Macworld Browser Review Response

Macworld recently posted a review of Mac web browsers.

Macworld’s verdicts, best to worst:
Firefox 1.0.6 – 4.5/5
Safari 2.0 – 4/5
OmniWeb 5.1.1 – 4/5
Opera 8.0.2 – 3.5/5
Camino 0.8.4 – 3/5

My verdicts, best to worst (note I am not talking about Firefox 1.5b1 or Camino 1.0a1):
Safari 2.0 – 4/5
Camino 0.8.4 – 3.5/5
OmniWeb 5.1.1 – 3.4/5
Firefox 1.0.6 – 3/5
Opera 8.0.2 – 2/5

Before I explain why I think Macworld’s ranking are pretty bad, I have to point out a couple things about the general quality of their “review”:

“The only noticeable speed difference used to be Firefoxs very long program-launch time, which seems to be resolved in version 1.0.6.”

As far as I know we did absolutely *nothing* about Firefox’s launch time on Mac OS X in Firefox 1.0.6. And I would know! Clearly the reviewer is just jotting down whimsical thoughts without actaully doing any real testing. Or, he “tested” but is a very unqualified tester.

Also, Macworld includes a screenshot of Firefox with some extensions installed. The caption is:

“Plug Me In, Soup Me Up Installing plug-ins in Firefox and Camino is as easy as downloading them from the Mozilla.org Web site. The plug-ins installed in Firefox are listed at the bottom of the browser window, on the right.”

Uhh… Those are extensions, not plugins, and Camino doesn’t support extensions. Furthermore, Mozilla’s website doesn’t even have any plugins available for Camino (you get them elsewhere). Macworld didn’t even try this in Camino, and they didn’t bother figuring out the difference between plugins and extensions. As for rankings…

First of all, I admit Camino 0.8.4 isn’t too hot (unlike Camino 1.0a1, which is super hot), but to rank it behind Opera? I would have no problem if Opera was better than us, the better the Mac browsers the merrier, but I’m sorry – Opera’s UI is *awful* (terrible, absurd, etc.) and their rendering engine isn’t nearly as full-featured and standards compliant as Camino’s. And the version Macworld reviewed costs $30!!! (a later Opera version is free) I have never heard of a Mac user that actually liked Opera, and people rave about Camino all the time. I have no idea how Macworld came up with such a ranking.

Secondly, Macworld put Firefox 1.0.6 ahead of Safari, which is almost as ridiculous as putting Camino behind Opera. See, I’m not biased towards Mozilla browsers! Safari 2.0 is simply a better browser than Firefox 1.0.6. Its not even close. The story is a little different with Firefox 1.5b1, but that isn’t what they are reviewing.

Those are my two main gripes about their rankings. I don’t expect them to match my rankings, but they were so far off it hurts to read. Between the just plain wrong final verdicts and the really bad statements (I only pointed out problems from the first page), this is some shoddy work, Macworld. Next time can I just write the review for you?

And for the fun of it, here is my personal ranking of browsers if you include Camino 1.0a1, Firefox 1.5b1, Safari 2.0.1, and Opera 8.5 instead of their older versions from Macworld’s review:

My as-of-now verdicts, best to worst:
Camino 1.0a1 – 4.5/5
Firefox 1.5b1 – 4/5
Safari 2.0.1 – 3.5/5
OmniWeb 5.1.1 – 3.4/5
Opera 8.5 – 2/5

The updated versions of Camino and Firefox rock. Safari’s lowering in rank is due to the fact that the much improved Camino and Firefox browsers have upped the bar for browsers on the platform.

Note: I’m not claiming to have “reviewed” these browsers like Macworld does (though I think I’m much more qualified than they are). My rankings and explanations given here are just for your amusement.

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24 thoughts on “Macworld Browser Review Response

  1. I’m with you here. What’s Macworld smoking? Safari and Camino are awesome browsers, but I hate using Firefox on a Mac. And Omniweb would get a 5/5 if it was as snappy and stable as Camino.

  2. Uh… where is MSIE?

    I wish Camino outranked Firefox in my world, (as I like things closer to cocoa), but I’m hooked on a couple of firefox extentions or plug ins, AND the way I can add them in Firefox, whereas Camino don’t play that. I’m wondering if I would like safari better if I used Saft and something else to modify it. I use OmniWeb almost all the time due to the tab drawer. Firefox ALWAYS loads a page though

  3. If they were really going to be fair, they would have stuck to the base installations of each browser and avoid letting specific plugins, hacks, or extensions have a significant impact on the scores. While extensions like AdBlock are great, they aren’t officially part of Firefox. Camino and Safari can also be tricked out with 3rd-party plugins (or by enabling the Debug menu in Safari) to extend their functionality, which could impact their scores. Someone is even working on getting OmniWeb-style tabs working in Safari, which if well-done would certainly affect its score against OmniWeb in future reviews. Where should people draw the line with plugins and extensions?

    The reviewer also talks about superfluous things like FoxyTunes and weather forecast extensions but doesn’t mention, for instance, which browsers can store passwords using OS X keychains, or how easy/hard it is to swap bookmarks between them (certainly a factor for people switching browsers).

  4. You’d expect a magazine like Macworld to be able to do propper reviews. I mean if they have good argumenst I wouldn’t mind being last. But the arguments they use are just dumb and show that Jeffery Battersby really didn’t do his homework. Shame on him.

