While researching Gopher clients for my last two posts, I accidentally stumbled across a web browser for PowerPC Macs that I had not previously been aware of: OmniWeb. Somehow, in the nearly nine years that I have been using Macs exclusively, this particular web browser has completely evaded my attention. Perhaps it did yours too, and so I am writing a brief post about it.
For some time now, the only game in town, where PowerPC Mac OS X web browsers are concerned, has been TenFourFox. TenFourFox, along with its email counterpart TenFourBird, are excellent offerings that together have kept my PowerPC based Macs completely relevant even in the incredibly feature laden world of today’s internet. Until my research on Gopher clients it had been my assumption that not only was TenFourFox the best choice for a PPC web browser capable of navigating today’s web, it was also the ONLY choice.
I was therefore more than just a little surprised when my search for Gopher clients turned up repeated references to a program called OmniWeb, a previously unknown (to me anyway!) web browser that still runs on PowerPC Macs and apparently still supports the Gopher protocol natively. OmniWeb, of course, turns out to be a surprisingly current web browser, and better than that, one that still runs well under both Tiger and Leopard on PowerPC Macs.
Those of us on PowerPC Macs running Tiger were stranded by Safari in 2010. Those on Leopard made it a little bit further – 2011. OmniWeb takes us all one year farther down the road, to 2012. The last stable version of OmniWeb, sporting version number 5.11.2, was released on July 23rd, 2012. This makes OmniWeb fairly current, but nonetheless still a little over 2 ½ years old as I write this post. As we all know, the web is evolving at light speed, and so how well does a 2 ½ year old web browser stand up to the rigors of today’s online world?
My response would be, in a word (well, in two words actually!) “very well”. OmniWeb has performed flawlessly on all of the web pages I have tried it on so far, and that has been no small number – I have tested it as my day to day browser for about a week now. This means that OmniWeb has been exposed to a good cross section of the web, and performed admirably for me to date.
OmniWeb compliments this surprising performance with … its surprising performance! OmniWeb is FAST! Even on my PowerMac G5 Quad, equipped with an SSD boot/applications drive, TenFourFox is still somewhat slow to launch, taking two or three Dock bounces to get going. By contrast, OmniWeb seems to just snap into being, and augments this impression of blazing speed with its rendering of web pages, which seem to appear at an equally good clip.
As you can see below, in 2006 at least OmniWeb was the leading speed demon among Mac OS X web browsers:
Stumbling across a previously unknown, full featured and exceptionally fast web browser that still runs on PowerPC Macs seems almost too good to be true. My sense of wonder at this unexpected turn of events is expressed perfectly by John Siracusa, a technology journalist and critic for Ars Technica, who in reference to OmniWeb said, “Finding [this level of functionality] in a proper Mac OS X application from a respected developer with a proven track record is like finding a perfect 1/10,000th scale replica of the Eiffel Tower in a box of crackerjacks.”
“Respected Developer”? Did he say “Respected Developer”? Where did such a capable web browser come from, and how did it fly under my radar for so long? Well, it turns out that OmniWeb has had a long and eventful history. That I have missed it for this long is completely inexplicable. OmniWeb started life in 1995 as a NextStep browser. Courtesy of a corporate acquisition of its parent company, it then spent some time on Sun Solaris before ultimately settling into it current role as an exclusively Mac OS X offering (as of its version 4.0 and onwards).
OmniWeb is one of a family of programs offered by the Omni Group (www.omnigroup.com) and seems far from dead. The Omni Group web site indicates that test builds of OmniWeb for Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) are available now, and checking into this, I see that these are being updated almost daily. Active development is clearly taking place right now. Whether there will ever by another Tiger/Leopard compatible version remains to be seen, but it is clear that the Omni Group is continuing to work on the product.
So, there you have it, OmniWeb, a “new” web browser for PowerPC Macs. You can download OmniWeb directly from the Omni Group web site (www.omnigroup.com) or from:
Give it a whirl – I think you will like it!