Opera: the huge missed opportunity?

January 27th, 2008

Tabs. Mouse gestures. User-agent switcher. Dedicated transfer window. Pop-up blocking and javascript abuse filtering. Integrated search box. Page zoom. Session saver.

Chew on those features. We'll be coming back to them.

Let me take you back in time to a year I like to call 1996. Those were the murky days of 28.8kbps dial-up modems and "personal websites" that said "Welcome to my website! (under construction) Here's my email address." It was also the prime of Netscape Navigator, the new browser that had taken the fast expanding internet by storm and become the successor to the venerable Mosaic. Netscape was about as ubiquitous as you can imagine, for all intents and purposes it was the world wide web. Anyone privileged enough to have access to the web (chiefly in universities) had Netscape running. Microsoft (already then king of the desktop), having famously discarded the internet as a fad, had nothing to offer and Internet Explorer in 1996 was a complete joke.

This is the climate in which a little Norwegian software company decided to launch their precocious new product: a web browser. It was very much the right time for that. The web browser was by no means an established product, it was a very fresh concept. Netscape was putting in all sorts of new features and had no competition (yet). So in 1996 Opera launched their Opera web browser 2.0 and the game was on. The project was a success: a couple of years down the road a lot of people knew about Opera. And it was cool to have a Norwegian company out there in the arena - one of the most hotly contested applications even to this day, the browser.

Of course, there were hard times ahead for Netscape. Microsoft made serious progress with IE and bundling it with Windows (adding to the ongoing internet revolution where more and more home users got connected) meant that Netscape's position was threatened. Little by little it was becoming apparent that Netscape was a dinosaur next to IE, which loaded quicker, ran faster and crashed less. Netscape was not blind to this, but their counter strategy turned out to be the cyanide pill in the cocktail. They decided to scrap the existing code and start a rewrite. And thus, give or take, we never heard from Netscape again. Over the next couple of years IE pushed out the old Netscape installations (and with no new releases, IE won by default), and basically captured the whole market. This was a time when IE actually was the best product. (I know how incredible that must sound.)

Where was Opera in all of this? Catching up, it would seem. But by 2000 Opera had caught up quite nicely and Opera 4 was a very slick browser. It wasn't as complete as IE, but it looked good and both loaded and ran faster than IE5. This seems like the first time Opera was in a position to start competing with IE. It had momentum, it had speed going for it, it had new features. Hot on the heels came Opera 5, and then Opera 6 in 2001.

This is where Opera set an important precedent. With the benefit of hindsight, knowing how incredibly difficult it has been for Firefox to unseat IE, things could have been different for Opera. I recall using Opera on and off in this period. I liked the product, I liked how lightweight it was and still worked just as well, but there was just something... off about it. It didn't quite feel right. As a user of IE, I didn't feel at home in Opera. The user interface was not just different, it was too different. Then and there, I realized that Opera would not be my first choice, in spite of everything it had going for it. Purely because of the user interface.

It wasn't just me. Opera failed to build a user base. It had adoption among technology enthusiasts, but it utterly failed to break into the realm of average users. We are talking about a browser with an attractive interface, with tabbed browsing, and faster page loading. Not only that, it was more solid than just about any Microsoft application: it just did not crash. IE5, meanwhile, was on a downhill stability slope where the crashes and freezes would only get worse and worse with the proliferation of pop-ups and various nasty advertising gimmicks that the web was becoming infested with. Opera handled this so much more gracefully. But Opera was #3 (still behind Netscape) and light years behind IE in user base, without really making progress.

In 2002 Netscape returned from the dead. The rewrite everyone had long since forgotten about was released into the open, under the name Mozilla. It had little in common with the old Netscape now, the rendering engine (Gecko) was new and the user interface had been replaced (phew). Meanwhile, it was IE's turn to stagnate, IE6 was released in 2001 just before Windows XP and there ended the trail. By 2003 I felt Mozilla was so overwhelmingly superior that I wrote an advocacy text in favor of it, to wean people off the (by now) awfully backward IE. Firebird became Firefox and a year or two later the popular Firefox revolution began for real - suddenly everyone and their grandma was using Firefox.

Today IE is the dinosaur next to Firefox. The dinosaur still dominates the market, because of the unfair advantage of being pre-installed. And for the sake of completeness, grab a can of Microsoft Anti-Competitive Practices and sprinkle the whole historical period generously. But it's completely obvious that Firefox has long since won in every dimension, on technical merit, and in folklore.

Browser market share is a notoriously contested metric, but the general consensus (to the extent that there is one), is that IE remains first, then Firefox, then Safari (they basically pulled an IE on the Mac), finally Opera at #4.

With the release of KDE 4.1 on Windows and Mac (expected in July), Konqueror (which seems to be gaining ground on Linux) will be available on all platforms. If KDE adoption on Windows goes well, which I think is entirely plausible, Konqueror (now with the webkit engine) could relegate Opera to #5.

What is wrong with this picture? Let's return to the features I mentioned at the start.

Tabs. Mouse gestures. User-agent switcher. Dedicated transfer window. Pop-up blocking and javascript abuse filtering. Integrated search box. Page zoom. Session saver.

Here is the big question: which browser was first to include these features? Opera. Opera. Opera. Opera. Opera. Opera. Opera. Opera. That's right, Opera prototyped all of these things. And it would actually take years before other browsers could be persuaded that these were good ideas. For heaven's sake, Firefox didn't include saving your tabs until version 2.0 in 2006! Futhermore, Opera has taken certain ideas from others and improved upon them. Firefox was first to save your passwords, but it works better in Opera.

Opera also predates every browser in common use except IE, its contemporary. And yet Opera has failed to make a real impact, why? It's not because the technology isn't good enough: Opera is still super stable and faster than anything else. Performance wise Opera completely dominates the embedded market, that should be sufficient proof. And it's not for a lack of ideas, clearly.

To put it bluntly: why did people rally around Firefox and not Opera? Is it because Firefox is technically superior? It isn't. Is it because Opera is closed source? No, I really don't believe the average user understands the distinction, or cares about it. Is it because of the extensions? It is definitely a great sales pitch, but again I don't believe that's the reason. "Power users" adore them, but does grandma really care? I sort of doubt it. Is it because Firefox is more "secure"? It isn't. Nor is it any less portable, you get the same Opera on every platform, just like Firefox. What's more, I don't think Opera has an unfair reputation on any of these points. It's just that Opera is the browser I'm going to use if this one crashes. It is "the alternative". It isn't the first choice.

Taking a stand to be different is bold, and deciding to make your application different and expect users to adapt is even more bold. It doesn't matter if your way is better. If there's one thing you absolutely have to know about software engineering, it is this: people hate change. If you are first to the party, you set your own rules. But if you're second, alas you have to play by someone else's. Opera is not competing for the theoretical masses of people who don't have a browser and are looking for one. They are ostensibly fighting to convert people from IE and Firefox.

