Why, after trying for years, I have finally returned to Safari with macOS Big Sur

My relationship with Safari is always the same. As an avid Chrome user for my work, which requires being quite nimble with the 10+ tabs I usually have open, I always give Apple’s browser a chance every time there’s a new macOS update. Big Sur has not been an exception.

Until now, successive versions of Safari always provoked the same reaction: yes, I noticed better performance and browser integration, but the extra features of Chrome that do not appear in Safari ended up making me return to the Google browser. But this year, for the first time, Safari has become my default browser on Mac.

It is something that I was always trying to achieve for various reasons. Among them, I use Safari on my iPhone and iPad, so using it on my Mac allows me to have a single history synchronized everywhere thanks to iCloud. Also for a privacy issue: I don’t really like using a browser owned by Google with all that that entails for my online activity.

However, the advantages of Chrome always kept me hooked on it. Its extensions, very well maintained by a large community of developers. The behavior of its tabs, very suitable for those who work professionally with web pages and have to open and close many of them continuously. Its search shortcuts with abbreviations, something I’ve always wanted to export to Safari to no avail.

Performance, Performance and Performance: Instant Safari Loading in Apple Silicon Environments

So what is it that made me move to Safari this time? Speed ​​and efficiency, which have been catapulted thanks to the M1 chip that replaces the Core i7 that it used previously. Both with pages that I open regularly and with those that I open for the first time, the loading of web pages is practically instantaneous. It is as if the data is not downloaded, but is directly dropped.

Another reason lies in the transition from Intel to Apple Silicon: while it lasts, all universal applications contain both the code for Intel and Apple’s own chips: Google Chrome occupies 874 MB, Firefox 369 MB and alternatives such as Brave 501 MB. Meanwhile, the Safari executable is less than 16MB.

That size does not influence load times too much, let’s say it all. But Safari manages to load instantly while Firefox, Chrome and Brave take a few tenths of a second. First world problem, of course, but in the long run it ends up being noticed.

Nor is it that I can say that Safari is the perfect browser: managing your tabs still leaves a lot to be desired (pinned tabs don’t load when opening the app, for example), there are no customizable search shortcuts, the extension catalog is very poor compared to Chrome … but its speed has become so great that it has become a compelling argument by itself. And I personally use a Mac mini, but surely those of you who have a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro with an M1 chip You will also notice the advantage in battery consumption.

The future will tell if this move is definitely permanent or not, but at the moment I don’t feel like reversing the changes. The evolution of Safari is slow (relevant news once a year), but I’m getting used to his way of working and perhaps with time you no longer want to know anything about alternatives.