Not long ago I had the pleasure of setting up a new Mac for a co-worker. It’s always a fun exercise to open up a new Mac, start it up for the first time, set up specific apps and settings, and then begin the fun of recommending and installing apps that new Mac users are likely to learn to love.
In this case, though, my co-worker had used Macs years ago, got stuck with a Windows PC notebook at work for many years, bought one for home for, you know, compatibility. One of my co-workers biggest concerns, believe it or not, was not the dearth of malware protection apps and utilities for the Mac, but the wide number of Mac browsers. Uh huh. Browsers. Like Safari, Firefox, and Chrome.
Without giving much consideration to the obvious time suck a discussion on browsers could bring, I just went down the list. Most Mac users stick with Safari. Next on the list is Google’s Chrome. After that it’s Mozilla’s venerable Firefox, a few percent of Mac users who take on Opera and a few other flavors and after that, not much crawls up the marketshare tree.
My co-worker remembered Netscape Navigator from back in the last century, and, obligingly, I made the mistake of downloading SeaMonkey to look at because, you know, the good old days. Navigator once was packed with useful features not found in most of today’s crop of browsers.
But are not today’s Mac browsers stuffed with more features than most of us would ever use? Mostly, yes. But SeaMonkey is a throwback to the Netscape days, back when browsers actually did more. Yes, it was a browser, but it had Messenger built-in, and a favorite, email. That’s what sets SeaMonkey apart from Firefox, upon which it is based.
Everything you would expect in a 2016 browser on your Mac is mostly available in SeaMonkey. Tabbed browsing. Session Restore. Popup Blocker. Even colorful themes. But those are not the claim to fame. SeaMonkey has a tabbed email app built-in to the app, complete with junk mail controls, multiple account options, and gobs more that smack of a time machine return to Netscape’s glory days before being muscled out of business by the strong armed goons of Microsoft.
Get this. SeaMonkey even has IRC chat built-in, an HTML editor with CSS support, an RSS and Atom feed reader, and bunches more goodies which help set it apart from other browsers. It’s almost as if SeaMonkey is out to reinvent the browser wheel. Since it’s based upon Firefox, SeaMonkey is fast and relatively secure, updated not as frequently, but updated regularly, and if it suffers from anything it’s not neglect as much as it is a diminishing user base. SeaMonkey is free but so are most other major browsers and that’s where the problem lies.
Beyond SeaMonkey the Mac landscape has more browsers than most of us need or would use. I’ve taken to using Chrome when Flash is a requirement, keeping Flash off Safari and Firefox, but to this day keeping browser bookmarks synchronized between browsers and platforms is a royal pain.
The state of Mac browsers is such that I tend to call the time we’re in now as The Golden Age of Browsers. They’re all good, all slightly different in personality, character, user interface, and function, but all render pages quickly and accurately, and all are updated regularly. With a few billion browser users in the world, the 1-percent or 2-percent garnered by a browser not in the top three or four could amount to 100-million users or more who prefer a non-major browser experience.
SeaMonkey tries to reinvent the browser wheel from yesteryear, but it’s not enough to get the vast majority of Safari, Chrome, or Firefox users to abandon ship.