I first heard about Opera through Norwegian media in 1999. I was excited about it and I've kept an eye on it ever since. I have made several attempts to adopt it (most recently because Firefox&adobe-flash is such an explosive combination, pun intended), but they've all failed. It is little things. How I cannot satisfactorily reproduce my Personal Bookmark Folder toolbar the way I have it set up in Firefox. Or how when I click to close a tab in Opera the tab that becomes active is not the one I want, I want the Firefox behavior. Or how I can't use extensions that I have come to expect (nowadays it is Firefox setting the standard for browsers). Or how when loading pages from slow servers they seem to get stuck loading and never time out, which doesn't give me a conclusive answer as to whether it's just slow or it can't connect. Or how when I want to configure something I can never seem to find that specific option amid a lot of other options I don't care about. Or how the caching mechanism seems to work slightly differently, so that I have to deliberately reload pages more often. Or how the fonts until very recently (before 9.50) have been scaled different and looked wrong. A dozen little things like that and it adds up to "I don't quite like this application".

When I've spoken to people about Opera I have never heard complaints about technical shortcomings. What people always say is "it's too different". And it was too different from IE when Firefox came along as it is too different from Firefox now. User interface is a very delicate problem. People's perceptions of how things are "right" or "wrong" are very subjective and entrenched, much like how in one city you feel at home and in another you don't. Opera has stayed true to their user base over the years by doing things slightly differently. I think this is also how they have taken themselves out of the running in the browser wars, despite having a highly competitive product at least since 2000.

That isn't to say they have failed. Opera Software is a thriving company and while they have 1% or less of the desktop market, they have made a successful land grab on the PDA/smartphone market with Opera Mobile, which is the same browser. While I find the proposition of putting a browser on a 200 pixel display is a horrible idea, I would pick Opera any day for that role.

Still, one could easily imagine a status quo where Opera is more of an influence. I think had they been more reluctant to redefine the browser this could have been the case. Ironically, most people will remember Firefox to have innovated the concept of tabbed browsing. Just like Apple "innovates" by recycling old ideas. By now Firefox has taken just about every good idea left from Opera and put it into a product and a form that people are more eager to use. That is to Opera's credit, and yet it is a bit sad that that Opera hasn't gotten the credit for it by attracting users.

I do actually think Opera has been converging on a lot of these little points of friction over the last couple of years, so it makes a stronger case than it used to. They have adopted some Firefox-bling that Firefox users expect to have, like an Adblock-lookalike, themes, about:config etc. Unfortunately, there is also more competition these days, from Safari (which sort of sucks, but not enough for people to rebel) and soon perhaps Konqueror.

:: random entries in this category ::

74 Responses to "Opera: the huge missed opportunity?"

  1. Eadwacer says:

    I have been using Opera for over eight years now - starting back when one had to pay for it. Currently, my two favorite features are the one-click access to site-specific security settings, and the ability to open an entire folder's-worth of sites (like the ReadMondayAMFolder) with one click. I have used it on Win2K, WinXP, OS X, and Ubuntu, and my only complaint is that Flash doesn't seem to work on the Ubuntu version (but that's probably due to me not configing it right).

  2. Vlatko says:

    Having inspired this well written and long article, I must say I'm a little disapointed at not being mentioned in it at all. :P

  3. David A says:

    Couple of notes:
    Passwords don't work better on Opera, While Opera is my main browser at work (it's so fast!) it's my secondary browser at home. Only four reasons for that: 1. Passwords are not easy to manage (can't import export) and you can't see what they are so I can't double check them if I have to use them in another browser or computer. 2. Extensions. Opera has one really cool extension: voice. Other than that you can't add functionality to the browser like no-script or password exporter or anything else I might get interested in the future. 3. Support for plug-ins is spotty. Adobe reader froze the program (It didn't crash it though, amazing!) for no reason and getting plug-ins to work in Linux requires a CS degree. 4. No spell-checker. Though I can live without it one more reason to use Firefox. I hope 9.5 addresses so of these. One place it still reigns supreme is in my usb-jump drive. They really should make it more extensible, I wouldn't mind the hit in performance for a couple of the features I've said above particularly if I have the choice of which to install.

  4. Melvin says:

    I've been using Opera for a few years now and It's my primary and only Internet browser I use. I can't live without it and if I have to use someone else's computer I download Opera to surf the web. It's faster, more secure, light weight and it's the most innovative browser.

    Opera has failed in the advertising side. They should do a strong advertising campaing, that could help Opera a lot. Unless they want to stay the way they are. They did a nice move when they decided to develope Opera for Wii, the best selling next-gen console, that way they manage to get to a lot of new people everyday. Another great move is Opera Mini, the best mobile browser in the world right now.

  5. roq says:

    @Melvin, what do you mean by "advertising campaign" exactly? I've seen ads from Opera both on various sites, and in other shapes and forms.

  6. xabbott says:

    It didn't take off because it initially wasn't free. Even when it did become free it had ads. Had they released Opera to the masses for free originally, it could have very well been what Firefox is now.

    As far as the open source aspect of Firefox. I think it matters a lot, it gave it an immediate community.

    I personally only use Firefox over Opera because of the extensions. Oh and when I last used it on Windows it couldn't properly handle my Google reader feeds with embedded flash objects.

    Don't feel too bad for Opera though. I think they're doing very well for themselves as a mobile/Wii browser.

  7. bill says:

    Opera has made multiple marketing mistakes in the past the most prominent:
    1) not switching to a free search supported model in a timely manner
    2) believing that following standards was superior to being compatible to websites that were designed to work with IE
    3) lack of any kind of marketing (see DEC's demise in the history of computing)
    4) ignoring comments from reviewers on tech sites regarding the interface and how users found it confusing
    5) letting it's mail client wither, even though it still has features other standalone clients don't it's progress appears halted.

    Currently their tack appears to be that focusing on non-traditional platforms (consoles, phones) will provide them a profitable base (at least untill FireFox decides they want it).

    Personally I think they're the best but the cows may have already left the barn.

    PS - great article

  8. Wade says:

    I tried Opera twice:
    The first time it wasn't free, and I wasn't about to pay for it.
    The second time it was free but had Ads covering precious space on my small monitor display (most people had small monitors back then).
    The ads ruined the browsing experience, so I stopped using it very quickly.
    Third chance? Only if IE was the last browser.
    They blew it by trying to make money rather than market share in a market where browsers were free software.

  9. Opera since windows 95 says:

    Since 95 I have been working with opera as the main browser, all the problmes with compatibility that I have suferede are uncompared with the much superior browsing ability. Now havig migrated to Ubuntu as my operational system I can agree that flash is buggy, but I still think that opera is much faster, stable, and less Klunky than firefox wich is heavy and slow compared with opera.

  10. xabbott makes what I consider to be the most important point about Opera's lack of popularity - it isn't the anti-IE hero that Firefox has become. Opera is just a great browser and that isn't enough to create a large following.

