Jason Snell: Safari on MacOS Monterey is ‘kind of a mess’

The veteran reviewer calls one design element “a bridge too far” and another “a readability disaster.”

From “First Look: macOS Monterey Public Beta” posted Thursday on Six Colors:

This year, Apple has chosen to make dramatic interface changes to Safari across not just macOS but iOS and iPadOS as well. I think the changes work fairly well on the iPad, but they’re kind of a mess on the iPhone and, unfortunately, the Mac.

The new version of Safari collapses the traditional two-row interface at the top of the browser into a single row. I guess we should’ve seen this coming: Apple’s been collapsing window chrome and toolbars for a few years now on the Mac. And I get the impulse: While I mostly use macOS on a 27-inch iMac display, most Mac users are on small laptop displays, and on small widescreen displays, every vertical pixel saved is crucial…

But this design change is a bridge too far. By cramming the bulk of its browser interface into a single row, it’s had to make too many sacrifices—and they don’t outweigh the benefits gained by saving space…

To make matters even worse, the background color of the entire top of the Safari window is now matched to the color of the website you’re viewing. It’s a cute trick, but while I understand the desire to make Safari feel more like it’s a part of the content it’s displaying, it’s a readability disaster. Contrast with the text on tabs is frequently poor, and since the color shifts depending on which tab is active, it feels like my brain is constantly recalibrating how to read that particular text contrast. On top of that, there’s also the cognitive dissonance of seeing tabs for sites with a strong color identity displayed in a different color because they’re not the currently active tab. And you can’t see the title of the page you’re currently viewing, because the URL displays instead unless you hover the pointer over it.

My take: In the current developer notes for the beta, the only known issue Apple mentions is that pinned tabs might be unexpectedly lost. Sounds like the new Safari’s got bigger problems than that.


  1. Gary Gouriluk said:
    Form over function. Steve’s unhappy.

    July 2, 2021
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    It’s a PUBLIC beta for a reason.

    July 2, 2021
  3. David Emery said:
    I’m inclined to view this as a continuation of Apple’s “Anorexic Design” that was so common under the latter tenure of Sir Jony. That’s trading functionality for size/compactness in ways that result in loss of functionality to achieve some aesthetic notion of “thin.” (PED complains about the loss of MagSafe, I’m still pissed off about the loss of the SD Card slot.)

    In particular, the idea that Safari should have the same interface everywhere (iOS, PadOS, Mac OS) strikes me as the antithesis of why we have -different devices for different functions/experiences-!

    July 2, 2021
  4. I’ve always adjusted the Accessibility & Display settings to meet requirements of my photography & aging eyes & limbs. I regularly calibrated my color displays but haven’t recently. The OS is a portal & always customizable to some degree. Won’t stop me from upgrading my Macs using some of next week’s 150 shares…

    July 2, 2021

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