So, since you obviously care, here's why I use Safari.
There are both specific and general reasons, and I know ahead of time that all of this is going to be misinterpreted and taken out of context, because my opinions here are not black and white. My opinions here are nuanced. And the years have taught me that you, my dear readers, do not do nuance.
Consistency across apps
- I use a Mac instead of Linux on the desktop for a reason: because I think that the design and consistency that Apple's UI brings is extremely valuable. I don't buy computers based on how fast they are, I buy them based on how easy it is to get things done with them, and Apple is the hands-down winner on this pretty much across the board. (Oh, also because I want my audio card to work, but that's neither here nor there.)
Firefox does not look or behave like a MacOS program. This is intentional. It has gotten better in recent years, but it still feels like a cross-platform open-source program, which it is. But I don't want your Linux in my Mac. I want my Mac to behave like a Mac. That's why I bought a Mac.
- The Firefox UI is a moving target. It is under constant "improvement", which means "change" which means every few months I'm forced to upgrade it and shit has moved around and I need to re-learn how to do a task that I was happily doing before. This does not often happen with Safari. Their UI has been remarkably stable for many, many years.
The constantly-changing Firefox UI is by design. They believe that user-experience bugs are just like all other bugs, and you can manage them in the same way: toss them into Bugzilla and "more eyes make all bugs shallow", etc. (Google takes this even further: all of their UI decisions are made statistically.) Apple doesn't believe that, and they develop their UI in dictatorial secrecy.
Here's a 50-minute talk by Alex Faaborg, Principal Designer at Mozilla, about how they do UI and why they think they should do it that way. It's interesting.
Maybe the Firefox team is right, and you can develop a better UI that way. Well, they haven't yet proved this, because Apple's UI is better.
Look, in the case of all other software, I believe strongly in "release early, release often". Hell, I damned near invented it. But I think history has proven that UI is different than software. The Firefox crew believe otherwise. Good for them, and we'll see.
Meanwhile, I'm going to use the app whose UI works best, not the app whose development methodology most fits my political preconceptions.
- I hate tabbed browsing. I'm sure you think tabs are awesome. Good for you. Go forth and tab in peace. In Safari, there's a preference that lets me turn off tabs. I never, ever see them. When I middle-click on a link, it opens a new top-level window behind the window I'm currently looking at, and all is right and proper with the world.
Honestly, I am not interested in arguing the merits of tabs with you. You love them. I know. Don't tell me about it. I don't care.
The point here is, you cannot turn off Tabs in Firefox. You may think that you can, but history proves you wrong. I spent literally years where, each time I upgraded Firefox, I had to spend half an hour searching through the thousands of lines of about:config looking for the newly-added checkbox that I need to un-check -- and then it would only work like 60% of the time anyway, and I'd still end up with tabs.
So, Option 1: I could report the bug -- again -- and wait, possibly forever, for someone to fix it. Then there's Option 2: (yes, you in the back, I see your hand, sit down) I could dive into the code and try to fix it myself. Or, you know, there's Option 3: I could just use Safari, which already provides me with the functionality that I want in a way that actually works.
- Right now one of you is already starting to write a comment saying, "But you can turn tabs off now!" Please don't. I don't care, and even if I did care, I don't believe you. I'm using this specific example to describe a general problem. Remember what I said at the top about "nuance"?
Tabs are just one example, albeit an example I care about a lot, but this kind of thing happens with Firefox all the time in general too. A new version comes out, some random behavior has changed, and either you suck it up, or you go play whack-a-mole in the minefield of preferences checkboxes.
But but, you say, when Apple changes the UI they usually don't even give you a checkbox to change it back to how it was before! You are absolutely correct. However, Apple doesn't change the UI very often, and when they do, they usually get it right.
Anyone who truly understands UI design realizes that every preference option is an admission of defeat: it's there because you couldn't just get it right the first time.
- Apple's lock-in behavior on iOS is shameful and scandalous. The politics of their app store are an abomination, and they are seriously damaging the web as a whole, both with their actions and their precedent. They're awful. I know. I know.
But their products fucking work, and they work well.
I care about the web and software ecosystem, but I also have a life and a job and in the context of the latter two, I just want an appliance that works, by which I mean something that will let me communicate with my friends and get shit done without having to spend a lot of time dicking around with the medium instead of the message.
Mobile Safari does that, because it's integrated into iOS.
There are lots of alternative mobile web browsers out there, but since Apple (shamefully) does not provide an option to set another browser as the default on iOS, they will always be second-class citizens, and you'll often end up in Safari anyway.
Do I seem like I want to be dealing with the quirks of two different browsers on a regular basis? I hope I don't, because I do not. So I just use one, and that's Safari. It's not perfect, but it's the lesser hassle.
Again, it's awful that Apple privileges their own apps over third-party apps. I hate it. But it is what it is.
Based on my comments on the desktop Firefox UI, I hope I don't have to go into detail about what I think of the Android mobile UI: suffice it to say that while I think the jury is still out on whether Mozilla's many-cooks approach to UI design can work, I think that Google has definitively proved that statistical analysis is no way to build a phone. The result of that is that everything about Android feels like it was cobbled together by a kernel hacker.
- From a political and philosophical point of view, I would love to be using Firefox on all of my devices. All things being equal (or even nearly equal) that's what I'd be doing.
But all things are not equal, or nearly equal.
I'm certainly willing to inconvenience myself for my political beliefs. I've done it before and I'll do it again.
But in this case, the inconvenience is too great. Apple's approach is resulting in a product that is just so much more usable than Mozilla's (and especially Google's) product that using it all day, every day would be just too much of a pain in the ass.