behind. - Badging 5 years behind. - Deep Links 7 years behind. - Screen Orientation Lock 10 years behind.

and what's your excuse going to be the myriad of bugs/stability issues?

> Would you point me to Apple's alternative implementation for access bluetooth / nfc?

1. This is clearly moving goalposts

2. Why would Apple or Firefox provide you with an "alternative implementation for access bluetooth / nfc"?

> Instead they offer for you to install

No. Instead both they and Mozilla consider these non-standrads harmful and have no intention of implementing them. Or are you going to pretend that Mozilla is in Apple's pocket and does this to enrich Apple?

I'm not going to react to yet another mindless list of things that you have little knowledge of.

1. If you're going to say you don't like spec because of issues, you should explicitly describe what those issues are OR offer up an alternative spec. Simply not engaging on the spec doesn't present as engineers trying to solve a problem.

2. Neither Apple or Mozilla have described in detail what they think the harms are and why the specs do not cover those harms. But Mozilla is not a gatekeeper and doesn't ban the competition from 50% of mobile devices, so IMO they should be free to decide to do whatever they want even if I disagree with their decision.

Apple on the other hand not only doesn't describe the security issues in ANY detail, or outline why the specs don't cover them, it bans the competition from bringing any solution to the problem while at the same time providing a significantly insecure solution on native which is widely used to track and surveil users and for 9 years didn't even require a permission prompt.

As for resorting to insults about mindless list of things, have you even attempted to build a web app for iOS?

In every single case of the most ardent Safari defenders the answer is no. Unsurprisingly the people that care about the issues in Safari are the ones with the most knowledge that have to work with it daily.

> If you're going to say you don't like spec because of issues, you should explicitly describe what those issues are

They did

> Neither Apple or Mozilla have described in detail what they think the harms are

They did

> As for resorting to insults about mindless list of things, have you even attempted to build a web app for iOS

Doesn't explain why you keep dumping these lists without thinking and parroting Google's talking points

Again. People who ACTUALLY build apps in Safari are the ones that run into these issues. The only people that attempt to defend it are the ones who don't even build apps for it.


I really like Safari but no, they are definitely not "leading the gang" in adopting features.

Look at the front page of https://caniuse.com/

At the bottom right there is a chart and Safari is in 3rd.

I built a company based on browser testing and Safari in general was/is always behind.

They have hired some good people so maybe that situation will change but in general Safari is the currently the boat anchor of browsers. Hopefully the situation will change over time.

This just isn't true! There are so many features that have not been supported long after other browsers implemented them (webgl 2 comes to mind, though that is finally available - 4% of global web users still don't have support due to this, though!)

Exactly: Install Prompts - 7 Years. Fullscreen API - 11 Years. Push API - 7 Years. Badging - 5 years. Screen Orientation Lock - 11 years. Bluetooth - 5 years.

Nope, nope, definitely nope, not critical in the slightest, nope, and sounds like a very niche case that a native app would do just fine with.

"A native app would do just fine", why would we want to build a native app using proprietary tech, be forced to go through an app store, risk to be turn down by Apple and be taxed 30% of our revenue otherwise? All this when we can build web apps using open standards, working on all platforms and without being extorted by a giant abusive conglomerate?

You would want to because you want access to Apple's customers. Also, your example doesn't sound like it'd hold up to real world practice. If you're selling someone proprietary tech then your revenue isn't subject to 30% of Apple's fee. Only the software portion done through the app is. You obviously have a motivated buyer at this point if they bought a physical device. You could route them to a website to create an account, sign up for any subscriptions and launch the startup process that eventually has them install your native app. You want what you want, but you describe hyperbole. Plenty of apps have users manage subscriptions on a website, not on native apps.

from a developer point of view, i'm about to give my team a talk on container queries + subgrid, and safari is the only browser i can use to demo both.

not sure what your scrolling issue is, hidden overflow and blocked pointer events have always worked just fine for me. typically when someone gets scrolling wrong they're using 100vh instead of stretch and/or not scoping overflow correctly

Container Queries and Subgrid are only available in Safari Technology Preview, not stable, and Firefox has actually been supporting Subgrid for more than 2 years. Because CQ is not supported by either Chrome of Firefox, it will be at least 2 years before we can start actually using it.

It would have been much wiser for Safari to catch up on the dozens of features they don't support that both Chrome and Firefox do, or to focus on bug fixes for the most basic features that's been broken for years. Instead, they chose to ship shiny new ones to try and convince both regulators (from the EU, UK, US, etc) and web developers that they are leading the way in feature adoption. Unfortunately this seems to be working to some extent in the web devs community. Regulators are unlikely to fall for it though.

Here is the 7 years old scrolling bug I'm referring to, which prevents any decent implementation of modals in Safari on iOS: https://github.com/web-platform-tests/interop-2022/issues/84

Here you can see that Safari has 5 times more API failures (representative of both missing features and bugs) than Chrome, and 3 times more than Firefox: https://wpt.fyi/

Original author of the post here. I'm also a Blink API OWNER, so can happily report that Container Queries have 3 LGTMs and will ship in Chromium browsers very shortly, likely 105 (shipping to Stable in September):


Subgrid is progressing thanks to engineering from the Edge team, and I expect it to land this year.

I think the user perspective is way more important. I think users get a way better experience using Safari

> it is still impossible to reliably prevent page scrolling in Safari on iOS.

why would it?

it's a USER-Agent after all. if there is something to scroll, the user probably wants to and should be able to.

Professional web developer here: I use safari almost exclusively and I have for years. I vastly prefer it to chrome/Firefox/brave/opera/etc.

Sure, and from the point of view of thieves the locks I install are bad.

Maybe, just maybe, people should stop trying to develop webapps and instead make websites that just work without javascript. Like this one.

Nobody in their right mind would ever want to zoom & pan a map on a website, eh?

> Nobody in their right mind would ever want to zoom & pan a map on a website

1) I agree. Apps have maps, but most websites?

2) Zooming and panning can be done without WPA. At most some basic JS, although I think you can do the same via HTML+CSS.

3) The old way of zooming panning was buttons for zooming and panning. Those worked fine. In face ,they worked better than zooming and panning buggy implementations.

You might be right if one fix one mind on developer and latest greatest. But apple preposition at least for user might not be that. We n fact, I thought the whole point of browser is serving the user.

Until m1 I am not sure apple has the intel experience considering the hackintosh. But apple dominate for a while the developer market.

The question imho is whether apple provide a good enough solution for its users. And for monopoly I am not sure why os pre-installed browser is that relevant. Remember why edge exist. Just to download chrome.

Btw I use both as there are things can be easily done by one cannot by the others. I hope we have more. Not less.

Actually, didn't the latest build of Safari nightly recently over take all the other browsers in terms of number of supported features? I swear that was shared here on HN.

