What Will Become of Opera?

By Deane Barker on December 16, 2004

If you don’t read the New York Times, you may not know that Firefox has a two-page ad in today’s edition promoting itself. This got me thinking: with all the momentum behind Firefox, what is to become of Opera?

If I was working for Opera, how would I feel about Firefox? I don’t like Microsoft, so by that reasoning I’d like it. But where is my competitive advantage going? Out the window, it seems. There are now three major “alternative” browsers: Firefox, Opera, and Safari for Mac users.

Opera is different in that it has a paid version. Its tacit goal has always been to impress people enough with its functionality to get them to upgrade to the paid version. They’re still in business, so it appears to have been working so far. But will Firefox siphon these paying users off?

Opera’s sweet spot has always been some really great features. Tabbed browsing was a huge improvement…and then Firefox did it. Opera has come up with other things like Opera Show…but then Eric Meyer implemented that in CSS.

With the huge community of programmers writing plugins and extensions for Firefox, can Opera compete? Where is its competitive advantage? What are the major reasons to use Opera over Firefox, and — if there are reasons — how long before Firefox gets an extension to duplicate them?

Will Opera will start “pulling a Microsoft” and building proprietary extensions into their browser? Would that work? It “worked” for Microsoft because IE has a huge market share. Opera doesn’t have the users to make a proprietary extension work.

So what will become of Opera? I’ve used it, and I like it, but I really don’t see a future for it. It’s a crappy situation, to be sure. I’d hate to see that browser go away. Someone please tell me I’m wrong.

Gadgetopia

Comments

  1. I use opera daily. I love tabbed browsing and mouse gestures. I still think it does both of these at least as well or better than firefox. I love it’s book mark management. Nothing beats opera for flexibility in and accesability when it comes to managing those bookmarks. I also like opera for it’s ability to be tweaked to be the browser you want it to be and not the browser they ship. Everything moves, tweaks, etc. so that you can control the U (though it is a bit messy to set up).

    But all that aside, i see firefox improving in leaps and bounds, and it certainly causes me to consider jumping ship now and then. I stick with Opera for now, because 1. i’ve been using it for years and i KNOW this software. and 2. because many fo those same features I love in opera have been implemented by 3rd parties in firefox. Firefox may have the features, but they do not integrate as seemlessly as they do into the more centrally managed opera.

    On the negative side, some things that render in both firefox and internet explorer will not render in opera. (occassionally i find the reverse is also true). Opera has crash bugs. It recovers gracefully, remember all of your tabs and where they were, but it still crashes. And until the latest “preview build of opera 7.6, it’s handling of the client-side document object model was absolutely awful. 7.6 is much, much better in this regard, but it still can’t be downloaded from the main opera homepage (you have to get it from the community forums) so only the die-hards will grab it.

    I think Opera has a future. If nothing else, they’re probably best hand-held/cell phone browser availabe (if you have a phone that will run the cell-phone version). It think there are advantages to having a centralized design team with a overiding vision rather than a distributed team of plugin makers. But as long as I.E. and Firefox are free and Opera isn’t (my friends really hate the ad-based version), Opera is going to remain in third place.

  2. I used to run Opera until the 7th of this month. At this time, Opera had just crashed again so I ran and downloaded Firefox. Now, there are plenty of things in Opera that I prefer, and Firefox crashes only slightly less often, but there’s one reason I’m still running Firefox: an extension called StumbleUpon. It is the ultimate cure for boredom while surfing the Internet. It basically will send you to a random site within certain interests you put in and based on recommendations by similar users to yourself. There’s a few other things I think Firefox does well, but for the most part it is only this one extension that is keeping me onboard the Firefox bandwagon.

  3. Yup it’s the adblock, Sage RSS and NeedleSearch that weld me to firefox. Opera 8 is REALLY fast though (much faster than a turboed and pipelined moox FFx) and it’s tempting to pay for that Opera upgrade one last time………………

    An information professional should always have two options so if you get paid to do it, then less than 20 bucks a year is nothing for the productivity gains you realize.

    Rup3rt

  4. Yup Opera 8 beta. No crashes after a month.

    And the news is that I now dumped Firefox because Opera 8 handles RSS feeds much better and it is very very much quicker. I ripped all my NeedleSearches using Search Ini Editor and now rarely crank up Firefox (for the webdeveloper tools that aren’t in my bookmarklets)

    If you have a PC, stick with Opera.

  5. Opera 8 beta is awesome. Full gamil support. I have been using opera from verson 5 and dont intend to switch anytime soon. I have been using its M2 email system which is the best email system ever, if you can understand the concept. I never have to make any folders. I use its capability to read RSS newsfeeds. I actually use all aspects of Opera. I have custom searches like IMDB, sourceforge made made up and custom UI scheme which I feel homely to. All my tabs are set at bottom of screen, search boxes below that. I browse faster than any browser when I use Opera. I am totally hooked with Opera’s mouse gestures. Opera now has slipstream technology built into it for faster web browsing. Look it up if you are interested.

    But on the downside opera is not programmable that much

  6. Opera 8 beta is awesome. Full gmail support. I have been using opera from verson 5 and dont intend to switch anytime soon. I have been using its M2 email system which is the best email system ever, if you can understand the concept. I never have to make any folders. I use its capability to read RSS newsfeeds. I actually use all aspects of Opera. I have custom searches like IMDB, sourceforge made made up and custom UI scheme which I feel homely to. All my tabs are set at bottom of screen, search boxes below that. I browse faster than any browser when I use Opera. I am totally hooked with Opera’s mouse gestures. Opera now has slipstream technology built into it for faster web browsing. Look it up if you are interested.

    But on the downside opera is not programmable that much

  7. Opera is my personal favorite browser for all the productivity increasing features. sure moz extensions will emulate these, but will bog down a machine like mine that isn’t exactly up to speed. However, since the v8.00 release, i’ve been getting crashes roughly every hour of browsing, usually when clicking on links. I never had these crashes w/ version 7.x or even 8 beta. i still use it (b/c it saves the session anyways) because it’s still less annoying than firefox or ie.

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