    People use IE because it's already there. Others chose Firefox because they want to join the rebels and their revolution. Opera is used by pioneering people who are always on the lookout for better stuff and unfortunately they're a small but very high-class group!

  11. Dirk Gently says:

    I think one of the smartest moves ever in business was when Marc Andreessen (founder of Netscape) moved Netscape open source. This was back in 1997 two years after Microsoft executives visited the Netscape campus and strongly encouraged the company to develop Netscape on OTHER operating systems. Remember back in 1997 open source was an obscure concept to many people. To do this to a product that had a strong IPO on the stock market - unheard of (still even). Netscape effectively disappeared from the public map. Beautiful though how it was worked underground and re-emerged a much stronger product. Netscape is still a company ( I think - I know AOL bought them ) and they still create the browser but the browser is under a code that's alot like the GNU license but reserving some part as proprietary fro Netscape - good for both worlds. I don't see how Opera can compete with this.

    Oh BTW Konquerer has always used the same engine. WebKit is a term that Apple coined after agreeing to make their modifications to the Konquerer engine more public.

  12. Dennis says:

    I love Opera. I've tried the 9.50 beta and it's blazingly fast.
    But the address bar search is still slow.

    And I've got problems with flash in Opera.

    And to keep it fast I regularly have to "delete private data".

    Oh and I don't like the style it comes with, they really should change the default stile I think.

    But 9.5 still beta. The biggest real issues besides Flash under Linux for me are problems with websites. But thats more the websites' fault than operas and happens with any browser execept IE, sometimes even with Firefox.

  13. roq says:

    @Dirk Gently: A smart business move that killed Netscape? Netscape is no longer around. Mozilla created the rendering engine, not Netscape. How Opera can compete? It's already smaller, faster and more secure, so...

    @Wade: They blew it by trying to make money? Opera had no choice but to make money. It's a company. They had to pay their bills. If you are living off your parents I can understand that you think there is such a thing as a free lunch, but if you are an adult, your comment is simply mind-boggling.

    @bill: I am puzzled by some of your comments too:

    - "believing that following standards was superior to being compatible to websites that were designed to work with IE"

    Huh? When did Opera say that? They have always tried to be compatible with real sites. If they hadn't, it wouldn't have worked anywhere. Opera has never said "screw the real world, we only follow standards".

    - "lack of any kind of marketing"

    What kind of marketing? Paying for online ads? They did that. Paying for ads on Times Square? They did that. Paying for ads in magazines? They did that. Attending conferences? They did that. Sponsoring various things? They did that. Affiliate programs? They did that.

    So what kind of marketing are you talking about?

    - "ignoring comments from reviewers on tech sites regarding the interface and how users found it confusing"

    How? Did they not drastically simplify their UI a couple of versions back, so that it had fewer buttons and more screen estate than Firefox? Yes they did. So how did they ignore comments?

    - "Currently their tack appears to be that focusing on non-traditional platforms (consoles, phones) will provide them a profitable base"

    How do you figure? Are you saying that they are not focusing on the PC market? How come they claim that their PC team is bigger than ever, then? And how come revenues from the PC version has increased by more than 100% the last few quarters?

  14. bill says:

    @roq - I wrote a nice, long reply to your posting but Opera crashed. I'm using the weekly and after a month plus it still likes to crash - so no long detailed response just, they had a window of opportunity, they lost the window and I don't see them gearing up on the desktop to become a major player. Revenue may rise but market share surely isn't - how many financial institutions and Opera partners (Google, Yahoo) have functionality that doesn't work on Opera?

  15. Dulles says:


    Another worthless blog? Yeah, no one really cares what another clueless moron thinks. I bet your Zune is now hooked to your Ipod, which will be hooked to your 4G UMPC soon. And you got it all at a Chinese retail store called Best Buy. What will those Chinese think of next?

  16. roq says:

    Whether they had a window of opportunity or not is not what I was talking about. I was talking about the specific points above that do not make sense.

    Market share is in fact rising. That Net Applications chose to change their stats overnight once Opera was 1-1.5-2% isn't Opera's fault.

    And how do you figure that they aren't gearing up on the desktop to become a major player? Just because they don't have 15% market share means that they have to give up? Clearly they haven't since the desktop version is bringing in the profits and is in active development.

  17. SL Baur says:

    The Opera-killer for me was the fact that it's only been relatively recently that it was ported to run on a system I considered interesting. I've hated any version of Internet Explorer I was forced to use and liked Opera when I found the odd internet cafe with it installed.

    Now that it runs on systems I like to use (I hadn't been paying attention and only found out a few months ago), I use it.

  18. George P. Burdell says:

    For goodness sake, since when is marketshare the goal that all software must strive for to be great???

    I mean, look IE is popular, and so is Windows, but they are both junk! I get sick and tired of Free Software people and power users in general defining software greatness in terms of world domination. Do people not realize how childish it sounds, "well my app is used by more people, and it is open source....." ..... ?

    I do think this article underestimates the fact that most users do use Firefox because it is open source. Yes, mom and dad do not use it because of this, but in most cases, the person that loads it on their computer for them and tells them that it is better is their son or daugher, who probably started using it largely for that reason. Yes, Open Source is cool, just like calling something "Green" or "Organic" is cool, even if it is not necessarily better in the specific case in question. Plus, it has this whole concept of "Democracy Software," which sounds really nice, even if it is a load of crap. Even today, one of the first thing that comes up in most forums or newsgroups regarding Opera is that it is not open source, so yes, that has made a big difference.

    Other things like pages not working, different UI, Flash misbehaving (which it does on everything including IE), and whatever are not reasons why people do not use Opera, they are just excuses. The exact same things can and are said by IE users that try moving to Firefox, but that has not stopped 30% of the market. Why is Opera any different? The fact is that if that 30% thought that Links was better and cooler, they would probably move to it as well.

    The reason that Opera is successful and its users, like me, so passionate about it is not because it is the next big thing, or world domination, or whatever, but because it is the best damn browser out. Opera is the smallest (not counting text browsers of course), fastest, most stable browser out there. It is totally customizable, which among other things means that I can make it as pretty as I want, the UI as obtrusive to others as possible, and I can add other functionality to it if I desire. Even though Opera is not open source, it might as well be, because Opera the company is smart enought to realize that if they do not pay attention to the users (most of which are principled power users), then they will have none. So, Opera actually takes bug reports seriously, they listen to user requests, and they put user privacy and security at the foremost. Is Opera perfect, heavens no! But, I will tell you this, I too use the weekly builds, and I find Opera's pre-alpha code to run better than the competitors, and I have tried them all.

  19. AdmFubar says:

    Amazing... you left out several key features in Opera.
    Mail Client (M2)
    Chat Client
    Rss reader
    Crash recovery,
    Session Saving
    ...etc.... :)
    OH! and its footprint with all this added is still smaller that Firefox..

