The Crazy Mac Browser Version Numbering Scheme

There’s something strange in the neighborhood. Who you gonna call? How about Browser Busters? Why? Because there’s something strange going on with browser versions.

Poor old Safari. Apple keeps the Mac’s most popular browser stuck at version 5 while most of the popular browsers on the block are way over 10 these days.

What’s going on?

Mozilla’s Firefox just turned version 11.0. Google’s Chrome is aiming for life on another planet, having already hit the stratospheric version 18.0.1025.100 (that number is crazy just by itself).

Meanwhile, Safari can’t seem to get a break and it doesn’t look like version 6.0 any time soon. Even Opera, the browser that does everything different, is at version 11. That’s 11.61.1250, to be exact (as of right this minute).

What’s going on?

To be fair to the issue, plenty of archaic browsers have yet to hit the 3.0 version. SeaMonkey is clinging to version 2.8. Camino is 2.1.2. Even the WebKit-based browser that’s also named Browser is at version 1.1.2.

Clearly, that’s not a modern browser. Modern means you’ve hit at least version 10. Even Safari isn’t modern by that standard, but Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is. Go figure.

Regardless of the crazy version numbering scheme, something good may come of it. A few years ago, Google instituted the rapidly growing numbering scheme and then automatic updates to non-beta versions.

I like that. That means the browser stays up to date without me having to find it online, download it, unzip it, double-click to install, etc., ad nauseam, every time there’s a new version. And that’s like every week.

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Firefox started doing the same thing and quickly went from version 6 to 11 within months.

Wait. I’ve got it. I know why browser version numbers change so quickly. First, it’s a race to see who can update their browsers the fastest (Google is winning, Safari is losing). Second, it’s the year 2012. According to the Mayan calendar, the world ends in December. That’s when the browser version race will be over.

Apple has a lot of work to do to get back in the game. Or, they’re planning a different game. There’s Apple’s Cupertino mothership headquarters. Maybe Safari will hitch a ride with Apple employees and a few guest reviewers and sail to a new world.