It 100% did not in that universe. Safari is massively lagging behind, and has been for so long it will certainly be years before it catches up with Chromium or Firefox.

it 50% did. safari and chrome are trading blows, with safari generally ahead on useful css and chrome generally ahead on useful api


The caniuse data shows that the number of APIs Chrome supports that Safari doesn't is at least 3 times higher than the opposite, and among the APIs Safari supports that Chrome don't, most are either too old and useless, too new and equally useless, or very small compared to the massive APIs listed to Chrome advantage.

I really don't see how that translates to "Safari and Chrome trading blows" and Safari taking over Chrome by "50%"?

Also, here is more representative dataset, where you can see that Safari has more than 5 times the number of API failures compared to Chrome, and 3 times compared to Firefox (in the stable channel): https://wpt.fyi/results/?label=master&label=experimental&ali...

How many of those Chrome APIs are privacy misfeatures? I suspect at least half of them.

oh cool. hey quick question, how do i do a hanging quote in chrome?

It helps that Jen Simmons, a renown css evangelist and expert, works on safari.

No. Safari is miles behind. https://wpt.fyi/results/?label=experimental&label=master&ali...

Interop2022 is probably what your referring too but that’s just a small (but still important) functionality that the browsers have agreed to focus on. Interop is great, but using it as the primary metric for your browser is very dishonest. Apple tried to do this in their regulatory filing but every other vendor and developers said that the overall stats are much more representative.

Same here. I use it on all my devices. It's fast and it feels light weight and secure. I love developing for it because I can open web inspector for my iPad and iPhone.

I don't trust Chrome. When I went to App Store to get it, and the data Chrome gathers that is linked to your identity is: financial info, location, contact info, contacts, user conten, search history, browsing history, identifiers, usage data, diagnostics and other data. Safari also collects browsing history and location information, but they don't link it to your identity.

I would honestly not care if Chrome was 100% faster, because Google is severely lacking in their privacy policy.

Ex-Chrome engineer here. Chrome doesn’t “collect” this information about you. It optionally syncs it across devices. Take a look at the privacy policy: data like autofill, your browsing history, and your password manager does not get used for ad targeting. Apple basically blackmailed Google into putting all of that stuff in the “privacy nutrition label” with absolutely no nuance, under threat of having to take Chrome out of the App Store.

> Apple basically blackmailed Google into putting all of that stuff in the “privacy nutrition label” with absolutely no nuance, under threat of having to take Chrome out of the App Store.

And this is so much better than the alternative which is a 500 page legal document.

When you install the app you see what data can be collected and decide if you trust the provider of the app with that data. And for that you don’t need any context. Because you don’t know what the code in this app does.

You realize that the only time Chrome needs to link those things to user identity is for synchronizing profiles across devices, right?

They have to declare everything they might use, but everything is still subject to the various Chrome privacy policies. I can guarantee that if Chrome were found to be violating those policies, people would sue.

I can't try Chrome out on my work iPhone because Apple won't let me download a free app without first signing into their store. That and other things make me doubt the sincerity of their privacy push.

Why do I have a work iPhone? Because Safari is the one browser that you can't just assume things will work for so I need to occasionally use it before pushing website changes.

No one forces your or your company to use apple products.

Literally an hour ago, I ran into an issue where Safari does not support lookbehind in regular expressions. https://caniuse.com/js-regexp-lookbehind

Say what you want but it is so frustrating when you run into problems like this. It does remind me of old IE days where we had to produce one gazillion hacks for IE.

Doesn't Safari have superior baterry life?

People have different priority, most end user gives no fuck about the pile of garbage APIs that just keeps growing in modern browsers, they just wanna read some stuff. When developers cry about their "api", some kid in africa isn't able to access knowledge on ther internet because sites have to use look behind or whatever.

I had the same issue & had to rewrite not to use RegEx [1], but if that's the main issue people are running into, it's a non-issue that can easily be worked around.

Personally I find Safari a great browser on iOS and prefer not to add to the test matrix burden with different browser engines on iOS. Also this restriction is the only thing keeping Chrome from dominating the future of Web, who can't be trusted to not use it as an anti competitive weapon as we've seen with AMP.

[1] https://stackoverflow.com/a/71168150/85785

It's not just regex, it's a long list of features and bugs. The OP was simply giving an example. I've encountered many time-wasting bugs on safari in the past, which have simply been open for several years.

I think you should be penitent for using too-new JS features.

I second this. I hit a goofy issue recently too: Safari can't select text in text boxes... but only sometimes. What causes it is unclear. Out of this mountain of workarounds, I had to use setTimeout: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/3272089/programmatically...

And in Safari there's zero visibility into why things break, they just silently don't work. At least Chrome is pretty good (in my experience) about throwing an exception or at least logging warnings to the console

In this situation, grabbing a 3rd party JS regex library for a handful of kilobytes probably solves your problem, but I’m sure that crossed your mind.

Is it really as bad as the IE days though? I didn’t work on web back then, but these days if I run into a safari comparability issue, the workaround is usually pretty painless.

I did work on the web back in those days. The situation now is nothing like it was during IE's dominance in the early 2000s, to claim it is is hyperbole at best.

You are right, it's worse because the problem is more hidden and therefore a lot harder to solve.

At least in the IE days everyone _knew_ IE was a problem, so we were looking for a solution as a community. Now? We comments that are dismissive of crap instead of inspiring towards quality.

In the IE days, you could tell the visitor to use Firefox. iOS does not allow such an easy fix.

I do not believe there is a 3rd party polyfill for lookbehind as it is quite tricky to implement regular expressions. If you found one, please let me know. Thanks in advance.

There's always this: https://xregexp.com/

But it's not really a polyfill, just a library.

On mobile and can’t tell whether xregexp still doesn’t have lookbehind, but in case it doesn’t I found this: https://github.com/beaugunderson/xregexp-lookbehind

Try to write a non-trivial web app using vanilla JS/HTML/CSS. Then test with the major browsers. You'll find that Safari is always the one where things break and that forces you to go back and rewrite stuff due to (for the most part) bugs and lack of features.

Safari is the modern IE in this respect.

I work on non trivial web applications for a living. This is not true.

I have not talked to a single team developing mobile apps for Safari that hasn’t run into significant problems.

If you’re just building a standard body scroll website with a simple ui/ux you’ll likely be ok. As soon as you start doing complex stuff with pinned panels, or gestures, animations, drag and drop then you’ll hit the bugs.

Some of the bugs developers have been complaining about for 7 years.

Every browser we develop has bugs, Safari just has 10x as many.

I've been a web developer for about 3 years and in my anecdotal experience of the modern browsers I have had the most trouble with Safari.

Multiple times I've hit issues with things that I would have expected to be 100% complete, like SVGs not being able to properly transition animations in certain cases.

If you actually wrote a complex web application and didn't encounter significant bugs in Safari, you either didn't test very well, or your app, although "complex", doesn't try to do much.

Check out my side project in my profile. It’s written in plain JS/HTML. I did have to work around some Chrome issues, but didn’t have any problems with Safari at all!

I am sorry but a two-pages app with a text input and two buttons does not qualify as a "non-trivial" app.

