Mac users tend to overlook Safari, which I understand: It seems, at first glance, underpowered, and anyone coming over from Windows likely has a long-established habit of installing Chrome.

But that’s a mistake. Everyone who gets a Mac should, at the very least, give Safari a chance for a couple of weeks, because in my opinion it’s very good. Now, I’m just a guy who spends way too much time on the internet. I am wrong about many things, and I’m certainly not trying to say any Mac user who uses Chrome or Arc is objectively wrong. I just happen to prefer Safari.

Safari’s reader mode is perfection

Credit: Justin Pot

The modern web is a nightmare to browse. Way too many websites, including some you might be reading right now, clutter the reading experience with ads, pop-ups, more ads, sidebars, and ads. Safari’s reader mode removes all of this, showing you only the thing you want: the article on the current page. Even better: the full website remains open in the background, meaning from the site’s perspective you’re not even blocking the ads.

Multiple browsers offer reader mode, but Safari offers the best one in my experience. It consistently does the best job of pulling in entire articles, and is never more than a click or a keyboard shortcut away. Even better: you can set up reader mode to be the default experience for any website. Just open any particularly annoying page, click Safari in the menu bar at the top of the screen, then click the Settings for option, which is right below Settings. Check the Use Reader when available and the mode will trigger by default whenever you open articles on that website. I cannot tell you how many previously unreadable websites became useful again after discovering this feature.

Google Chrome doesn’t really offer a read mode—at least, not one you can use without accessing a hidden settings page. Arc offers one, as a beta tool, but it doesn’t work as well in my experience. Neither application offer a setting to use reader mode by default for certain websites. This is, for me, the main reason I prefer Safari.

Better privacy features

One way to think about tech companies, and how they’re going to treat you, is to look at their incentives. Apple is, basically, a hardware company. Sure, it sells services, but for the most part, Apple makes money when you buy a phone or a computer. Google, meanwhile, is an ad company whose revenue model is based on collecting information about users. Owning Chrome helps them in that mission. (Arc doesn’t make money at the moment—more on that later.)

So, do I trust Apple? Not exactly. But the company has publicly positioned Safari as a more privacy-oriented alternative to Google Chrome, and I think it’s in its best interest to deliver on that. The browser, by default, blocks cross-site tracking and can hide your IP address from trackers altogether. Privacy changes like this are having real impacts—they cost Facebook $10 billion in 2022, so it must be working at least a little.

Chrome, meanwhile, is going the other way. The browser is rolling out an update to how extensions work—called Manifest V3—this summer. The Electronic Frontier Foundation calls “deceitful and threatening to extensions built to help with privacy, including ad blockers,” to quote Daly Barnett’s post on the matter:

(The update) will restrict the capabilities of web extensions—especially those that are designed to monitor, modify, and compute alongside the conversation your browser has with the websites you visit. Under the new specifications, extensions like these–like some privacy-protective tracker blockers–will have greatly reduced capabilities. Google’s efforts to limit that access is concerning, especially considering that Google has trackers installed on 75% of the top one million websites.

No big tech company can be trusted on privacy, but the incentives are clear. Apple wants to be seen as privacy friendly while Google is happy to use its control of the most popular browser on the market to make privacy-enhancing extensions less useful.

Arc is just a little weird tbh

A lot of people, at this point, might suggest that I try Arc instead. And I have: it was my daily driver for nearly a year. I liked it, but I’m back using Safari now. To be honest, and I know this is unsatisfying, but it’s mostly about vibes. I don’t debate that Arc is better better than Chrome—it is. And I really wanted to like Arc because I liked some of the features—the command bar, in particular, is something I wish all browsers offered.

But ultimately, at a certain point, using Arc started to feel like a chore. It’s glitchy, for one thing, but that’s to be expected of a beta product. I’m not someone who leaves a lot of tabs open at once, so all of the tab management features always felt like overkill to me. I never really figured out how to have two windows open at once, even after changes that were supposed to make it easier. And I don’t care about all the AI features that have recently been added.

Mostly, though, I think tools should stay out of my way and Arc really, really wants to remind me it’s there. There’s not only an update every week but also a hard-to-avoid blog post, pushed to the user, that outlines what’s in the new update. And honestly, as someone who’s been online for a while, I just don’t understand how this company makes money in the long term. Its privacy policy seems pretty good, and the company is quite loud about the fact that it doesn’t plan on selling data, but I simply don’t believe a company that’s raised $68 million in venture capital—one that currently has no revenue—is going to respect user privacy in the long term. It feels inevitable that, at some point, the company is going to be forced into a sale and the enshittification cycle will kick in. (I hope I’m wrong.)

Which isn’t to say that Apple is perfect on this. It’s just to say that I understand how it makes money—by selling hardware—and I’m not concerned about market forces making Safari eventually suck. It could happen, but it doesn’t feel inevitable.

None of this is iron clad, or a list of reasons why I think you shouldn’t use Arc—a lot of people really like it! And I’m aware this is feeling a bit like a rant. All I know is that switching back to Safari after using Arc for a nearly a year felt like a relief.

Don’t overlook Safari

Again, these are mostly just the ramblings of a person who spends too much time online and way too much time switching between browsers. I keep coming back to Safari, though, because it works well and stays out of my way. There are downsides—the extension ecosystem isn’t as robust, for example, and some poorly designed sites break altogether in Safari. For the most part, though, Safari is a tool that does its job efficiently. I like it better than other browsers, and if you give it a chance, you might too.