  20. Pandemic187 says:

    There is one more feature that I have always loved about Opera, which no one seems to have mentioned: the wand. This is another one of Opera's innovations. You save passwords, and when you come back to the site, bars which require a password will be highlighted with a yellow outline. With one click, your password is put into that box and it automatically proceeds to the next page. I always found that a great time-saving feature, and I'm pretty sure they came up with that before Firefox had ANY sort of saved passwords.

  21. Doug says:

    Opera is great for checking gmail and browsing porn. Besides that I never use it on a regular basis as it doesn't work right on quite a few sites that Firefox does and their extensions system sucks.

    Firefox is like having a desktop that run a zillion programs. Firefox 3 just gets waaaaay better than Opera.

  22. roq says:

    @Doug: I guess, if you ignore size, speed, lower memory use, features that are streamlined and built in rather than bolted on from some third-party source, etc.

  23. Nita says:

    I have tried Opera every now and then but I just never quite feel at home there.. There are a few things I just dislike there, and since it is a Qt app it uses unnecessarily much memory and takes a good long while to load under Gnome >_< That's probably the most important thing that keeps me from using it: I don't wanna wait for my browser to start for like 1min when I can have another in 5s. Then the small things like clicking on a irc:// link: I don't wanna use the built-in client, I want it to open the associated app (which in my case is Xchat). I just haven't seen how to disable that and then I haven't bothered to spend a lot of time trying to figure out any other way to bypass that... Oh, and I just dislike the wand. I use keyboard quite a lot so it's just annoying to have to grab the mouse so I can click on the wand instead of Opera automatically entering the correct password and just for waiting for me to press enter. Sure, it is a good browser, but apparently not for me.

  24. dtravis says:

    I have been using Opera off and on since version 5. Used it with OS2, Windows and Mac OS (Later OSX). I have always loved it but of late been using it as more of a back up on OSX and Windows to Safari and Firefox. Not sure why either as it's an excellent browser and has always been way ahead of the others.

  25. ikk says:

    This seems it was wirtten by/for me!

    """Opera is the browser I’m going to use if this one crashes. It is “the alternative”. It isn’t the first choice.

    Or how when I click to close a tab in Opera the tab that becomes active is not the one I want, I want the Firefox behavior.

    Or how when I want to configure something I can never seem to find that specific option amid a lot of other options I don’t care about."""

    Been there.

    I installed opera 3 times, always because all other browsers crashed or wouldn't work right. After a while, i fix the other browser (new version, clean reinstall, whatever) and forget Opera. The ads annoyed me, and when they went away i noticed that i dind't like the close-tab behavior or something like that.

  26. miasma says:

    I used to use Opera while I was on Windows - it definitely was better than IE. Later I switched to Firefox since the banner was pretty annoying on smaller resolutions. And it didn't make much sense to buy it since the commercial version didn't provide much extra value.

    Opera has always had the technically most advanced features (I especially liked gestures) and still it requires less memory than competitors and is faster. It's a must to have on slower machines - it would be my main browser if it integrated better with the desktop environment (KDE) and the plugins weren't such a PITA. Thus konqueror, even though it's sometimes a bit buggy.

  27. RickW says:

    I've been using Opera since it would all fit on a floppy disk. That's going back a ways. It's always been my main choice for browsing, email (especially) with multiple accounts, and Newsfeeds. The Wand.. yes. One of Opera's useful and often used features for me.

    Although Opera does have some problems with Flash and occasionally Java, 95% of the time it runs fine and I rarely close the browser. Some sites don't (won't) recognize Opera and I have to resort to Firefox or IE. It's only a minor annoyance, but I'll remain an Opera fan for some time to come. It can only get better.

  28. Mike says:

    They waited too long to remove advertisements from the free version. By August 2005 Firefox had already cemented itself as the clear alternative to Internet Explorer.

  29. None says:

    Well... I was going to type out a longer message, but then I hit "submit" a bit too early, and the website rejected my post for not having an email address. Much to my dismay, when I went back in my browser, my comment was all gone.

    To borrow from a slogan made of the Slackware linux distribution:

    "Dillo, the best 1995 has to offer"

  30. Simon says:

    I think it basically comes down to the fact that almost nobody has heard of it, outside of the IT world. Old-Netscape had huge mindshare from the early days of the web, which IE picked up by being the default for Windows users. Safari is in a similar position - nobody would know of it if Apple hadn't distributed it with MacOS. And Mozilla-based browsers never had a huge mindshare until a lot of money was thrown at marketing the Firefox brand.

    So where does that leave Opera? It's not the default on any platform, so no advantages there. And if they've spent anything on marketing it, they've obviously not done a good job of it, because I've never seen it advertised anywhere. So really, it doesn't matter how good it is, because nobody knows it exists.

  31. fluxy says:

    The biggest mistake of Opera was not to have a free version (I mean free not ad-supported!) If it was free since the beginning it would have easily conquered the bulk fan/user base that it requires - but now it is quite late coz all other browsers have caught up with its feautures while having strong user/fan bases.

    And yeah there are some stuffs not customizable in Opera (you have to do things *their* way and I hate that!)

    But really I am sorry for Opera coz in its own way it is a great browser - much more respectful towards standards, lighter, faster and more stable than firefox or IE - but again those are starting to catch up

  32. valdroz says:

    Good article I have admit. I'm writing this with opra on nintedo ds.:)

  33. Richard says:

    This is an interesting article for me in as much as I could never understand why it wasn't moer popular and shocked that firefox became more popular.

    I've been using Opera since version 5 I believe.

    Despite problems such as flash/plugin support and inability to render certain pages it remains both my primary and favourite browser. Those problems are more likely to turn me off flash and those websites than change my choice of browser.

    Opera is lightening fast(I can't believe how slow ie and ff are in comparison).
    It has a very light memory footprint,
    It can handle an incredible amount of windows open,
    It runs on so many platforms(meaning I can have a consistent user interface across all),
    It isextremely customisabl(in my case, I have practically no toolbars and therefore loads of estate for websites.
    Wand is a great feature and does its job without getting in way. Not displaying passwords is preferable as a security measure.
    Switching off images is great as an option to ignore annoying ads.(I'm only annoyed that they took away the 'g' shortcut)
    Trashcan for recently deleted sites is great too
    To reiterate how fast/lightweight DESPITE including all the features you have to add in FF. FF out of the (virtual) box is practically unusable.
    Window menu should be on by default I think but is a great way of managing windows too.
    Zoom function
    The new quickdial feature is good too although I rarely use it.
    The first integrated search bar.
    When it was ad supported I actually liked it as the ads were relevant to current page and often useful.

    I don't like mail in opera. I find it slows opera down a lot and as mentioned above no longer seems to be developed.

    I love my opera!! Any other browser is a misery to use.