Perhaps off-topic (to the related browsers topic) but that's a pretty useful website!

I’ve done this but I haven’t encountered issues so far. What’s an example of some vanilla js/html/css that breaks under safari?

Two examples I have encountered in the past month alone that work just fine on any other browser but Safari:

- CSS outline not being affected by the border-radius property.

- Drag images being completely screwed up if the dragged element, or any of its ancestor, has a CSS transform.

Both of these problems have workarounds (insanely ugly hacks would be a better term), but they shouldn't have.

Oh that second one is a nightmare. Our solution for it was to copy the element and create a new one that was absolutely positioned for the draggable element. The issue is syncing elements can be quite tricky.

From my memory:

- Regular expression lookbehind

- overscroll-behavior

- Web push

- SVG favicon

- Web Bluetooth (haven't run into this personally, but someone complained about this)

From a developer user's perspective:

- Nice to have - Problem - Don’t want it, will never allow it - Nice to have - Don’t want it, will never allow it

Of the five items you list, I only see one as a real problem. Two of them are privacy misfeatures that have no business being on the web platform. The other two are annoying and would be better to have than not.

It's not about whether you like it, or they like it, or I like it; it's about being able to provide certain features that a subset (of which you may or may not be a member) desire or require.

For example, taking web push notifications, you and many others may not want it, but someone else and many others too may want it for whatever reason:

- maybe from a developer perspective because they're a hobbyist and don't want to create an app instead of a website just to get notifications, but would be happy if they had the option. And before you say you don't need them, you DON'T know their use case, e.g., if it's a chat web-app it's going to be pretty damn useless without notifications.

- maybe from a user's perspective because they're not happy granting additional permissions (or making it harder to use an ad-blocker) that could be required by an app from the store, they just need the push notification to get some alert, but don't want to give up access to their photos, files, or contacts too.

In any case, it's about having empathy towards allowing others to have wants/needs different from yours, and if you do that and put yourself in other people's shoes, you should be able to see that Safari is clearly lacking in implementing a bunch of features (or delivering them several years after every other browser).

Finally, all that doesn't take away the fact that Safari does some things better than others, and that other browsers do things worse or push features that are in line with their own agenda or monetisation strategy.

https://github.com/web-platform-tests/interop-2022/issues/84 << this issue we’ve had for at least 7 years. It’s never worked and to solve all the edge cases the workarounds are insane.

that kind of test is always biased in favor of the browser you develop the app in though. If you conservatively use caniuse during development usually there's not so much in the way of problems. Nevertheless I don't entirely disagree, Safari's not perfect and definitely is more sluggish to support APIs. But in terms of bugginess/odd behaviours I would say I actually run into the most issues with chrome (I develop in FF and then test safari and chrome after)

This. Also it doesn’t absolutely shag your battery on any device.

Battery thing aside, it's inferior. As a developer that sometimes have to dabble on the front end, I have come across areas where Firefox and Chrome supported features for years and I just assumed Safari did also...nope it didn't dues to what I could only assume is some nonsense Apple dogma

> Battery thing aside, it's inferior.

On mobile platforms that's a pretty major feature to brush aside.

Chrome has a bunch of Google spyware bundled in it. No thanks.

I’ve long found it shocking the extent to which Google and Mozilla shrug this aspect off. Between laptops, phones, and tablets, computing is dominated by battery powered devices… power efficiency should be a headlining goal, not a trailing afterthought.

As a user I don’t care nearly as much if my browser supports WebOnions v2 or whatever feature-du-jour as I do that it’s not wantonly burning through my battery just doing basic browsing.

Firefox improved this a fair amount a while ago now - by moving to CoreAnimation for a bunch of their rendering?

I find Chrome absolutely murders the battery life of my work 16" MBP, though.

I would 100% use Safari on Android/Windows but, alas.

If that is not the case, why limit browser choice? Most will surely keep using it if it's rock solid.

I never used Safari as my main browser nor I hate it as a developer. I'm just talking about the argument here.

I suspect Apple also likes the idea of slow-rolling any feature/function that makes web applications compete more directly with native apps.

If you look at the WebKit/Safari Technology Preview releases over the past 6-12 months, it paints a different picture. They’ve significantly expanded the WebKit team and are (now) clearly invested in improving compatibility.

We have 40 years of worse-is-better history in computing to look at. Why even ask this question?

In what way does "Worse is better" counter the argument of "then let the users decide"?

We generally develop on chrome. The outcome always works fine on Firefox and then we start finding bugs on safari. The reason you find safari pleasant is probably because developers spend time working around the shortcomings and bugs because safari has a good chunk of the user base.

At the same time by lacking features it becomes the lowest common browser api target blocking progress.

Same, from a battery perspective I'd say it's the best browser. I have all the plugins I had on chrome, pages seem to load faster, and my battery life and resources seem far more protected. I'm also not being tracked at every level or being mined for ad data.

Spent years maintaining a completely different flow for my customers because Safari webcrypto was broken.

Also every modern browser is based on what was originally Apple's Webkit.

OK cool. Then why does apple need to prevent people from installing other browsers, with other browser engines on iOS?

> why does apple need to prevent people from installing other browsers

Because, perhaps, the main one of those "other browsers" is widely considered to be a surveillance tool first, browser second, for a surveillance company and one of Apple's main current marketing thrusts is "we help you avoid people spying on you on your phone"?

>Because, perhaps, the main one of those "other browsers" is widely considered to be a surveillance tool first, browser second

This argument falls over when the most popular apps on their store are YouTube, Google Maps, Instagram and TikTok.

They’re fine with “surveillance tools” if they get a cut.

Apple does not "get a cut" of any of those free applications.

Unless you consider the minimal $100 / year that Google has to pay to be "a cut".

Do they not get a cut of advertising?

No, they do not. They only get advertising for ads that are shown in some applications (App Store, Apple News, one or two others).

That's weird I mean it's still their platform and tooling they're using to make money by the logic of requiring subs and purchases to be taxed.

Definitely should be getting a cut of the ads too.

Just for my own clarity, are you saying that the Apple telephone is not used for surveillance? Even by Apple?

And that's why users have to prevented from installing all of those other browsers?

> And that's why users have to prevented from installing all of those other browsers?

...yes? Who are people going to complain to when ANOther browser leaks their PII from an iPhone? Who will get the bad PR? It won't be ANOther browser because lord knows they've been getting away with it for years with little to no consequence. Why would Apple put themselves - and their customers given their marketing claims to care about their privacy - in a position where that privacy can a) be compromised and b) reflect badly on Apple?

Maybe apple can allow other browsers as long as they don’t use JITs. Would that satisfy you?

Why can’t they bring their JITs? They’ve got better security records than Safari does.

It is pretty astonishing reading the rhetoric on HN, overwhelmingly from web developers who basically want a single target. They are quite literally the anathema of the web spirit, but it's basically IE v2.0 -- during the IE 3 / 4 days there were lazy devs who told everyone they should just run IE and be done with it.

