brycv icon

A window into the Digital Life of Bryan Vyhmeister

Chrome vs Safari

On anything but Windows, the choice of a web browser falls to a half dozen different options but only a few stick out as the very best choices. The three most commonly used browsers for non-Microsoft platforms seem to be Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, and Firefox. My web browser choice seems to alternate between Chrome and Safari these days. This is the first post in a series about what I like and what I do not in these browsers.

Bookmark Sync

Since it has been available, I have generally used Safari as my primary web browser. My reasons for this usually stemmed from Safari’s integration with Mac OS X. Safari has worked very well for me and I continue to use it regularly. Over its varied release history there have been times when it did not work well with certain web sites and such but, over time, most of these issues have disappeared. Once the iPhone became available, I particularly liked the ability to sync your bookmarks with your iPhone through MobileMe. This was yet another reason to keep using Safari.

MobileMe’s Safari Bookmarks Sync has worked quite well for me across a variety of Macs and iOS devices over the years. I have no complaints about how it works or how quickly it syncs. By extension, iCloud Bookmark Sync works just as well and is a great service. The only problem is that Bookmark Sync is a poor solution if you use anything other than OS X, iOS, and Windows. My Linux systems were out in the cold on this one.

The other problem I started running into last year is that my structure of folders for bookmarks in Safari has become unmanageable. There are too many folders and I struggle to remember where I want to put a particular bookmark. The larger problem comes when I want to find a particular bookmark I had previously filed away. All of these issues led me to investigate Delicious and eventually settle on using Pinboard as my solution for storing bookmarks.

Once I took the plunge into another bookmark manager, changing browsers became much easier. I used Firefox for a time but was unhappy with its interface and decided to try Chrome again. Chrome actually shares more heritage with Safari than with Firefox due to both Chrome and Safari using WebKit, which Apple created out of the KHTML project. Page rendering is fairly similar between the two browsers and it really comes down to what platforms are supported, interface, and features as to why you would choose one over the other.

Like Safari, Chrome also offers a sync capability for your bookmarks and other relevant browser data. This data is synchronized through your Google Account. I am not at all happy with Google’s privacy record and so I avoid putting data into Google as much as possible. It is for that reason that any sync capability that depends on my Google Account has been something I was not willing to use until recently.

I am not sure when the capability was added but at some point along the road, Chrome gained the ability to encrypt your sync information with a local passphrase and then send it to Google already encrypted. In order to unencrypt it, you have to enter your passphrase again on another computer you want to sync with. While I am still leary of Google, I am willing to accept this solution since everything is encrypted before it ever hits Google itself.

Now that I am using encrypted sync, I can easily access my settings and Chrome Apps from a Linux or other Unix-like system as long as a Chrome build or a Chromium port exists for the platform. I have been using this functionality on Ubuntu lately and it works very well. I am also able to synchronize my Chrome Apps such as TweetDeck to my Mac and Ubuntu systems. Although Ubuntu has an avialable Chrome build from Google, I have chosen to use the Chromium build instead due to it being available directly from Ubuntu’s package repositories. This has worked out well and has allowed me to seriously consider using Ubuntu as a workstation. I will be addressing the potential of using Ubuntu on the desktop in a future post.

I am pretty happy with Chrome at this point. In some cases Chrome seems faster than Safari but not in all. I have run into some performance issues with Chrome and reopening thirty or so tabs from a previous session. More on that in a moment. There are some nice touches like being able to pin a tab. Overall, the experience in Chrome has become better and better and it has become a worthy competitor to Safari.

It took a long time, but I have now set Chrome to be my default browser. I still often have Safari open as well but Chrome has become my main browser. This may not last too long but for now it is working out quite well.

The Reloading Tabs Issue

The problem I have run into recently, and the reason I started writing this post to begin with, is that when I launch Chrome and it is reopening thirty or more tabs on my MacBook Air, it often fails to load most of them. I end up with the error dialog that asks me if I want to wait or “Kill Pages” since the page rendering is not going very well. It could be that this is caused by memory allocation issues in Chrome when memory is a little tight.

It is hard to pinpoint but it is certainly major nuisance. I have the bad habit of opening many tabs and have sometimes had as many as one hundred tabs open at once. Obviously opening one hundred tabs is likely to cause performance issues on most systems. The part that surprises me is that Safari has been much better at reloading tabs from a previous session. While it might be a little slow sometimes, Safari nearly always properly loads and renders whatever tabs it is told to open.

With Chrome, it seems that all tabs are loaded simultaneously, not in batches running sequentially like Safari. I am only basing this conclusion on observation and not on any hard evidence at this point. One solution, and probably one I should look at, is to stop opening so many tabs and keep it down to less than ten each time I close Chrome. This would probably help but I hope that the underlying issue can be resolved anyway. There have been times when I have been working on projects where I needed a very large number of tabs with different information in them and this problem would severely limit my ability to close and reopen Chrome in that situation.

As with any application, programs can be introduced or fixed in any particular release so I will be keeping tabs on this issue and I hope it will be resolved by an update coming sooner rather than later. In the mean time, I will continue to compare both Chrome and Safari.