  34. There's a huge issue you left out, which is that until *relatively* recently (for those with long memories, like you and me), you still had to pay for Opera. Or get an 'ad-supported version' for free, which no one wanted to do. This was, if memory serves, still the case when Firefox started getting popular.

    If Opera had been free-as-in-beer the whole time (forget about free-as-in-speech, I agree with you there), it may well have done a lot better in usage terms; but it wouldn't have made its makers any money, so from their point of view, it would have been *less* successful. I don't think Opera's developers saw it as a browser competing in the browser space until very recently. They saw it as a 'widget app', in the same kind of marketplace as Winzip; the kind of little app that gets a decent but not huge base of users who are *actually willing to pay for it*.

  35. SReg says:

    You can change Opera's behavior when closing tabs in Preferences -> Advanced -> Tabs.

  36. Jorge Abreu says:

    The problem with Opera, its they dont have de advertising what have IE or Firefox...

    Firefox have a great campain of Google Behain them...

    "Download Firefox with google toolbar, its secure", that I read in the web...

    And I now a lot of people what use Firefox, only becouse the people "says" what is Better...

    Sorry for my English, I'm from Argentina.


  37. Mike Blais says:

    I use Opera as my primary browser for at less 3 years, back when Opera had that Ad bar on the upper right, and when I install a fresh install Opera look bad until I custome it to my liking. I can scroll my bookmarks on the left while looking at the content of a web page on the right. On top i have the standard drop down menu and the follow in the main bar: back with history, forward with what you came from, Reload/Stop, Home, Open, Save, Print, Find, Panels, Tile, Cascade, Voice, Enable plug-ins box, and Enable JavaScript box. In the Address bar i removed all but Wand, Fit to width, Go, Address box, and view. I disabled personal bar because not much can placed in it so i feel it useless. Over all with a small user interface change, which anyone can do, make Opera a great web browser.

    Now if the News Reader was made to disable the 300 file limit then we talking.

  38. dgoemans says:

    I use opera at home and work. I have for about 6 years, and after using stuff like mouse gestures, i cannot change browser. Opera is great. I think the biggest failure has been in that other companies don't give about web standards. IE in my opinion is a joke, and firefox isn't cutting edge. Built in bit torrent client, mail, feeds, tabs ( long before anyone else ), and now content indexing ( this allows you to just type a word in the address bar and if it was on a page in your history that page will come up in the options liste ) and setting synch with my opera, thats just awesome. I recommend it to many ppl, who have started adopting it after seeing it on my pc.

  39. me says:

    Nothing much to say but I love my Opera.

  40. g says:

    My first experience with Opera I found to be too clunky. I could never get the user interface the way I wanted it to. For Firefox, it was as easy as click and drag and I had just one toolbar and as much screen space as possible for viewing webpages. I also had a ton of trouble with plugins (java, adobe, wmv).

    I loved Opera for it's lightning quick speed. I'm a Firefox user now but I hope Opera prospers in the mobile field.

  41. vermaden says:

    Several years behind I was a happy Firefox user, I do not looked at other browsers because I just was happy with Firefox, but some pages loaded slowly, random crash here and there, nothing really big generally, so I decided to try Opera, I was 8.x at that time, beginnings were strangem diffrent behaviour, diffrent tab switching algorithm, minimising tabs, panels, custom buttons, a lot of choices and you do not know what exacly you want to have there, but as time passed I got used to it, I liked the speed and forgot what crash means, now I have all panels customized, hidden menus and many other customization and I cannot live without all that stuff, SRSLY :)

    When I must do something in Firefox or any other browser, even browse several simple pages I feel like handicaped, I do not have all that power and options that Opera gives me, not telling about taking ages for the page to load.

    Also when I must setup opera from scratch, I do not need to search all over the Internet to get my extension that work with this exact version of Firefox, I just setup.exe Opera, turn on gestures (enabled by first gesture) and I am done. I am ready to work, do anything and with Opera Synchronization feature I have all my tabs and favorites here, wven without access to my box, that is what I call a browser, Opera, "The Power to Serve" :p

  42. The MAIN reason I can't use Opera is because is not compliant with some of the Google Services like Docs. I had problems with it in Calendar too. So even if they say they are the most standard compliant browser, somehow that is not seen in reality. And they are not quick at fixing the problems that keeps Google services not work ok.

  43. warpdesign says:

    Well, as I see it, the main problem for Opera right now, is that:

    - Flash/JS communication is broken (so a lot of sites/flash video players are buggy: for example I can't make some video players go full screen: it just hangs,... not to mention this bug: http://www.warpdesign.fr/warp_css/test.html that has been fixed on 9.5x branch but *still not* in 9.2x !)

    - A lot of sites are simply *not rendered* correctly. By correctly I mean not as the author wanted them to look like: DIV mal placed, etc... This doesn't mean that Opera isn't following the standards (yes, I do know Opera is the most "correct" in that sense), but that just means the normal user will certainly try another browser, find it looks better (yes: most websites are tested with FF & IE so look fine in these browsers) and then don't use Opera anymore... I think FF did a good job in that area: following the standards, but also displaying deviant sites as well.

    - Seems like the wheel is re-invented again, and again, even before the browser meets these goals... Adding new features (do we really needed widgets more than a browser capable of displaying *most* websites ?! especially when there's no way to hide/show all widgets :/) before fixing important bugs,...

    No, I think to be successfull on the web you have to make something accessible to *everyone*. And that's where Opera have failed (and are continue to failing)...

    Google have understood it: that's why they are number one now.
    FF folks also understood it: that's why they are catching up with IE.
    Opera simply doesn't understand it...

    That was my two cents :) And yes, I do like and use Opera everyday. I simply wish I wouldn't have to switch to FF because site x doesn't work correctly on my favourite browser...

    PS: I submitted a bug report for the above mentionned bug (and other flash-related problems) but never heard anything about it... as there's no way to track bug reports you have submitted, but that's another story...

  44. Tobias says:

    The weird caching of Opera was the one thing that made me put it aside. Trying to include it when debugging websites was just horrible when I couldn't just reload the page to acquire the updated one. Instead it kept reading the old one from the cache. I had to manually clear the cache every time from within the options. Very annoying. That's why I don't care much for it anymore.

  45. megadeth dude says:

    All you wankers out there complaining about
    1) some browser's interface being hard? It's just a couple of square buttons, you MORONS, each one having arrows or an X, if your brain can't understand these icons you're dumber than a monkey
    2) pages not showing up correctly in Opera? if you complain about Opera then you shouldn't open your mouth about computers ever. Opera is the browser that enforces the standards most strictly, just read some articles about stuff like this before you speak. For more than half a year they showcased native Ogg Theora video playing inside the browser (this means no additional codecs required) for God's sake and it hasn't even been standardized yet
    3) you're a mega-wanker for writing countless lines of text such as "I can't put my finger on it but I feel that... I'm not comfortable with... it's a je-ne-sais-quoi..." Just stop typing, think about what idea you are trying to pass on, and THEN express yourself, don't make me read entire pages when you don't know what you want to say

    I've been using Opera since 2001 and am happy to see that throughout the years more and more sites conform to the standards and not just "Internet Explorer ready".