It is astonishing reading like Safari is some derelict junk when the edges are laughable trivial stuff. "But it doesn't support some random, irrelevant standard Google tried to railroad through last month..."

I think the point the other author is trying to make isn't that apple's anti-competitive practices are good. it's that google's anti-competitive practices with their browser are more powerful than apple's anti-competitive practices. In particular the close integration with search, youtube, and add delivery. I don't think the other author was making a point about one product being inferior to the other, more that both products rely on anti-competitive practices and google's anti-competitive practices are more powerful. safari could be an excellent product, but google will just stick a big modal dialogue on every search page and youtube video "For the best results download chrome.."

no browser product these days compete in a completely free market.

Exactly. If Apple is required to open up iOS to other engines, Google should be barred from aggressively promoting Chrome with their own services as well as ensure that their sites perform well on competing engines (currently, they don’t) with the same stroke.

Aggressively promoting !== barring completely.

Both Firefox and Chrome would have appreciated a way to install their browsers on iOS, even if it was harder.

Google making their sites function inadequately in other browsers should be illegal too. Many features don't work in Firefox.

I don't see it as that.

I see it as Google will use the same techniques they used for desktop to aggressively push Chrome regardless of technical merit - aggressive banners & popups on their own web properties, user-agent based blocking of functionality, etc.

edit: I suppose due to the nature of the app store (at present), they can't do the bundling stuff - like they used to do with Chrome-by-default when you downloaded Adobe Reader, for instance.

Microsoft re-packages Chrome with some extras, they don't compete with it, they lost.

Mozilla is at the edge of extinction, they lost.

> Apple gave up trying to compete with Chrome/Firefox, they lost.

Apple has trucidated Firefox, and are the last army standing preventing the Web turning into ChromeOS, they are still winning.

> and are the last army standing preventing the Web turning into ChromeOS

Except safari doesn't exist outside of Apple's luxury walled garden.

> they are still winning.

The strategic purpose of Safari is to extract dollars from Google and push users to the app store. Indeed a second rate, mediocre Safari is in Apple's best interest. On the other hand Google has every reason to develop the best browser possible and the incredible scale of chromium development demonstrates that.

Exactly the reason Safari matters to keep Chrome to take over the Web.

That luxury walled garden owns 23% of the world.

Funny how the same anti-M$ crowd pushes for Google no matter what.

Funny, I prefer Safari. Then Firefox. Your opinion doesn’t align with my experience…

>Apple produces a vastly inferior browser and only gets to maintain market share via absolute, monopolistic control over their OS.

Yes. If you think Safari is terrible and you want to use Chrome on your iPhone then argue that. This incredible reach around that Apple not letting you install Chrome harms browser diversity is ridiculous.

> You clearly believe that if they were forced to compete on equal terms with Chrome, they would loose.

Actually what he said was that they can't compete on equal terms.

If Apple were forced to open it's platform, they wouldn't be competing on equal terms, Google would have a clear advantage. Google can put up Ads for Chrome on all of it's properties for free. Apple cannot put up Ads for Safari on all of Google's properties for free.

What if part of the agreement to open the iOS platform to competing browsers was that all competing browser makers must agree to provide equal advertising time to all other competing browsers across their platforms?

I use it every day and it's fine. It may suck for developers, but I don't care if makes your job making webpages harder or not, just do your job. I like the competition from it whether artificial or not.

The argument wasn’t chrome winning on it’s merits.

The argument is Google has such a stranglehold on the web that they can extend their monopoly to the browser engine.

> You clearly believe that if they were forced to compete on equal terms with Chrome, they would loose.

Woah there. Will they actually compete on equal terms, or will YouTube/Google/Gmail (the most popular sites on the internet) tell people that not using Chrome is causing a variety of issues.

I don't think Chrome ever really won "on merits", it won on "Google keeps telling me I'm interneting wrong".

Besides that, "better" isn't really a recognizable concept. What you want and what I want are different. And if what I want is a way to prevent ad-tracking, and what Google wants is better ad-tracking, I don't think I win that war of words.

That is, I don't really care what features a browser has if I cannot block ads, and not blocking ads is high on Google's list.

And it's not only about the product itself.

WebKit bug reports are ignored, for years.

So are Chromium bug reports.

Here's my personal pet peeve. 4 years ago, Chrome broke the ability to open pages in the background on Mac.

People complained, and so Google locked the bug report for comments.


I agree that's bad but at least something happened.

I've reported bugs to WebKit and got absolutely nothing.

Here's one from 2020 which is still open:


What’s stopping you from downloading Chrome on your iPhone and making it the default browser? They are allowing competition in every sense. They have just managed to keep Safari good enough for typical users not to feel any desire to add another browser to their phone. From a non-developer standpoint, safari is great. From a developer standpoint, I have just as many issues with Firefox having strange quirks.

Chrome on iPhone is just Safari with a different menu bar. The web page rendering and interaction is entirely controlled by Apple's webkit.

...Apple's app store policies that forbid other browser runtimes? Chrome on iphone is just a wrapper for webkit.

Switched to Safari a couple years ago and haven’t looked back. Chrome feels like a dinosaur and I miss it only for the dev tools.

Sorry to break it to you, but Safari is the better browser.

I’m glad they limit the engine choice. At least apples authoritarian policies are limited to their own platforms, meanwhile Google is quickly fencing off the web for itself in pure EEE style, with new “standards” flying out as fast as they can tweet them.

> Sorry to break it to you, but Safari is the better browser.

unless you are in the 92% of the World that does not use Apple HW for computing and/or the 87% of the World that does not use an iPhone.

Safari is in no way a better browser than any competitor. It is widely known in the web developer community that it is rigged with bugs and lagging behind in terms of features.

Perhaps the statement should be, Safari is in no way a better browser than any competitor for developers.

I think this is the correct take. Most comments have been developers complaining that Safari doesn't do esoteric task _x_ rather than their clients can't achieve _y_

Apple make products for the top end of customers and they don't want to be dealing with complaints from Grandma about battery life because they hit a series of dark patterns and accidentally installed Chrome and made it default.

They've made it quite clear IMO that pwa style products would be better served by a native app.

That's like saying we should be writing all our applications in assembly.

No. Developer productivity is important, and it does impact the end user in quality and amount of features.

It's not important to me that your job is easier. I'm a dev and I deal with hard shit 5 days out of the week. My users don't give fk about that, they only care that my product works on their phone.

If Safari is the better browser, they should allow competition. Users will choose the better browser anyway.

Not when Google properties show their “some features wont work on your browser” lies, err, alerts.

~65% of users are not savvy enough to see this as the marketing statement it is, and will treat it as a real reason to get chrome. I’ve watched it happen in front of my eyes.

> Sorry to break it to you, but Safari is the better browser.

> I’m glad they limit the engine choice.

Why is that necessary if Safari is the better browser anyway?

Because the browser market is not a free market; both Apple and Google leverage their existing positions in other markets to promote their browsers.

