Much has been made of the new Safari tabs, most of it negative, but I like them, and I'm going to tell you why, plus offer one simple fix that I think would take care of the most serious complaint.
But first, a brief look at some of the complaints. Anthony Piraino does a pretty good job of covering some of these criticisms, but goes a bit too far. He and others have appropriately complained that the new tab implementation makes grabbing the window to drag it less intuitive, since the spots you can grab change with each open tab. Piraino goes so far as to compare the tabs in the title bar to putting multiple controls right under the 10 and 2 positions on the steering wheel (although I think with airbags we're supposed to be using 8 and 4 - either way his point's the same), but that's a broken analogy, in my opinion. The keyboard and the mouse are the steering wheel of the computer, the title bar is used to drag windows around. Sure, it's a common function, but dragging a window is hardly equivalently as significant as steering a car. If he insists on the car analogy, I'd say it's more like putting windshield wiper or cruise controls on the turn signal switch, an idea which (if executed properly) has proved quite successful. Still, it's legitimate to complain that tabs turn the grab zone into a moving target (see below).
Piraino also suggests this will inevitably lead to apps such as Mail or dialogs such as preference panels taking over the title bar real estate with cluttered and ugly function buttons, but I think this misses the fundamental point, which is that, in the case of Safari's new tabs, the title bar is still being used as a title bar. Lukas Mathis points out that from a conceptual, hierarchical point of view, the new tabs make sense, although he still seems to not like them.
Other commentaries on the new UI in general and tabs in particular that are worth checking out come from Sebastiaan de With and Manton Reece. Reece has several suggested tweaks that seem like no-brainers. Overall, I like all almost all of the changes to Safari, except for the new progress indicator and the new reload button (stolen from Mobile Safari, where I also don't like it).
So, the new tabs are clearly controversial and disorienting even to those of us who are defending them. And I agree that the inconsistent grab handle functionality is a problem, but disagree that it's a huge UI gaff to use this largely empty space more efficiently. After all, with widescreen laptops, it's precisely these vertical pixels which are the most valuable. Is it really necessary that the entire width of every window be available for grabbing to drag? With progressive Mac OS iterations we have grown accustomed to no side window chrome, couldn't we get used to a smaller drag handle if it were at least consistent.
Here, then is my suggested revision.
In this mockup, the area just to the right of the control buttons is reserved for grab and drag functionality. Exactly how big it should be, I don't know, but I think you could argue that the close and minimize buttons are more important than the grab area, and we've gotten used to them being pretty small. I wouldn't go that tiny, but perhaps somewhere between 30 and 50 pixels of width is enough.
Just a thought.