Web browsers have grown remarkably similar, with variances becoming less pronounced. However, significant differences remain, especially for businesses already tasked with tracking, administering, updating, and securing a variety of users, applications, and systems.
Apple's Safari and Google Chrome are among the most popular OS X browsers. Both offer streamlined interfaces, private browsing and pop-up blocking. Both support a variety of security configurations, storing frequently entered passwords, and customizing privacy settings. Yet, Google Chrome presents challenges to businesses that leverage other Apple technologies (such as Keychains), while Safari may pose trouble for firms that prefer leveraging Chrome for integrated email and direct Google Drive access and not just Web browsing.
Which browser is best depends upon the organization. If Mac users are the minority within a business and the business subscribes to Google Apps for document creation and editing, uses Gmail for email, standardizes on Google Drive for file storage, and leverages Android portable devices, Google Chrome will likely prove best, as many of these Google functions are integrated directly within the Chrome browser. But if an organization is composed mostly of Mac users and has adopted mostly Apple technologies, Safari will likely prove most productive and efficient.
Apple updates Safari natively as part of its regular OS patching schedule. Thus, business owners can possess assurance the Web browser is being updated with patches that are well-researched and pre-tested with other Apple and operating system components, thereby encouraging more reliable performance.
iCloud bookmark synchronization and Handoff features, which enables picking up reading on a Mac where you left off on an iOS device, are integrated directly within Mac OS X. These features are easy to configure and work reliably using Safari and iOS and OS X. Using Google Chrome, however, bookmark synchronization and Handoff configuration require tweaking additional settings on apps maintained by Google, not Apple, which not unreasonably could be expected to occasionally break whenever Apple might introduce OS, security, and application patches and updates.
Safari leverages Apple's Keychain password management technology. The Google browser, meanwhile, strives by default to save passwords within Chrome. Such competing efforts can introduce user confusion.
Safari also natively integrates Apple's broader Notification Center platform within Safari. The result is reviewing news and updates, including on iOS devices and using the Apple Watch, becomes easier.
Further, many users and observers note Chrome isn't as energy efficient as Safari. Using Safari, Mac users can opt not to start plug-ins automatically, which saves power and can prolong a laptop's battery life. Informal tests suggest Chrome requires more CPU resources, too, which requires additional energy. Clicking OS X's battery icon from the menu bar also reveals Chrome is consistently listed as an App using significant energy, while Safari does not register within that menu.
Possibly of greatest interest to most users, however, is speed. Apple claims Safari performs significantly faster than Chrome. On my Macs, of which I personally own and administer four different models, Safari opens more quickly. And, while Chrome only requires maybe a second longer to prove ready, consider how many times you open a Web browser throughout a day, then multiply that delay by the number of employees in a company, then multiple that number by the number of workdays in a year, and pretty soon you have at least an understanding of how insignificant delays regularly repeated become more wasteful.
Another factor, of more importance to some organizations versus others, exists: Safari's native support for AirPlay playback of Web video. Firms that leverage Apple TVs, particularly in conference room environments, will find integrated Safari support performs well and reliably. Google Chrome introduces the need for third-party tools or extensions, which again require additional energy and time to administer and configure and performance may not match that of Apple's integrated browser.
Again, which browser works ultimately works best will depend upon the technologies an organization uses most. Where Mac users are in the majority, however, Safari is likely to win the day for reasons demonstrated above.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.