If only Apple would prevent grandparent commenter from installing browsers with other rendering engines on MacOS too. Why isn't Apple, in its benevolence, restricting browser choice on MacOS?

> Apple not allowing competition is the root of all evil.

There are plenty of browsers available for iOS. In all the ways that matter to consumers, they can choose a browser and the services associated with it.

All the WebKit haters are so loud and driven in their quest to "liberate" others, while the alternative is just looking for the most optimal ways to monetize their browsing habits. Google is the company US legislators need to beg not to collect personal information so citizens can be safe... which makes them much closer to the "root of all evil".

You are of course aware that all these iOS browsers run on WebKit from Apple? Linked post is about that.

From a consumer point of view, the engine in use is of no consequence. The engine doesn't make the browser. Otherwise, it would be called "WebKit" and not Safari. Users perceive the browser as a collection of UI, look and feel, integration with services, and other ecosystems - all built on top of the engine. All unrestricted on iOS.

What consumers also expect is for things to work. Reliably. I can't wait for pages to start asking people to download browser X because "opinionated" devs decided they only want to support their favorite brand.

All third-party browsers on iOS use WkWebView

It appears the author works for Microsoft, a trillion dollar company that gave up trying to compete against Google and finally just started bundling a Chrome fork.

> forcing inferior browser on iOS users is better than Chrome winning on merits?

It's really dubious to say the chrome has or would win on merits alone, and not through a monopolistic advertisement push.

Microsoft knows from painful experience that monopolistic advertisement pushes don't magically win the browser wars. And they really did try.

For an entrepreneurial forum, it's pretty incredible how frequently magical mind control powers are attributed to marketing/advertising. Anyone who has ever made a real product knows that advertising is not enough, it only works in the long term if your product is actually good and worth using. By this logic, every Google product should automatically win. All they have to do is slap an ad on their homepage and sponsor some installation partnership deals and boom, nothing can stop Google.

They're still trying pretty hard, about one out of five times I try to launch something from the start menu, the search results don't find it or are too slow, and it launches Edge to search for "Fusion 360" or whatever I was trying to open, using Bing.

So far, only Facebook (G+) or Apple (Android) has stopped Google. They've spent the last few years successfully killing travel websites and shopping websites. Unless you have the resources and customer lock-in of a Facebook or Apple, you're probably doomed if Google looks your way.

Nonsense. If the user need can't be satisfied in a search page result, Google is completely impotent. Slack, Zoom, WhatsApp, Stripe, etc. all prove this out.

Actually before that he worked at Google. He has made it his life mission to get chromium everywhere.

Before that he made the Dojo JavaScript library (jQuery precursor / competitor).

Alex Russell’s position has always been that web developers (especially library authors) need as many browser features as possible to help them build the most flexible / capable web applications possible. He has consistently pushed for browsers to ship new features ASAP, with the idea that developers can paper over the differences or work around a buggy API, but can’t turn nothing into something. My impression is that he joined Google because he thought that was the best way to further that pre-established goal; it’s not fair to say that he’s just promoting this because he thinks it is in Google/Microsoft/Chrome’s interest.

By contrast, Safari developers’ position has long been that new browser features should be carefully evaluated and then implemented at leisure, because this is a long game and we don’t need rush jobs. Their focus is more on client-side resource use (it’s shocking how far behind Chrome is on this one), correctness of the features they do decide to implement, performance, and user privacy (Google’s whole business model is ubiquitous surveillance).

These two positions are both defensible, but are at odds with each-other. For Safari developers, Chrome trying to ram big piles of half-baked new features down every browser’s throat ASAP is just a recipe for churn, and getting developers to adopt them right away so that users then come complain that “Safari is broken” is endlessly annoying. For Chrome developers (or web developers who want to build on new shiny features right away instead of waiting 2+ years for cross-browser adoption), Safari lagging behind is “holding back the web”.

> correctness of the features they do decide to implement, performance,

If this was the case, I would hate Safari significantly less. If the only issue with Safari was that they didn't implement certain features, that would be fine. I could check the compatibility matrices and just avoid features that aren't implemented. The problem is that every now and then they support something, and it _appears_ to work, but then there's some weird interaction that breaks some interaction and it takes forever to debug.

Sometimes it's reproducible in Epiphany(webkit issue), but other times it isn't. Safari updates their webkit version pretty infrequently so bugs that are fixed in webkit are not fixed in Safari. So the only way to know if it works in Safari is to test in Safari, which requires OSX.

Safari is the new IE. IE had better client-side resource use for a long time compared to firefox/netscape. IE didn't implement new features and they had IE only features just like Safari (you can select text in images in Safari). IE only worked on windows and made linux/osx developers suffer just like Safari makes linux/windows developers suffer today.

> IE only worked on windows and made linux/osx developers suffer just like Safari makes linux/windows developers suffer today.

Safari is worse than IE.

With IE, Microsoft at least provided a VM I could test with.

With Safari, Apple expects me to buy their hardware. And both a phone and laptop, since iOS/Safari supports even less stuff than desktop Safari.

No thanks.

Windows builds of WebKit exist, though "better than nothing" would be very generous.

https://build.webkit.org/#/builders/67 (give it a sec)

They require "Apple Application Support", which is installed with iTunes; you can crack open the installer and only install the support library.

Hackintosh VMs are readily available (admittedly not provided by Apple, but that’s hardly a significant hurdle).

License prohibits running macOS on non-Apple hardware.

I'm not sure if EULA is legally binding in EU (and if it can prevent you from using a product), but I think companies would rather avoid this if possible.

I'm going to commit crimes to make sure Apple customers get the best experience?

Isn't that breaking Apple's ToS, so basically a non-starter for work?

When you develop in Chrome of course you’ll feel like bugs only exist in other engines.

Developing on Safari it feels like the opposite.

A few years ago I’d have agreed somewhat, but Safari has accelerated considerably and improved wrt standards. In fact better than Chrome as of late, if you follow the Interop project, and it feels as much.

I primarily use Firefox, but I usually have 3 browsers open: Chrome/Firefox/Epiphany to try and make sure stuff works correctly across all 3 major engines. Unfortunately stuff still slips through into Safari land.

I am not a language specification lawyer. If I hit a difference in behavior, I don't open up the spec to try and figure out who is right and wrong. It's entirely possible that Safari is in the right. But when Chrome/Firefox/Latest webkit agree, and Safari doesn't, I'm fairly confident it's Safari's fault at that point.

But even if it was Safari's fault and I could test that on Linux/Android, that would be fine. The biggest annoyance is that you can't possibly know if what you're doing would work without buying Apple hardware.

> I am not a language specification lawyer. If I hit a difference in behavior, I don't open up the spec to try and figure out who is right and wrong. It's entirely possible that Safari is in the right. But when Chrome/Firefox/Latest webkit agree, and Safari doesn't, I'm fairly confident it's Safari's fault at that point.

