Recently, the pinheads at Google decided to drop support for h.264 video playback by changing the way the <video> tag works in future versions of the Chrome browser. It’s not that I think Google’s pinheads are more or less pinheady than anyone else’s, but this is an especially egregious sin since we were just beggining to see some sanity taking shape regarding video playback online, across all devices and browsers. Instead of leading us into h.264 nirvana, they split off for no other reason except they wanted to screw iOS and prop up their own “standard”. But I’m not here to argue the politics of their decision.
Chrome had been, up to that point, my default browsing axe. I liked it because it was standards-compliant, fast as all hell, and cross platform. As a person who makes a living developing for the web, I like to support tools that work the same way everywhere. Since I use a Mac, Internet Explorer is not an option. Since I like tools that work everywhere, I have traditionally eschewed Safari. Firefox was my go-to tool for a long time, but it started to feel a little crufty to me and didn’t seem as fast as Chrome. So anyway, I was so pissed at the pinheaded change of course at Google that I jumped ship to Safari (being the best of the two real options available). I used it for about three weeks. Tonight, I jumped back to Chrome. Not for any big reasons, but for all the small ones that make a tool feel well-worn and comfortable.
First off, I appreciate Chrome’s combination of URL and web search in one field. I got so used to it that, even after three weeks, I couldn’t remember to use the search field in Safari. Not even once. It’s such a logical and useful way to approach search that needing two fields seems silly to me now. Second, Chrome has a far larger universe of extensions. There were a few in particular that I used daily and could find no substitute for in the far smaller Safari stable. Third, Safari, while a nimbly renderer, presented me with several endless spinny beach balls every day. It was infuriating. There seemed no rhyme or reason and the app was essentially useless until it worked itself through whatever internal quandary was facing it. Lastly, I kept running into small inconsistencies with how Safari handled long text fields (like this one). Gmail, Squarespace, WordPress, etc. It was like they all kinda worked, but not quite. As a guy who lived through the dark and dismal days of the late-90’s on the Mac, I have zero tolerance for things that kinda work. I’m sure I’m disappointing some associates, but at the end, I just didn’t find Safari to be flexible or reliable enough to be the one app I use more than 90% of the time I’m facing a computer screen.
Regarding my original complaint, the <video> tag still plays h.264 for the time being. I’ll cross that bridge when Google forces me over it.