25 December 2012

Don Melton: “When I first heard the name ‘Safari’”

“Safari”, Kurt whispered.
I didn’t say anything. But Kurt must have noticed that I was more relaxed. “Dazed” as he described it to me later. Probably a little stupider looking than usual, too.
“What do you think?” he asked.
I honestly didn’t know what to think. My mind was a blank because I just didn’t expect it. The name seemed to come out of nowhere. It sounded more foreign at that moment than its actual origin.
“It doesn’t suck,” I finally offered. Don Melton

Well, it definitely sucks less than ‘iBrowse’.

Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Safari was launched, and how many things happened on the web since. I remember my first encounter with Apple’s browser, back in 2005, at my first job. I wasn’t particularly impressed with anything on the MacBooks – no right-click button on the mouse, Apple, seriously?! – but I loved the browser! In fact I loved it so much that I even tried it out on Windows, a couple of years later – where it wasn’t such a pleasant experience anymore… But I was left with a strange fondness for WebKit, that later translated into my loyalty for . I keep thinking that Apple could have had more success with Safari on Windows if they took that project more seriously and launched it earlier. By the time Safari landed on Windows, Apple was probably on the way to convert it into a mobile touch-enabled browser.

Update: The saga continues:

Even though we operated the project like some CIA black op — with loyalty oaths and all — we couldn’t let Safari be “Safari” when we used it on the Apple campus network. Otherwise, some Web server administrator somewhere might be scanning their log files and notice the connection between user agent string and IP address origin. Then the big surprise Steve Jobs wanted to unveil at MacWorld on January 7, 2003, would be shot. And, likely, so would I. Don Melton

The conclusion:

KHTML may have been a bigger surprise than Apple doing a browser at all. And that moment was glorious. We had punk’d the entire crowd. Don Melton

Thinking back again, it’s hard to say how this decision changed the ongoing browser wars. It would have probably given Firefox a boost if Safari shared the Gecko rendering engine — in terms of development if not market share. But I think Chrome wouldn’t exist in the current form if it weren’t for that bold decision by Apple to use an alternative, albeit obscure, rendering engine 10 years ago.

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