Safari only supports image formats macOS/iOS support, and that's good for some users
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There's been some buzz about Safari (and its "quirks") lately. In its latest round, the webdev community discovered that Webkit (the engine powering Safari) supports the new and fancy AVIF image format, but Safari does not. Outrageous – how can that be?
I haven't played much with the new image format yet, but it's supposed to lead to smaller files than
jpeg. That's great news – a faster web is a better web. You can use the
picture element, let the browser load the best and newest image format, and call it a day. Win-win!
Apple products are user-centric and usually very easy to use. Once people understand how the products work, there are very few obstacles. There's a reason why I bought my mum an iPhone. 😉
And most of my friends on macOS use Safari because everything runs smoothly and integrates seamlessly. And despite web developers being unhappy about Safari's slow progression, users think it's a decent and fast browser.
What happens when Safari would support
AVIF even though macOS or iOS doesn't support it. People would surely save some bytes on the wire, but some people would be lost entirely.
Let's look at an example and download an
AVIF image in Chrome on macOS. This article includes a
picture element shipping AVIF.
Even though the
picture element has a
JPEG fallback option, it's not included in the "Save as" dialog. Users can only download
AVIF to save the image.
And that works great, but now they're hitting a wall. macOS doesn't understand
AVIF; there's no Finder preview or recommended program to open the downloaded image. Visitors see an image, download it and are stuck.
(I'm pretty sure it was the same for
webp images a year ago, and it really annoyed me!)
A developer might understand what's going on, but this situation is pretty much a dead-end for a person without knowledge about image compression or web development.
There's the question of what this
AVIF thing is, and then there's no way to escape it or download a "real image" from the browser. That's far away from a good user experience!
(I wonder if browser vendors could adjust the "Save as" dialog when dealing with the picture element. A selection of
AVIF could potentially help in this situation.)
I'd love to see
AVIF coming to the web and all the browsers as soon as possible, but I get why Apple is holding back on that one. A faster web is one thing, but in this case, a stellar user experience is another one.
I guess, it's the usual matter of trade-offs. 🤷♂️