For the online learning world


Best browser for online learning part 1 – Safari

How well does Apple Safari work for online learning?

In this series I’m reviewing the major web browsers, and how well they work for online learning, with particular reference to Moodle, H5P, and Big Blue Button.

Safari is the Apple browser, and if you have an Apple Mac computer, iPad, to iPhone you are no doubt familiar with Safari as it’s been the default for all macOS, iPadOS, and iOS devices for many years.

Conversely, if you don’t use Apple devices, you won’t use Safari, as it’s not available elsewhere (Apple made a version of Safari for Windows 2007 to 2012).

Safari is used for around 10% of web access, and this might be higher in the mobile access statistics given the dominance of the iPhone.

Safari is based on the WebKit engine. Google forked WebCore, a component of WebKit, to be used in versions of Google Chrome, and the Opera web browser, under the name Blink. However, Safari is now the only major browser to use WebKit (most other use Blink).

Safari was the first major browser to drop support for Flash (following disagreements between Steve Jobs and Adobe).

Safari has a very limited set of plugins available – far fewer than Firefox or Chrome. The availability of a huge range of plugins for these other browsers is one of the reasons for their popularity. In comparison, Safari plugins are highly controlled by Apple, and the available selection is tiny.

On the plus side, I love Safari because it is integrated across all me devices. So when I add a Bookmark on my MacBoo Pro laptop, I know it’s going to automatically (via iCloud) be added to Safari on my iPhone, iPad, and other Apple computers. This high level of integration also applies to history, and handoff – taking a browser window from my iPhone to my MacMini to continue working – which still feels quite amazing !

Apple is also really hot on the privacy, tracking and ad-blocking, so much so that many third-party plugins cannot now work with Safari, because it’s “all taken car of” by Safari itself. If security is important for you then Safari is strong in this area.

Safari is fast, but does tend to be a memory hog, which can be an issue on underpowered or older hardware.

In terms of using Moodle, H5P, and Big Blue Button, I find Safari highly effective, and quick. There are however some drawbacks. For example, some of the H5P content types are built using audio capabilities that are only available in Chrome. I don’t like this ‘browser specific’ kind of development. It’s like a horrible Flashback to the days when many websites only worked properly with Microsoft Internet Explorer. I think the web, and browsers, need to be more free than that.

There also seem to be similar issues using Safari with Big Blue Button, where audio is compromised, probably for much the same reasons.

So, for online learning, for Moodle, H5P, and Big Blue Button, Safari will work, but may have limitations. Given this, any of your online learners using Apple technology, and Safari, should be aware of this, and be ready with Firefox or Chrome as alternatives.

Stuart Mealor
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Stuart Mealor

Stuart is interested in all things e-learning, with specific interests in Moodle, e-learning strategy, and business development. His experience in education over 30 years, MBA in International Business, and knowledge of e-learning systems implementation, together with graphic design background, give him a unique skill set for e-learning projects.

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