    I also fin dit weird that he mingles the review with extensions and what not. If you want a subjective review of a browser leave that out so people can see what they do out of the box. Especially since many regular mac usres don’t even try installing extensions out of fear.

    Anyhow, I agree with Josh that the latest Camino 1.0alpha1 is kick ass and should be at the top. But as they reviewed 0.84 I can imagine it’s not top ranked.

  5. It’s 50/50 between Safari and Firefox 1.0.7 at the moment. Firefox plays better with Blogger, so it’s my posting platform of choice. As for Opera and OmniWeb. A veritable waste of HDD space!

  6. Their rankings are a bit screwed up. I agree, Opera’s UI sucks, and while Firefox looks fine on Linux and Windows, it sticks out like a sore thumb on OS X, and just looks bad and feels out of place. So that leaves OmniWeb, Safari and Camino as the only Mac browsers with a nice look and feel. Camino 0.8.4 still has it’s issues, though 1.0a1 is much nice, it’s still missing the spell checking in text boxes little things like that, which you would expect. From a UI perspective I like Safari best, though I’d like some more options as far as controlling JavaScript, but it’s been running into stability problems, though the latest update seems to have stabilized it a bit, but more could be done. I haven’t used OmniWeb in a while, so I can’t say much for it.

  7. SafariStand (http://hetima.com/safari/stand-e.html) does add a vertical side bar to Safari windows, containing thumbs of open tabs. You can reorder them, which is sufficient for this plugin to be worth installing.

    However, it is not stable yet (I mean, I kept the plugin but disabled the permanent sidebar because I experienced crashing).

    Another useful feature is for the developper or the advanced surfer : you can edit source of any page and rerender it with your modifications. That’s pretty cool too.

    Its other features are, unfortunately, difficult to figure out, I can’t even list them to you. Yet this piece of software is promising.

    (PS : your Preview button has a bug (on last Safari, at least) : it doesn’t allow reediting – fortunately the back button did not loose my ho-so-precious words)

  8. Completely agree. I’ve been using the Camino nightlies the last three weeks or so, and have been exceptionally happy. Snappy, feature-filled (with the exception of RSS) and, best of all, works with EVERY SITE I VISIT.
    Safari’s become very crufty of late, and has gone from being the by-far standard of Mac web browsers to a machine-killing piece of hooey.
    Hence the shift to Camino a little while ago.

  9. Yeah, that was the worst piece of “journalism” I’ve read in a long time. Is the author a Mac user? To me it read like a Windows user brought in to do the job, particularly as he never mentioned the most commonly-heard categories of complaints about Mac Firefox 1.0.x: the widgets and lack of OS integration. And then there’s the keyboard shortcuts randomly failing to work and the litany of un-Mac-like pieces of UI. How can someone use Firefox for long enough to write a review and not notice those?

    It took me a half-hour or so to simply configure Opera 8.02 to be less annoying and garish; rating that monstrosity above Camino 0.8.4 was terribly insulting….

    As for the question about iCab 3, it wasn’t “reviewed” because it, just like Camino 1.0 and Firefox 1.5, is still in beta. That was explained somewhere in the “review” (as was the exclusion of IE as dead).

    Macworld continues to go down the drain.

  10. Camino way better than OmniWeb? Come on, don’t put your head into the sand. OmniWeb – while being not the speediest – has way more features (spell checking as the most important to me, location bar short cuts, separate location bar, Adblocking) therefore I use it as my default browser. Please don’t get me wrong here, I love Camino (especially for being open source) and even use nightlies. But saying camino is already the best is lying to ourselfes. This comment was posted using Version 2005091804 (1.0a1+)

  11. You know, I was thinking about browsers recently too. Just switching to Mac recently, I’ve had to do the Safari/Camino/Firefox taste-test myself, and I was surprised and a little appalled that Firefox still won. Camino was fast as hell and made for a slick experience, but without Cmd-K, UndoCloseTab and BugMeNot extensions, and Livebookmarks, I was finding myself really frustrated a lot of the time, and I ended up deciding it was worth the speed hit and the loss of Cocoa functionality. I dunno; wanna try and sell me on it? Is there something big that I’m failing to consider?

  12. Well, I’m also pretty new to the Mac (actually, I hop between a main Windows machine and an iBook) and when I bought it, I really expected to just use Firefox. I didn’t think I would cope without the plethora of extensions, but

    As it turns out, I’m on a frustrating 50|50 between Safari and Camino1.0a. Safari falls over on me periodically, which is extremely annoying (although Saft will restore open tabs, which lessens the blow). Camino I prefer in every way though, it’s just that spell checking that I desire (it also renders text in drop-down lists a little large, but hey, minor quibble). Once those two spell check bugs are fixed I really think that Camino will have me.

    I think I can cope without extensions for day-to-day use. Ultimately if I need the web developer toolbar in Firefox for debugging then I’ll start Firefox as a development tool, I don’t need it for day-to-day browsing. I could see it being nice to have Greasemonkey compatible UserScript support in the future, though.

    Ahh I’m rambling wildly. Keep up the good work Josh. I think Camino deserves to do very, very well indeed.

  13. I agree that thier reviews are not thorough, and I would not have put them in the order that they did either!
    Glad I depend on the web more than a corporate magazine for reviews now!

  14. This is an outrage.. how could they screw up extension vs plug in.. that is all we need is more confusion for the end users that we are trying to move to better browsers… I think firefox could be the best, especially if we can get the memory it uses down a little bir.. I usually use several open windows, and firefox 1.5 eats up some ram that way…

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