The maddening inconsistency of Mobile Safari’s URL autocomplete

Blog | Oct. 14, 2010

If there’s one thing people want from a computer, it’s capriciousness. Let’s say I have a favorite site I visit every day that starts with a T. And so I begin typing its address into the URL field of mobile Safari. Tee…

What is this? T brings up a site that starts with W? Only the third word even has a T in it. And after that, ‘The’? ‘The’ ranks higher than a website that has two T’s in the name over a website that doesn’t even have a T in the URL? Keep in mind this is in a form field where URLs are entered. And the only website on this list that starts with a T is the fourth one down. Try that in landscape mode and you wouldn’t even know it’s there.

The effect of this horrible interface is that I find the URL less often, or mistakenly click on the top hit — assuming incorrectly that when I type a T, the top result would be a URL that starts with T, which means Safari is actively getting in the way of me visiting the sites I want. Okay, maybe it was a fluke. Let’s try and visit another site. One I also visit daily, one that starts with R:

ARE YOU FUCKING GASLIGHTING ME, MOBILE SAFARI? How does typing R — R for the start of the URL, R for the first letter of the site’s name, yield results where the site with the second word starting with R ranks higher than the site where BOTH the URL and the site name start with said letter? This makes no sense!

Hey, how about my friend’s site, the one that starts with A?

Oh you have got to be fucking kidding me. The top hit for A isn’t the site that starts with A, or has A in the second word — it’s the site with A for ‘and’ six words into the title (or possibly the A in ‘loathing’, for seven). How could this possibly match what I was looking for? “Hmm, I would like to visit that site again. I don’t remember a single fucking thing about it other than it had ‘and’ in the name.” or “I want to find a url where the title contains the letter A, so let me type it into this field for URLs and not titles.” Who fucking reasons that way? Well, apparently Safari does, if you can call that reasoning.

Oh don’t think we’re even done. Remember that capriciousness I mentioned before, and how Mobile Safari always relegated the only URL I visit daily that starts with T to the fourth item in a list of things that start with T? Well, I was able to adapt my behavior to Safari’s godawful way of organizing links (a textbook case of bad UI if I ever heard it) and learned to hit the fourth result down. Then this happened:

I guess it’s moving up the charts? How? No really, simply how the fuck did this happen? How did it get to fourth place? Why did it move to second? Is it the due to the other websites I visit? Is it the number of times I visit this site? (And should those things even make a difference?) Who the hell knows!

Oh right, Jehovah starts with an I.

Look, it’s perfectly simple, Safari: STOP. HELPING. If I want to go to a site that starts with W, I type W. If I want to go to a site that starts with T, I hit T, and so on and so on. This broken auto-complete does me no good by bringing up totally irrelevant web sites with absolutely no apparent logic behind its choices. It is a poor feature, and reason enough I stopped using Safari 5; I only wish I could revert Mobile Safari back to when it wasn’t this unusable pile of shit.


4 Responses to “The maddening inconsistency of Mobile Safari’s URL autocomplete”

  1. Brad says:

    It searches for titles containing the word in order of most recently visited. Makes sense to me.

  2. Tim says:

    Ah, there’s another reason this is a terrible feature: you have to type in the whole word to get the corresponding URL. Before I could type in one letter — make one keystroke — and bam, there’s the website I was after. Now a whole word. How’s that an improvement?

    By Safari’s reasoning, no matter which websites you regularly visit, no matter what you have bookmarked, all domains are supplanted by the last domain you visited if its title contains any matching letters. If the last website you visited had an A anywhere in the title, even the A in ‘and’ it goes to the top of the list, purely by Safari assuming …you wanted to go back to the website you were just at? And it will keep giving you the same website as long as you type any letter in its name. This is a flawed system because it creates a feedback loop that sends the same site to the top. Again and again.

    And it isn’t even reliable. ‘R’ brings up Topless Robot above Reddit. Why? Safari’s ranking isn’t as dynamic or responsive as promoting the “most recently visited”; some random site will stay up for days or weeks if I ever revisit it, and I hate having to ‘game’ Safari just to get a site with R to come up when I hit R.

    Such a wrongheaded, useless feature.

  3. anonymous says:

    I have a 2nd generation mc model itouch and this “feature” makes the browser unstable, Opera Mini is better than safari >.>

  4. Tim says:

    Agreed. Thanks for the tip on Opera Mini! Hopefully this stupid autocomplete bug is something they’ll fix in iOS 5, since they eventually changed the url autocomplete in desktop Safari back to something that made sense.