Apple Safari vs. Mozilla Firefox

Both browsers have strengths and weaknesses

If you're a Mac user, two of the most powerful web browsers are available to you: Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox. Both are free of charge, and each has distinct advantages. We compared both to help you decide which web browser will give you the best web experience.

These features were tested on Safari 13 and Firefox 67 in macOS Catalina, but are generally applicable to all recent versions across macOS and Windows desktop platforms.

Safari vs Firefox

Overall Findings

Safari
  • Integrated with most macOS programs and devices.

  • Faster page loading.

Firefox
  • More extensions available than Safari.

  • Open-source platform.

  • Available on more operating systems, including Windows and macOS

The Apple Safari browser, now a key piece of macOS, is seamlessly integrated into some core Apple applications, including Apple Mail and Photos. This is one of the advantages of Apple having an its own browser.

Mozilla Firefox is a popular alternative to Safari. Although it may not be as fast, the difference isn't enough to discount Firefox as your browser of choice. Although Safari's speed and integration with the operating system may give it a leg up at first glance, Firefox has some appealing features.

Availability: Safari Is Mainly an Apple Thing

Safari
  • Developed primarily for Apple devices.

  • Also available for Windows.

Firefox
  • Available for macOS, iOS, iPadOS, Android, Windows, and Linux.

Because Safari is Apple's proprietary web browser, it mainly exists on Apple products. It comes pre-installed on Macs, iPads, and iPhones. You can download it for Windows machines, but it doesn't have an official release for Android phones.

Firefox was not initially available on iOS devices, but it's now available in the App Store for iPhone and iPad. It's also available for Android and Linux, so if you use several platforms, Firefox works with all of them.

Page Load Speed: Safari Is Faster

Safari
  • 1.4 times faster page loading than Firefox.

Firefox
  • Slower page loading than Safari.

The developers at Apple did not rush the planning of the Safari infrastructure. This attention becomes apparent when you first launch the application and notice how quickly the main window and home page load. Apple has publicly benchmarked Safari as having HTML page load speeds at 1.4 times that of its Firefox counterpart.

Add-Ons: Firefox Offers More Extensions

Safari
  • Smaller selection of extensions.

  • Built-in parental controls.

Firefox
  • Thousands of extensions from third-party developers.

  • Parental controls.

Along with all of the features expected in a modern browser, such as tabbed browsing and privacy settings, Safari offers additional functionality.

Safari features parental control settings that are easy to customize, allowing you to facilitate a child-safe environment. In other browsers, these controls are not easily configurable and usually require third-party downloads. If you use Safari on a Mac, parental controls are set in the Settings menu under Screen Time.

Apple exerts the same control over Safari as it does over its other software, so it isn't open-source like Firefox. However, it does offer a section in its App Store that allows developers to create plug-ins and add-ons to enrich the browsing experience.

Like Safari, Firefox provides a platform that allows developers to create powerful add-ons and extensions. Firefox's selection is much greater than Safari's, and developers have added a wealth of new functionality to the browser.

Final Verdict: It's All About Preference and Availability

These browsers have many similar features, as well as some unique functions. When choosing between the two, here are some factors to consider:

  • If you use Apple Mail as your email client and want to perform several email tasks from the browser, Safari may be the best choice.
  • If you want to use Automator for everyday browsing tasks, Safari may be right for you.
  • If you search sites such as eBay, Answers.com, and Amazon often, Firefox may make more sense as your primary browser.
  • If you like to take advantage of add-ons and extensions to customize and supercharge your browser, give Firefox a try.
  • If you have children who use your computer and you need to enforce parental controls, Safari is your best bet.
  • If the only thing you care about is speed, go with Safari.

If none of these features stand out, your choice may be a toss-up. In this case, try both for a couple of days. You can install and run Firefox and Safari at the same time without conflict. Eventually, you'll discover that one is more preferable than the other.