    The single biggest feature that made me adopt Opera in an instant, is that it shows exactly what it is doing: connecting to site X, waiting for..., X% complete, X/Y images downloaded etc. I can't stand using Internet Explorer, and not knowing what it is doing when it takes time to load a page. I like apps that show status of what they're doing.

    BTW, use whatever browser you like, I'm not saying use Opera. Just please, check your arguments when you wanna write pages about it.

  46. One more feature I never see mention but can't live without now:


    It's sort of like carret navigation but only targetting active elements. Press SHIFT+arrow keys to navigate through the active elements, and press ENTER to activate the focused one.

  47. Opera User says:

    I use Opera daily. Mostly it's because I use it for RSS and since the links open in Opera, most of my browsing is also done there.

  48. Rick says:

    Well, well, well....

    Opera has many hidden features that shouldn't bother the average Joe because these features are hidden. If you compare a default installation of Opera, Firefox and IE7, their GUIs are *really* similar. Really. A toolbar, a tabs bar and the main window, that's it. So I don't understand why a non-techy person would feel lost...My wife uses Opera all day long, she's not a technical person at all.

    Regarding your complaints:

    "How I cannot satisfactorily reproduce my Personal Bookmark Folder toolbar the way I have it set up in Firefox".

    You actually can. Go to "View > Toolbars > Personal bars". Mine has the same shortcuts.

    "how when I click to close a tab in Opera the tab that becomes active is not the one I want, I want the Firefox behavior".

    When you close a tab, Opera selects the latest tab selected previously. The opposite is true. I dislike Firefox because it doesn't behave this way and I have to click the tab selected previously to make it active :)

    "how I can’t use extensions that I have come to expect (nowadays it is Firefox setting the standard for browsers)".

    Probably because Opera has so many hidden features that you don't need extensions. Personally I don't miss any extension, I have everything I need in Opera. On the other hand, extensions used to break across upgrades in Firefox when it was my default browser. And it's a pain having to go to the extension web site, while the other browser comes with these functionalities out of the box.

    "how when loading pages from slow servers they seem to get stuck loading and never time out, which doesn’t give me a conclusive answer as to whether it’s just slow or it can’t connect".

    I agree with you on this point, but it's an old bug.

    "how when I want to configure something I can never seem to find that specific option amid a lot of other options I don’t care about".

    Maybe because you haven't used Opera enough? And it's not such a big deal, at worst, ask on the friendly Opera forum, there will always be a nice guy to give you a hand in no time ;)

    "how the caching mechanism seems to work slightly differently, so that I have to deliberately reload pages more often".

    Maybe this answers your question to know why Opera is faster :)
    How often you have to reload pages? I'm sure it's not very often.
    Opera agressively caches data, this is why it's so much faster. Again, the lack of this functionality is one of the reason why I don't use other browsers. I don't like to wait.

    "how the fonts until very recently (before 9.50) have been scaled different and looked wrong".

    I have used Opera since the 6.x series and I'm now using the latest version. Fonts have always looked like on Firefox and IE7. By the way, fonts on your web site are washed out: http://i26.tinypic.com/2eyw7lz.png I had a look at your style sheet, it's because you're using Bitstream Vera Sans. I suggest using better fonts that are on different system. Here's what I suggest:

    Arial, 'Luxi Sans', 'Dejavu Sans Condensed', 'Helvetica', sans-serif;

    Everybody should have nice fonts then :)

    To conclude, for me, the reason Opera is disliked goes back to the years it used to have advertising. At that time, people used to bash Opera, some even said it was adware (if not worse), many people said "Why should I pay for a browser if I get one free?", this image of black little duck has stuck, and when you think about an evil browser, many people think about Opera even if they removed the ads. Opera is really as easy as other browsers to use, and its general behavior makes a lot more sense in my opinion. As I said, my wife uses Opera as her default browser, and she isn't a technical person. She has IE7 installed on her computer, why wouldn't she use IE7 instead?

    The problem of Opera is the evil image it developed in the nineties, and this evil image has stuck. People still automatically react bad when you talk about Opera.

  49. Gordon says:

    Another happy Opera user here. Yes, Opera missed the boat, and the hype put Firefox in the spotlight, but I couldn't care less. Opera is still by far the best browser out there.

  50. mike says:

    I always have the latest Opera on my machine. However it is some time since it was my default. They say it's the fastest, not true, I find FireFox faster. My spelling is poor but good old Foxy has the best spell checking thingy available. Since Opera 8.50 I have always had that old hourglass bothering the heck out of me, only way to get rid was to hit stop. This either got rid of it or the page started to reload and that blasted hourglass would return, time after time, after time. Uses 100CPU for no reason I can find and then my computer freezes, never used to behave like that. Many pages just don't look as they should, bits missing and the like.This used to be a pretty good browser, not anymore, now it's average. I use Firefox beta or IE 7 most of the time, and maybe on a Sunday if the sun is shining I'll give the old Opera a whirl and then it'll hang and I'll put it away again.

  51. Jakob says:

    Opera rocks!

    - That should just about sum it up. I'd consider everything else plain frosting.

  52. Gadget says:

    Nita: "Oh, and I just dislike the wand. I use keyboard quite a lot so it’s just annoying to have to grab the mouse so I can click on the wand instead of Opera automatically entering the correct password and just for waiting for me to press enter."

    Actually, Opera is waiting on you to press Ctrl-Enter. You don't have to click on the wand to enter the username & password.

    I have been using Opera since before the Ad banner days. I began using it when they offered evaluation versions. I would reinstall it whenever the eval would time out. When the banner version came along, I went with that. I got over the ad banner in the menu or tool bar area, and when I could finally afford it, I bought a license. A year later they made it free.

    There are so many features that Opera has that I can't live without. But the two that keep me happy are the browsing shortcuts. Not having to click on the back button is awesome. Most times I use the two mouse buttons to browse forward and back and also use the left handed browsing (z=back, x=forward). Mouse gestures don't do that much for me. I don't like having to wave my mouse around get it to do stuff, but that is just my personal preference. I just find clicking left+right or right+left mouse buttons much easier to navigate.

    Sessions are also my other Opera vice. The problem is most people only understand them from the aspect of which windows to have open to the sites currently active for a given session. They are actually much more powerful. They can store browsing history. Instead of having Opera open 35 tabs to 35 sites I view regularly, it opens to seven tabs with the 35 sites grouped according to my preferences. Those seven tabs have the browsing history already loaded. So on one of the tabs, after I have finished with the current page, I browse back and it loads the previous page I saved in that tab. They do need an easier way to set this up. Currently you have to build this manually by bringing up the sites you want in a tab in the order you want and then save the session. They need a session builder dialog where you could drag and drop bookmarks into a listbox and then be able to order them how you want. This is a feature where the page caching rears its ugly head. Page caching, I believe, is defaulted to spanning across sessions. If you leave it in the default setting, when you open Opera using my example above, you'll see the cached version of the pages. I set Opera to trash the cache when I close it, so that each time I open Opera it is getting the most current version of each page.

