Before I start off, this isn’t a Mac vs. PC bash article. Nor is it a comparison between the two. I disclaim any statements about the superiority of each platform, since this will not be an article discussing these topics. That said, let’s move on to the topic of relevant interest.
As any self-respecting web developer, I try to cover as much ground as possible when it comes to the population of browsers that inhabit our Internet. It’s a pain in the ass, but we have to do it. Much of it is alleviated by the numerous JS and CSS libraries that I use to leverage the complexity of being cross-browser compatible (jQuery, Blueprint CSS, YUI CSS, just to mention a few). Still, it’s a daunting task.
Recently, Apple announced that it would be bringing the Safari browser to Windows and I thought “Gee whiz, it’d be great not to have to buy a Mac just to see IF my site works on a Mac.” I downloaded a copy, had it installed in less than a minute and was pretty impressed by the painlessness of the process. Nice job, Jobs (pun intended). My only gripe was the page loading time – everytime I’d start it up, it would take anywhere from 10-20 seconds to load up the first page, subsequent loads were quicker. I surfed a few pages thinking that it was good that it had its own typography rendering engine (nice to see how fonts look on Mac natively – very important for making accessible designs). Also, it seemed kind of… different. The pages I was looking at seemed more vibrant in colour. Then it hit me – of course, Macs have a gamma of 1.8 whereas Windows has 2.2. It must be using that preset to render colours within the browser. Neato, I thought, since most sites looked better.
What I was thrown off the chair for was testing a design I threw up with the help of a friend of mine. Nothing special, just a few background images and some JPEGs. Nothing special. Everything looked perfect on Linux and Windows (the two targets I test for primarily), worked on Opera, Firefox, IE6 + 7, Konqueror and a few other minor browser that I just felt like testing in. Finally I thought, “okay, moment of truth!” Fired up Safari on Windows and lo and behold, HTML colour space was different than the image colour space, be it PNG, JPEG or GIF (I even tried removing colour profiles from the images, to no avail). In plain terms, #00aa00 (HTML) != #00aa00 (image). All the backgrounds were now fractured at the seems and the page seemed like it was thrown together at gun point.
Now, I ask, what is the point of having your own colour space calibration if you don’t apply it consistently? While I don’t have a minimal test case for when this happens, I presume I just wasn’t paying attention at the other sites to notice a similar effect. Or I may be missing the point.
But the point is, I wasn’t expecting an image colour space misalignment problem, more of CSS and JS-related problems. I guess until Apple sorts this colour space problem in the Windows version of Safari, it’s widely unusable for anything but functional and layout testing purposes. It seems browsing the web on Windows is best left to non-Apple browsers. That, or depending on your colour blindness to counter the colour problem present.