This is weird to me. Say if I’m working with Swift, JavaScript, and Java. And only Swift built-in mergesort is the right implementation (say it’s the common case where it correctly implements the mid logic not shown in textbooks). That’s not Swift’s fault, that’s Javascript & Java’s fault for implementing a bad Mergesort.

Safari / WebKit used to be the engine driving the web forward.

Apple had no problem rushing things when they were at the brink of death and had to compete with IE and Mozilla by making a better browser.

Only when they could kill the competition by simply saying so they switched to a leisurely mode of development.

Not to mention they are also very leisurely about fixing bugs.

Spin that one to make it look good for Apple, please.

The only consistent position that Apple has is: what's good for our business.

When they had to compete, they were forced to compete.

Now that they don't have to, they don't and instead pay a few PR people to spin it as good for customers for this or that reason.

With a generous free help from folks like you, also telling us how Safari is really superior browser.

All we ask Apple is to put that theory to test: let Chrome and Mozilla compete and we'll see what actual users prefer.

Personally I find Chrome to be utterly unusable for my browsing habits (hundreds of browser tabs open at once). It glitches, spins up my laptop’s fans like there’s no tomorrow and burns through battery, eats all the RAM it can find, and easily crashes. And that’s without even getting to the privacy discussion.

The existence of a Chrome-based iOS browser would quickly lead web developers to drop Safari and Firefox support (“just install Chrome bro!”) so I for one am thankful that Apple is not budging here.

Their browser is, for me, strictly superior. And their political decisions are the last defense of a multi-browser web.

> The existence of a Chrome-based iOS browser would quickly lead web developers to drop Safari and Firefox support (“just install Chrome bro!”)

Yeah, that would totally happen because websites that force people to install some massively resource hungry and sluggish browser first will obviously out-compete those that don't.

Joe Random web developer doesn’t necessarily care whether the browser he personally develops against is disrespectful of someone else’s client-side resources. He just wants to make his website with as little busywork as possible, and testing every website feature for cross-browser compatibility is busywork. If he can avoid the trouble by telling visitors to switch browsers, he will be happy to do so.

This is not hypothetical: developers have been putting up “this site works best (or only works) in X browser” warnings for decades by now.

No, what would happen is that Apple would actually have to spend resources on competing with other browser engines, instead of holding the web back via monopoly. They certainly have the money to do so.

Actually, if Apple wanted to compete in the browser space, they could do that without allowing other browsers on iOS. Bring Safari to Windows, Linux and Android. Safari for Windows did exist many years ago and I did like it. Apple really gave up on browsers a long time ago and Safari is the new IE.

And yet their monopolist behaviour is the only thing countering Google's monopolist behaviour with Chrome.

I fear witnessing the incoming manifest v3 apocalypse, when Google will nerf adblockers and plenty of other extensions. And all Chromium based browsers will most probably also be affected. So no capable adblockers in Edge/Vivaldi/Opera/etc. either, probably.

Performance wise Safari web assembly can't possibly compare to chrome enabled simd web assembly. For anything complex safari's performance is a setback

I do a lot of numerical work in Javascript, and I typically find Safari to be the fastest JavaScript engine on my machine for the code I try (sometimes about the same or sometimes several times faster). Safari’s Javascript performance is pretty impressive.

Web Assembly is a new and rapidly changing feature. SIMD support in Web Assembly is even newer. Neither one has yet been adopted by most websites / web applications.

In a few years I would expect more developers to start adopting these technologies and Safari to have finally gotten around to a SIMD implementation.

Personally I hope the browsers all figure out how to get double-precision FMA operations (fused multiply-add) in wasm.

How does that explain the enormous number of major bugs?

If Apple cases about privacy then they could deny Chrome in the Store for the specific reason but allow say Chromium or Firefox (or sure they can find some specific reason why Firefox or Chromium have less privacy and why the iOS users are incapable for deciding for themselves to use Firefox).

Wow, explains a lot. It’s such a shortsighted position for a browser - it’s one of the only platforms that literally can’t have breaking changes, and they want to bloat it even more?

The entire problem with the web is they keep adding high level half-solutions over and over, many that intersect and almost none that actually solve things at the right abstraction. What we need is lower level primitives and performance. Instead we got Web Components, a disaster, and seemingly a thousand new CSS features (coming only from Chrome) that serve only to further entrench Google.

Simpler and lower level APIs and ruthless work on performance would have given us a far richer platform to target, leading to better interop with cross compiling native tools, better experiences, and less bloat.

Seems like weekly a Google evangelist tweets a gushing, emoji-laden joyous tweet about a new feature they’re shopping tomorrow adding some super arbitrary thing (the latest is some page transition spec which again is such a half-solution). Extend and extinguish!

>Seems like weekly a Google evangelist tweets a gushing, emoji-laden joyous tweet about a new feature they’re shopping tomorrow adding some super arbitrary thing (the latest is some page transition spec which again is such a half-solution). Extend and extinguish!

They’re going for that juicy promotion, no matter what! The future of the Web be damned…

This isn't true! I've encountered many bugs in safari (fullscreen pointer lock not working on most html elements comes to mind), and they certainly do not value quality.

Except try and go and search for "google chrome" on a fresh windows 10/11 machine and see how much they beg you to please not switch.

And he's complaining about Apple, a trillion dollar company that gave up trying to compete against Firefox and IE and finally just started bundling a KDE fork.

He was a premiere developer advocate for Chrome, and is the primary author and promoter of web components.

He spent inordinary amounts of time vilifying anything that even remotely looked like competition.

Then he went to work for Microsoft, and... nothing really changed. Though quite infrequently (hur hur pun) he mentions Chrome now.

I think his criticism of Chrome/Google in https://infrequently.org/2021/07/hobsons-browser/ is pretty solid

Yeah, this one is actually quite solid. I can't remember the few issues I had with it.

The funny thing is that he even dares to put "cui bono" in the article.

The funny thing being that, as it happens, the same corporation that develops and distributes Chrome also develops and distributes a mobile OS that enjoys pretty broad exposure. So, if the best product wins in a competitive marketplace, where is the problem? If the author was right, iOS shouldn't even be a thing. So, is it the customers? Are they just too dumb to give the best product the win, thus strangling browser development by their death grip? Is the principal failure that there's a marketplace at all? Something doesn't add up in the principle construction of the argument.

Best product?

This make me question the story of Microsoft. MS-DOS, Windows and especially the Internet-Explorer (Trident). All of them won in a competitive marketplace and where of questionable quality and in long term harmful.

I cannot defend Apples locked platform! Yes, WebKit is crucial to the web and also needed on Linux (WebKitGtk, GNOME, Qt-WebKit, Epiphany, RasPi). Actually I'm quiet happy with WebKit but would appreciate always more speed. Feels like a lot of folks use Chrome and expect every other web-browser must use the same engine so they don't need to care about compatibility? Which is bad.