    I agree it can be tricky to get the UI to display like you want it sometimes. If it has been a while since I installed it somewhere, I have a problem remembering how to configure the bookmarks panel to display on the left how I like it. But the interface is completely configurable, from having nothing to as many bars, buttons, panels & menus as you want.

  53. Ciz says:

    It's the windows-in-a-window that is the problem for a lot of people, myself included. Originally put off by the advertising, it also didn't have the 'cool' factor Pho^H^H^HFirebir^H^H^HFirefox had with the open-source crowd.

  54. Opera Advocate says:

    I started using Opera about a year ago, and now I can't live without it. Everytime I have to use Firefox it feels so clunky. Mouse Gestures is a blessing from above, I just adore Opera's Zoom functionality, using the keyboard to browse pages is just so much better (hold down shift and use the arrows and it jumps "intelligently" between links).

    Everyone should spend some time and learn all the wonderful features of Opera, and I bet atleast most of you would stick with it and never look back.

  55. Blackhouse says:

    Opera always had great features, but it never felt comfortable for me. I usually stick to Firefox which I love for it's extensions :)

  56. Blackhouse says:

    Good article :)

  57. Rft183 says:

    The only reason I don't use Opera at work is because it always causes the primary program I use to crash. Make Opera and ArcGIS work nicely together, please!

  58. Bounty says:

    People use Firefox because IE is insecure. Especially a couple of years ago, some zero days were constantly showing up for IE... Techs had to find an alternative to tell grandma to use. We'd used Firefox before (while experimenting with linux) and we remembered Opera wanted $ to use it, or had ads. Hmmmmmm what to recommend. Firefox + some nifty extensions.

    Now Firefox and IE have frequent bugs (via quicktime etc.) so now we're telling people buy Macs, and are looking at Linux/BSD and or Opera again. Seems we can't watch our flashy websites (w/o crashes or bugs) AND be secure.

  59. DjB® says:

    Opera was always good, but there is an issue. Can't handle all netbanking websites, and some sites are just broken with it, that you'd need a IE or Firefox around. I'm not saying this is Opera's fault. It's the webmasters fault, they build websites to fit IE/Firefox, and they don't care to anything else and don't seem to follow a simple standard.

  60. Opera Advocate says:

    For me it has always worked to just make Opera identify as Firefox or IE. It will even remember to identify as the browser you choose on that site in the future.

  61. Fwoop says:

    "People use Firefox because IE is insecure."

    lol, and FF isn't?


    Mozilla mrktng > Opera mrktng

    That's just it. ( the default theme has a few issues too, but it's negligible )

    kestrel and ff3beta2 memory usage: http://i28.tinypic.com/n1xc76.jpg

  62. Onyx says:

    On the point of rendering pages "wrong":

    I always test my pages in Opera first. And guess what? I manage to get everything work just as it should in record time. Then I run it throught w3c validation and fix a few stupid mistakes like not defining default body bgcolor and such (I always forget about that one...). Then I open FF... and fight with it for about 20mins to get everything properly placed. Then I open IE... and fight with it's lousy CSS rendering engine for about 2hrs... And then I try to get it w3c compilant again...

    Now, tell me, who is wrong here? Opera rendering everything properly ALL the time, form FIRST time I make a page up until my LAST change or FF/IE?

  63. Ed Buttenhoff says:

    I have been using Opera since it fit on a floppy, and now other browsers seem odd to me! Opera switches pages so much faster than the competition, that I think something is wrong when I use them. I also paid for Opera back when it was not free. True, it dosn't work quite right on all sites.

  64. Jakob says:

    Notes - one example that saves me time.

    I have an account with ww.vyke.com and I send my SMS messages and initiate international callback calls. Notes makes it so easy to fill in numbers in the phone number field(s). In the field right-click or just press arrow down and all the Notes entries show up.

    Custom search, click F2 enter "shortcut" "search term" - another time saving feature

    If you need to look up phone numbers in an online phone book from time to time, then create a custom search by right-clicking the field. Give the CS a shortcut and save amounts of time by entering "shortcut" "name" in the URL field.

    Example: F2 -> "pb" "Bill Hansen, San Mateo"

  65. Caraibes says:

    I enjoy Opera as my 2nd browser.

    -Why do I use Firefox as my main ?

    -mPlayer plugin works easily in Firefox, so I can watch any videos online.

    -Adblock Plus (!!!!!!!)... It has been about 3 years that I surf the web without being bothered by any ads... As much as Opera can be tweaked in some extent to eliminate some ads, it is nowhere near as nice as Adblock Plus...

    -Poor Gmail/Google Calendar support in Opera...

    -Closed-sources... Yes I know, many people don't care, but it is an issue for me... I believe in Freedom. If there are 2 equivalent apps, one Free, and one Non-Free, I'll go for the Free one...

  66. roq says:

    @fluxy, why be sorry for Opera? The business is going very well. More than 100% increase in revenues from desktop, etc.


    @Adam Williamson, Opera is a company that has to pay its own bills unlike Mozilla which gets donations and stuff. If making the browser free was going to make Opera lose a lot of money, they never had that choice in the first place. When the mobile browser got a nice foothold they could afford to lose money for a period of time to see if the free model worked.

    And it's completely wrong that Opera's developers saw it as a widget app. Widgets were added after Opera became free of charge. Oh, you didn't know that Opera for desktop is free of charge now?!


    @Simon, Opera is the default on UIQ.

    "And if they’ve spent anything on marketing it, they’ve obviously not done a good job of it, because I’ve never seen it advertised anywhere."

    I've never seen Firefox advertised anywhere either...


    @"g", Opera actually has more screen estate than Firefox by default... :)


    @warpdesign, Opera displays "deviant" sites as well as Firefox. Problem with your argument is, Firefox got free compatibility because of its Netscape roots. If someone told you that Opera doesn't display non-compliant code, they lied to you. Not sure what adding features has to do with fixing important bugs BTW. Important bugs ARE being fixed, and different developers typically have different tasks anyway, so stuff like widgets shouldn't affect the rate of rendering fixes anyway.

  67. kala says:

    For me Opera was the first non-IE browser, so it's possible I remember it more fondly than I should. However, over these some eight years, I've really grown to appreciate all of its features that other browsers lack or did lack before. Many say that opera "just feels weird", but I'll have to respond with "all the other browsers just feel weird". Opera is highly customizable - yet small and compact. I myself don't use the wand, the rss reader or the torrent client or anything else fancy for that matter but I know they're always just a few clicks away!

