Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Safari 17 Profiles

Tim Hardwick:

Safari has gained a new feature called Profiles, which is designed to help keep your browsing separate for topics like Work, School, or Personal.

Each profile gets its own icon and silos your history, Tab Groups, favorites, and cookies. You can even assign specific extensions to different profiles to optimize your browsing experience based on the task at hand.

WWDC 2023 session 10119:

Learn about the latest improvements to Safari extensions. We’ll take you through new APIs, explore per-site permissions for Safari app extensions, and share how you can make sure your extensions work great in both Private Browsing and Profiles.

Cory Underwood:

While this may not seem super privacy focused – profiles shard the user’s History, favorites, Tab Groups and website data such as cookies, caches, service workers, and Web Push subscriptions per-profile.

For user’s who share a device (or who wish to have multiple profiles on their device for various activities) this will limit that the behavior undertaken in the course of one activity (on a profile) will impact the experience of another activity (on a different profile). Depending on actual user behavior – this may impact retargeting and attribution efforts as it will not be possible to re-establish the link easily across profiles (basically this is like a cross-device scenario). This as a result may affect how much of a given audience is reachable for targeting advertising.

I’m interested in profiles as a way to feel more comfortable using Safari extensions. Right now, extensions are all-or-nothing, and there are some that I’d like to use but that I don’t want having access to everything that I browse. With profiles I could, say, enable extensions for general browsing but disable them when accessing my bank.

Safari 17 lets you specify per-site which profile it should open in. This works for “incoming links,” i.e. if I open a site via PasswordWallet. However, if I’m already in Safari, each window stays with the profile it was opened with, even if I click on a link or choose a bookmark that leads to a site that was set to use a different profile. So the profiles feature is more designed around segregating activities rather than sites. It’s up to you to make sure it knows which activity you’re doing.

There is no way to turn off JavaScript for a profile, and that’s still not available as a per-site option, either.

Sindre Sorhus:

Apple does not expose any way to open URLs in a specific profile. I recommend sending feedback to Apple that they should add Shortcuts and AppleScript support for this.

Update (2024-04-12): Jeff Johnson:

What makes Safari profiles unusable for me is that Safari changes the keyboard shortcut depending on which window is in front.

The way I think of it is that each profile has a consistent numeric shortcut (even if it’s not always displayed in the menu), and Command-N creates a window using the most recently used profile. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to change the order of the profiles after creating them, which means the menu doesn’t look sorted, but it does help keep the shortcuts consistent (unless you delete a profile).

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What are some examples of extensions that you want to use but don’t trust?

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