    * KHTML - gone
    * Trident - gone
    * Opera - gone
It is only Blink, WebKit and Firefox. Firefox is also in struggle and Microsoft Teams still blocks it? Like back in 2001. The EU also doesn't require Microsoft to present the modal browser choice dialog anymore. And Google is pushing hard on iOS-users to install their apps. Same on Windows. I would appreciate if politics put strict control over Google, Microsoft and Apple and require them to allow full access without the luring users with locked-down systems, lower fees and other things. I prefer strict control of companies because it worked very well with AT&T until it was broken up.

> Best product?

To be read cum grano salis. The list is long (including VHS) so, what is the best product in a marketplace? Probably, the definition will not be a technical one. It may be more like with an auction, where the result doesn't honor the value, but rather defines it. More cynically, it may be like with competing (traditional, non-alt – not entering that discussion) coins, where it's the worst coin which is the one left in the marketplace. (© Adam Smith, I believe.) In both perspectives, there are reasons for this. To say the least, to the customer technical aspects are just features among others. Vendors exhausting their capacities in rapid development cycles doesn't help either, often it's the vendor left with most capacities for marketing and connecting to non-technical users and media who wins the competition, often with a clearly inferior product, even with no development at all (DOS anyone?).

(E.g., personally, I'm absolutely horrified by the experience of the desktop Chrome UI. Even more so on macOS, where there's a menubar anyways, so why don't use it to make functions accessible? This is really mocking the user. – And no, at this point it's not about screen estate, it's about who's controlling the window, if there's a controllable app with controls worth controlling at all, or just that god-given/sent viewport. Mozilla on Win isn't much better nowadays: even, if you activate menus, there's not much to be found, in contrast to the Mac edition.)

P.S.: Also agree with the statement on developer bias by laziness and locked-in expectations. (As is, Chrome is the new IE. An example may be the storage implementation. Apple's implementation was fully standard compliant, but we must do it the Chrome-way, because Chrome and anything else is a bug. On the other hand, when Chrome messed up the Web Audio API for several iterations, nobody complained. Or, when Chrome messed up repaint of the canvas element, etc, etc.)

"The funny thing is that the author thinks competition in one market would be good, but competition in another market hasn't yet led to the utter dominance of his prefered product. Something doesn't add up ..."

I guess, since the only available browser engine on that one platform is thus broken and unusable, the entire (i)OS should have vanished by now? It's just those stubborn customers, seeking the worse experience possible…

> So, if the best product wins in a competitive marketplace, where is the problem?

Are you aware of how a company with a large market share in one part of a market, can anti-competitively use it's market power to effect another market?

For example, Microsoft could ban all competing browsers from the PC, in windows, and this would likely work to cause more people to use internet explorer, or edge.

This, of course, would be illegal and anti-competitive. But it would work.

This is pretty much why Chrome is perceived as the best product, to the point of being identical to the standard. It's only when you turn away from Chrome as the principal development platform and develop for other browsers first and then checking on Chrome, because, what works on WebKit should work on Chrome, as well, that you start to see its many shortcomings.

E.g., did you know that Chrome doesn't manage to render preformatted mono-space text at a uniform character width, 30 years after the introduction of the "pre" tag, in its +100 iteration? (E.g., Greek characters in formulas. So, where is the problem, there's MathML, a standard since the 1990s and part of HTML5. Oh… So let's add training wheels for Chrome, making each character a span of its own and fixing it in CSS… – To be fair, MathML doesn't enjoy a decent implementation in any browser, but with regard to implementing standards… Or take the implementation of certain UI elements like range inputs: let's make a slider from -100 to +100 preset to 0 in the center. Now +2, a discrete value, is rendered as an accent-colored range of 103 units, which somehow is supposed to make sense, and users become subtly shamed into picking higher values by the means of a more or less colorful experience. No option to disable this utter nonsense and Mozilla even followed on this path, because Chrome is the standard. As a result, if you need a basic, non-biased input, you have to come up with a non-standard implementation of your own, probably involving all kinds of accessibility issues.)

You just ignored everything that I said.

I was responding to you making the false claim that users can just choose to use chrome, in the competitive market.

That's not true because Apple anti-competitively prevents users from installing the real version of chrome, that isn't handicapped.

And then I used the analogy of Microsoft banning all competing browsers, which I'd hope you agree is and should be illegal.

The point being, it doesn't run just one way and it works in multiple ways. And, BTW, users can choose to use another mobile OS, by the very same vendor bringing you Chrome, and no, you can't run Safari on that OS. And that OS has already more users than the other one.

> it doesn't run just one way

So then you agree completely with me that apple is engaging is some anti-competitive practices, you just think other people are also engaging in anti-competitive practices.

That doesn't refute my point. You are agreeing with me that yes Apple engages in anti-competitive practices that limit user choice.

So back to the original point. You said this "if the best product wins in a competitive marketplace".

This statement is false because Apple is engaging in anti competitive practices that prevent a competitive market from happening.

So that is "where the problem is". The problem is the anti competitive practices that you agree with me that Apple is engaging in.

I just want to be able to install a browser on my phone.

I just want uBlock Origin in my phone browser.

By January 2023, uBlock Origin stops working with Manifest V3.

This is the future people are advocating for with Chrome dominance.

Firefox has temporarily saved itself from this but don't worry, Google will eventually tie their hands as well.

No one is safe from an unstoppable spyware company.

https://github.com/uBlockOrigin/uBlock-issues/issues/338 https://developer.chrome.com/blog/mv2-transition/

It's possible in Firefox (at least in Android)

Unfortunately not on iOS. They're forced to use WebKit which means Firefox on iOS is essentially just a reskin of Safari without access to any Firefox extensions.

iOS Safari has extensions and content blockers though, e.g. 1Blocker is alright.

uBlock Origin unfortunately isn't viable since it needs to see the data and Apple doesn't permit that. Safari content blockers have to provide a list of rules what should be blocked and Safari acts on it without providing any data back to the content blocker.

Apple only allows inspection of the request, and either block or not-block result to filter out ads. This is very limited, as evidenced by comparing to uBlock origin.

Their reasoning is that they want to make it impossible for an adblocker to collect any data.

But I don't care about that because I would chose one adblocker that I trust (uBlock origin). It's a non-issue.

Now I'm forced to use a multitude of native apps that all have far more data collection and access than webapps.

Wipr works for me iOS-I never see ads, including on Youtube. How can uBlock origin work better than that? What am I giving up?

Does anyone else reading these things feel like they are in an Orwellian nightmare? Do we hate Eastasia or Oceania this week?

Apple, caring about privacy? Perhaps I'm just old-school, but I'll never be able to read that without the risk of coffee all over my screen.

Buy an android, you can install firefox + ublock

What phone have you where you are not able to install a browser?

Probably referring to the fact that browsers on iOS are just basically reskins of Safari.


And then I'll ask the_gipsy how this is different from every other browser under the sun except Safari and Firefox being just repackaged versions of Chrome?

>except Safari and Firefox

I think that just about says it right there.