    The most important opera-only feature for me is zoom, but there's so many of them good ideas come true that I only remember they exist when I have to use other browsers. I can also live with firefox, but it's just a bit too clumsy. Also, I'm used to doing things the opera way. The only thing I can complain about is the fact they changed shortcuts to remind those of firefox so that ctrl+n no longer gives me a new tab but a new window instead. That is kind of annoying since this combination was, still is and will probably be forever carved to my soul :P So nowdays I always have to change it whenever I install Opera clean.

    I believe Opera is not so popular due to ads but also due to the fact that "normal users" dont appreciate performance and they don't like to customize, whereas customization is one of the dearest things to a geek. But I'm happy with my opera, who cares if my friends feel lost when using it :P

    ps. this article was very interesting and nice to read

  68. Caraibes says:

    After posting my last comment, I felt a bit unfair... Opera has been my "2nd browser" for years (FF is my 1st...).

    I gave it a go (under my Linux Mint partition), and find it indeed faster than FF...

    Correction, it has the Mplayer plugin (thanks to the Mint dev, I guess...), I was able to watch the news online...

    The spellcheck is ok, but I still prefer the FF one...

    Te Opera "Block content" option (with the right-click) isn't that bad, but it requires an extra effort versus Adblock Plus.

    Anyway, I must say that Opera seems faster right now...

    Too bad it's not Free as in speech, as it is important...

    However, I'll always cite Firefox & Opera as my 2 favorite browsers, no matter which one is the first, or the second... I always use both...

  69. [...] preqrsor wiekszosci standardow w przegladarkach [tab browsing, mouse guestures etc] ma 1% rynq? polecam nie tylko dla fanow opery Dodaj [...]

  70. Caraibes says:

    Back to Firefox... My main problem with Opera is the major instability of the Flash-Plugin... Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't... Sometimes it crashes...

  71. Lawrence says:

    Just the opposite for me: I keep going back to Opera from Firefox because I want the Opera behavior. I even paid for Opera in the days when you had to put up with ad banners if you didn't. I just LIKE it better: always have, and likely always will. I keep trying Firefox (I gave up on IE Explorer a long time ago), but for me it just feels wrong. It's all about what you get used to I guess. I hate the way tabs work in Firefox; I'm used to the Opera way of doing things. The F12 key Fast Preferences feature, allowing you to turn plug ins and java on and off on the fly is great. I usally like that crap off unless I need it.

  72. Maynard says:

    I'm a confirmed Opera user since it first came out. There was no competition betwen it and IE, but I agree with many of the negatives above and can understand where they come from.

    Yes, I've tried about every browser on the web. Some of the bramnches off from Mozilla were the best, but poorly supported and died or got hijacked by geeks.

    My main love of Opera is its (quantifiably) vast superiority in security. At the touch of a button or two I can disable Java, Flash, and Javascript, then head to unknown sites with little fear. Secunia will vouch for that. Almost zero unpatched holes IE is a security joke; it probably accounts for 50% of the worlds virus and trojan problems. Firefox comes second of the three, but is let down by its advantages - plugins, which are the source of uncoutable exploits.

    But Opera themselves are to blame for their poor showing. I have often commented about their "weird and wonderful" feature "marketing" of consulting a tiny vocal portion of their user base over changes and new features. But they seem to ignore basic stuff as if there was just one self opinionated dork there who commands.

    The latets gimmick was "speed dialling" - basically setting up the home page as a link page to your favourites sites. Big deal. I got a slim menu bar permenantly there that does that already for the last 5 years. But they can't find Java in an Ubuntu or Mint set up still. You have to show the browser where it is installed. Flash and Windows Media player integration have to be done manually. I mean, get a grip guys!

    Opera's main weaknesses are:

    1. The slow site never finishes problem. Occupies a limited number of connections until there are none left. The solution is to go back and manually stop the loading of dead connections. That will never be fixed. Been there for 5 years.
    2. Stupid resistance to accomodating IE quirks which casues incompatibility with so many important sites like Google and Yahoo (and my bank).
    3.Failure to develope a plug-in system - as if the dork from 2. couldn't stand the thought that outside plug-ins might show up their in-house team's new features.
    4. Javascript handling that allows it to eat memory over a period of time -you have to restart the browser to speed the OS back up. Part of that got fixed recently when they realised that scripts could carry on working after their pages were closed. They say they have stopped that, but my experience is otherwise. They were told about that problem many times over many years and never listened. Its easy to monitor Javascripts and cancel them when they run riot. Just do it.
    5.Updating usually knocks out your customization. Its better to do an uninstall/reinstall which, with reverting their latest and greatest default UI to a simple fast one with no gimmicks, takes a couple of hours (sheesh). The dork obviously doesn't give a damn.

    4. Updates, new feature, gimmicks and bloat instead of solid work on the above. We got a poor e-mail client, poor feed handling, poor newsreader, "widgets" of java games and idiocies like that, not to mention a free webmail, and hundreds of silly skins from users with more time than sense.... instead of some good solid work on the basic interface and web handling and some real market research. Yes, and the standard skin is pathetic. I remove it and run Windows native skin, which on my systems is no skin.

    Market research? I think they must ask a dozen die-hard skin designers "How a bout a whatsemit doodoo wnji guys?" "oh, cool! Wow! Great! Yeah! Super! God your eyes are beautiful!"
    Instead of:

    "Do you want more gimmicks, or would you prefer us to fix the IE quirk sites?"
    "How about changing the user string to anything you want so you can wander around pretending to be any browser you want?"
    "How about having the mail/feed/reader as an add-on deselectable at install time?"
    "How about your customisation being respected at update time"
    "How important is trouble-free Java, Javascript and Flash handling to you?"
    "You want a bust-proof all-site browser, small footprint, clean easy interface, no hassle updates?"

    Marketing? I just wish it could advertise "The smallest, fastest, go-anywhere browser on the planet Bill Gates uses Opera!"

    That said, I still love it. I just wish the producers weren't so stuck in the mud. It IS interoperable between Linux and Windows (I dual boot), so it suites me fine. But one day I might just crack up and nuke Norway in frustration!

  73. Nick says:

    I think you're wrong. I don't buy the whole Opera is too different argument, simply because it's not.

    The real reason Firefox took off where Opera didn't is that until fairly recently you had to PAY for Opera. This idea lingered for a long time, even years, after Opera released free versions. If Opera had gone free a few years earlier the current market position with respect to Firefox would likely be reversed. Another thing that killed Opera was the rise of Firefox plugins, especially ad-blockers. Opera just took too damn long to implement their own ad blocking features, and even now they're not easy to use.

  74. Manav says:

    FireFox won mainly because it was superior to IE and had a large group of open source enthusiasts cheer leading for it. FireFox was not superior to Opera but the cheerleaders made it look like next best thing to bread and crumbs.

    Your article under estimate the importance of open source, not because of quality but the free marketing you get.

    That is why google made chrome open source.