Microsoft Web sites and Adobe Flash sending Safari off-course?

Scattered reports of trouble and a few big misses
  • Eric Lai (Computerworld)
  • 27 March, 2008 10:40

With Apple aggressively foisting Safari 3.1 on Windows users, millions are likely trying out the Web browser for the first time.

Though many are finding the free browser, as touted by Apple, to be both faster and more accurate at displaying Web pages, not everyone is happy.

According to online complaints, a number of Web sites run by Microsoft don't load at all under Safari. Microsoft sites that have been confirmed include Windows Live Hotmail, Office Live Workspace and Office Live Small Business.

Windows Live Mail is the second most popular US e-mail service, behind Yahoo! Mail, according to HitWise.

Office Live Workspace is Microsoft's answer, sort of, to Google Docs, while Office Live Small Business is a Web-hosting-and-more package aimed at small- and medium-sized businesses.

Other users say claim Safari itself isn't working properly on Windows. Some say Safari has a memory leak problem. Others say Safari does not render Web pages as well as claimed.

Flash unplugged?

One of the most common complaints is that Adobe Systems' Flash plug-in is malfunctioning under Safari.

"Flash works fine in FireFox. Will not work in Safari," wrote one user, 'wriba', on Apple's own Safari discussion forum. Flash "does not/will not show up as an installed plugin in Safari. My OS is Vista. Without this plugin, Safari (while I like it) is relatively worthless."

Other users, including 'cypherpunk,' 'SuperSizeit,' and 'Desert Warrior,' echoed the complaints.

"Apple, are you monitoring this thread? Any help???" wrote 'sbw102' on Apple's forum.

This reporter encountered one Web site that did not recognize the Flash plug-in in Safari. But he was not able to replicate most of the problems mentioned by users.

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According to an Adobe spokesman, Flash has already been tested by Adobe and should work fine on Safari on Windows. A Web page on Adobe's site that indicates otherwise is out of date, he said.

"The issues with content not working for certain people on certain sites can be any number of small issues such as how a user has their plug-in configured or how the content publishers have created the SWF (Shockwave Flash) content," he wrote in an e-mail. "Additionally, it's possible that a JavaScript detection script may not yet properly test for Safari on Windows, as it's so new, and incorrectly decided that the browser did not have Flash Player."

He continued: "We would expect these issues to decrease over time as Safari is out in the market longer and its usage grows."

Siteseeing and Silverlight

Microsoft, for its part, admits that it hadn't coded its Web sites to support Safari yet.

"We are initially supporting browsers with the widest usage and are evaluating Safari support for the future," a spokeswoman wrote by e-mail. Safari held 5.7 per cent of the browser market in February, according to Net Applications. IE had about 75 per cent, while Firefox had 17 per cent. All of the sites mentioned above work with the latter two Web browsers.

Many Microsoft Web sites do appear to run under Safari. Functioning sites include MSN, its search engine, and its Windows Live Workspaces blogging platform.

Microsoft's own rich-media player plug-in, Silverlight, is also a work in progress when it comes to Safari. For that plug-in, which competes with Adobe's Flash, Microsoft currntly supports Safari only on Intel-based Macs running Mac OS X. But it is already testing a version of Silverlight for Safari 3.1 for Windows Vista, she said.

As part of the company's renewed push towards interoperability, Microsoft said earlier this month it would make its upcoming IE 8 browser default to a new, standards-compliant way of displaying Web pages.

That will eventually allow designers to build a Web site once and have it work properly with a wide variety of Web browsers, rather than force them to rebuild and painstakingly test a new version for each new browser, as they must do today. But that happy advance is at least several years off.