On any other operating system you have Chrome, Chromium, Brave, Firefox, Tor Browser, Webkit-based browsers, Text-only browsers, etc. There are so many options.

But on iOS you can use Webkit or you can go fuck yourself.

> On any other operating system you have Chrome, Blue Chrome, Orange Chrome, Firefox, Green Private Firefox, Old Chrome-based browsers, Text-only browsers, etc. There are so many options.

So the alternative is even fewer and worse options? Even counting brave/chrome/chromium as a single browser, that's 1 browser on iOS vs like 5 browsers everywhere else. Chrome/Firefox are way more configurable with plugins.

I am in awe with the lengths that apple apologists in this thread have gone in order to avoid making reasonable value judgements.

I'm curious, why does this always happen whenever Apple's browser monopoly is brought up on HN?

What is it about Apple in general that makes swathes of people take it personally whenever any kind of criticism is leveraged against that particular mega corp?

Just to be clear, I'm probably close to the farthest from being an apple apologist. I just sense bad things happening to the open web with the current browser usage distribution.

But apple isn't forcing you to buy iOS? That's a choice.

> if WebKit weren't mandated, Chromium would take over

Why do they need to refute it? Nobody can see the future and whether that statement is true or not still does not change the fact that Apple should not be mandating WebKit.

Chromium is open source anyway. What does it mean for an open source project to "take over"? Who wins there? I suppose in this instance that Google wins but so do users. The only loser is Apple because it puts a hole in their prison ecosystem.

I would agree with you if Chromium were the project of a nonprofit, but it’s not. A Chromium-dominated web is a Google-controlled web, and Chromium being open source does nothing to change that because nobody but Google has the same level of manpower, plus it’s ultimately Google holding the reigns. It’s a massive conflict of interest.

And once Chromium dominance has been achieved, there will be no party that can mount a meaningful opposition due to the velocity of Google’s Chrome/Chromium team stacked with the ever-taller demands of web engines. With every feature added Google builds the moat more deep and wide, further ensuring their monopoly will never be unseated.

With all that considered, the only real winners are web devs who only need to care about testing against a single engine (once Safari is out of the picture, Firefox’s ~2.5% marketshare will not be large enough for most to bother with).

Why do we keep moving the goalposts? So it not only needs to be open source but now it needs to be from a non profit? Why does manpower matter? So now all open source software needs to be developed equally by purely non-profit orgs? Malarkey.

We are getting a free and open source browser engine that anybody can fork. Microsoft forked it to create Edge, Brave uses it.

Frankly, I wish Apple would either open source Safari, release Safari on other platforms, or contribute to Firefox.


> Chromium being open source does nothing to change that because nobody but Google has the same level of manpower


> Why do we keep moving the goalposts? So it not only needs to be open source but now it needs to be from a non profit

The goalposts were never moved. It's a thing that ardent anti-applers do not understand.

Google is a web ad agency. 80% of its profits come from web advertisement. At the same time they:

- control the browser market

- control the search market

- fully and utterly dominate web and javascript standards committees, and regularly release features based on their own specs and pretend they are standards

See how many conflicts of interest there are?

> Why does manpower matter?

Chrome releases 40 to 100 new APIs with every release (so, every two months or so)[1]. And these new APIs are immediately taken up as gospel and standard by gullible web devs who now claim that all other browsers need to implement them.

This is the question of manpower.

So is this: it is absolutely impossible to build a modern web browser [2]. Microsoft, a trillion-dollar company tried and failed, and is now repackaging Chrome, with minor changes.

> I wish Apple would either open source Safari

WebKit is as open-sourced as Chromium. Safari is as closed source as Chrome.

[1] https://web-confluence.appspot.com/#!/confluence

[2] For example, https://drewdevault.com/2020/03/18/Reckless-limitless-scope....

The goalposts haven’t moved, it’s always been bad for a single company to have critical public infrastructure like the web to themselves. The conflict of interest that results is huge.

Manpower matters because no matter how much Chromium/Blink are forked, forks can’t be meaningfully different because they have to keep up with the firehose of changes Google is pumping out, which also makes it progressively more difficult to keep parts of the codebase that have diverged up to date. It’s a losing battle unless you’ve also got a dev team with the size and scope of Google’s Chrome team, which is a ridiculously high bar.

Even your cited examples of Edge and Brave are only superficially different, with a handful of features switched off compared to Chrome. They bring practically no diversity to the web.

> So now all open source software needs to be developed equally by purely non-profit orgs?

No, this is a special case. Web browsers are critical public infrastructure that’ve been on the precipice of total monopoly multiple times now.

>Why do they need to refute it?

The author has an entire section that says “Apple is anti-diversity.”

If you think Safari is a bad browser and Apple should use Chrome that’s fine! But to twist your argument to make it seem that we will have more browser diversity if Apple lets iOS run Chrome is what I have a problem with.

> spends so little time actually refuting the statement "if WebKit weren't mandated, Chromium would take over"

Does it have to? It's a rather strange claim to advance. I cannot read it as anything other than the recognition that in an open competition, even given the headstart of being the default browser, Safari/webkit would lose to Chrome/blink, which, again, I cannot read as anything other than the admission that Safari is an inferior browser. And if that is the case, if users are not free to choose the browser they prefer, then what good is the argument against the browser monoculture anyway?

I think you put up an impossible task by asking for evidence supporting impact.

The reality is that the highest impact on user share is the default browser.

Shortly after that is habit and user experience and this is what apple controls, it is fairly easy to restrict options for the competition or use dark patterns to impact the ux and apple is using this already to their advantage.

The reality here is that we need to be objective and ask what benefits the user gets from this restrictions and what risks they bring and i think two decades of defaults do make a lot of people ignore that instead of being critical.

Apple is the old Microsoft as far as open-closed-source is concerned, I just ditched Macbook pro for a windows laptop that runs WSL2 at work, my home is pure Linux. I took similar actions against Microsoft/Windows a decade ago, now I think Apple is a much worse Microsoft, browser is just one of its typical behaviors.

> they would spend money improving Safari

What I wish more people acknowledged is that the phrase "improving Safari" is shorthand for "improving Safari for advertisers and developers" not "improving Safari for users".

Yes, it may be true that users experience some benefits, but it is infrequently acknowledged that most users hate popups, hate tracking, and don't want notifications from websites.

Personally, I think Safari is a great browser to consume content with. I am more worried about the Chromium/Chrome domination in the browser world. I typically don't have major issues when developing web applications targeting Safari. The only limitation was push notifications on mobile devices but that's coming. The web workers support is getting better in recent versions.

> so little time actually refuting the statement "if WebKit weren't mandated, Chromium would take over"

The author is not trying to refute this point. He's saying it's a re-wording of "we (Apple) can't compete with better browser rendering engines" and he's right.

> "if WebKit weren't mandated, Chromium would take over"

Are you saying that iOS users, given the choice, would not use Safari?

It seems dishonest to me when a ex chrome developer complains about apple not allowing other browsers when chromebooks exist, there the browser choice is even more locked down.

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