Based on my best estimates, I started using Google Chrome in late 2009, not long after the beta version for OS X came out. It was awesome, fast as hell, and full of neat little tricks that felt new at the time. (Remember when searching from the address bar was a revelation?) I loved Chrome so much, I wrote a love letter to it last summer. Then, a couple of months later, I switched back to Safari. You should try it.
The launch of macOS Mojave won a lot of enthusiasm for finally introducing a dark mode, but I’ve since realised that the new Safari was a sleeping giant. On stage at the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), where the new Safari was announced last June, Apple executives were quick to point out all of the new privacy features that would be coming to default browser for Macs and iOS devices.
There’s a new version of Intelligent Tracking Protection that keeps third parties from following you around the web. This is effective enough that some digital advertising experts think companies like Facebook and Google will become weaker. On a daily basis, I like less tracking because that ad for the shoes I bought last fall isn’t following me around to every website on the internet.
The new Safari is also full of little tweaks that make the whole experience better. It’s fast, so none of the competition feels noticeably faster. It’s more stable, which means I’m not constantly living in fear of a crash like I did with Chrome. It’s got favicons on the tabs, which isn’t a new feature for browsers but was something that Safari lacked for a long time. I especially love how I can pin tabs that I use often, and Safari will keep those pinned tabs open in all my browser windows. Safari also keeps track of the tabs on multiple devices, so if I had a webpage open on my work computer and wanted to pull it up on my phone, I can do it with about three taps. And boy, that dark mode does look nice.
Of all the great new features, one is utterly life-changing: AutoFill Passwords. This password manager is a feature for both iOS 12 as well as macOS Mojave, and it makes my life on the web infinitely easier. On my phone, if I navigate to a sign in page where I’ve previously entered my credentials, Face ID scans my mug, and I’m in. No more remembering passwords, and certainly no more of the autofill confusion that plagued me on Chrome. You know, the bug where Chrome fills in the wrong stuff in forms or suggests the wrong passwords? Safari simply works.
The autofill feature also covers the security codes for two-factor authentication, the ones that some companies send you in a text message. Thanks to Continuity, my Mac is linked to my iPhone, so when I get these text messages, Safari knows it and will autofill the security code on whatever website I’m trying to sign in to. It sounds like a small thing, but when you have to do this multiple times a day, it feels utterly liberating not to have to search for my phone and hammer out six digits.
These are just a few of the things I’ve noticed in the months since switching back to Safari after a decade of Chrome. And the thing is, I feel like I’m not even taking full advantage of the browser. For instance, the new Safari will automatically generate super secure passwords for you and save them to your keychain (Chrome has a similar feature). I haven’t tried that yet, but I should. Safari will also do an audit to the passwords you have saved to your keychain and shame you for duplicates. I should do that, too.
One thing I shouldn’t do is switch back to Chrome. As Apple loudly trumpets its commitment to privacy, it seems increasingly wacky that I let Google, one the world’s biggest advertising powerhouses, track some of my activity online for years. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to gobble up data secretly, even as it faces potential fines from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that could soar into the billions of dollars.
I’m also not crazy about the fact that Amazon just bought the company that makes one of my favourite wifi routers, because who knows how that will end. If there’s ever been a time to double down on protecting my data, it’s now. So yes, I will continue to use the web browser with lots of good built-in privacy features: Safari.
So I’ll be sticking with Safari for the foreseeable future. Heck, maybe in four years, when the browser has its 20th birthday, I’ll write a love letter to Safari, too.