Opera 10 : The Missing Pieces

Opera Browser After an extended alpha and beta (followed by a brief RC) phase, the final build of Opera 10 is finally out. It contains lots of exciting new features and all in all stays true to Opera’s tradition. Opera 10 includes never seen before features (in browsers at least) like Opera Turbo. Check out my initial review of Opera 10 to learn more about them.

Opera is the first major browser to reach a double digit version number. Not only has Opera survived in the hostile browser market for fifteen years it is also doing rather well. Opera 10 was a great opportunity for them to take it to the next level. Unfortunately there are lots of missing pieces in Opera browser. Here are some of the major disappointments in Opera 10.

Arrow 1. Lack of an API: Opera’s reluctance to release an API (application programming interface) has always perplexed me. It seems bizarre given that Opera’s motto is to give users the power. Undoubtedly, the biggest strength of Firefox is extensions. And it’s not just Firefox; all other major browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome and Maxthon) support plugins in one way or the other.

Users love the ability to customize the browser according to their needs. And it’s applicable for not just browsers. Remember how everyone went crazy when Facebook unveiled its Apps platform? Remember Winamp and how the plugins helped it in becoming popular? Remember how one of the first thing that people demanded from Google was an API for chrome?

Many Opera developers seem to be concerned about the security risk inherent in opening up a browser. But, Firefox and Google have already showed that it can be done. All Opera needs to do is build a central repository of verified add-ons.

The other concern is that poorly coded applications can degrade browser performance. It’s a valid concern. But, no one is forcing a user to install a particular application. If an application is poorly coded soon enough people will stop using it and the application developer would be forced to fix the issues.

Extensions are necessary because different people have different needs. I love the Google Redesigned extension for Firefox, but you may find it totally worthless. It’s impossible for a browser maker to cater to satisfy everyone.

Although Firefox extensions are ridiculously popular, there are many Firefox users who don’t use extensions. However, pretty much all power users have dozens of extensions for Firefox installed. And winning over these power users is critical because many of them are bloggers, technology writers and opinion makers. How often have you heard someone saying that they use Firefox because their teach savvy friend or cousin told them it is good? And how many times have you heard from Mr. John Doe that he can’t give up Firefox simply because he can’t do without xyz extensions? Without an API Opera is going to struggle to win over this influential section of netizens.

Arrow 2. No UserJS Manager: UserJS is one of Opera’s best features. It’s possibly the best available technique to customize Opera’s behaviour. Unfortunately, Opera Software has completely ignored this feature ever since it was introduced (i.e. since v8). Opera still doesn’t have a UserJS manager for managing installed User JavaScript. It doesn’t even provide a straight forward way to install UserJS. As a result only the advanced users are aware of this feature.

Even more shocking is the absense of a centralised gallery for UserJS. It has galleries for custom toolbar and menu configurations, skins and widgets but none for UserJS. If you want a UserJS your best bet is to check out the out-dated userjs.org or go through userscripts.org and hope that the script also works with Opera. Loads of brilliant UserJS scripts created by Opera users are lying unnoticed in the myOpera forums.

Arrow 3. Apparent Lack of Interest in DragonFly: DragonFly was supposed to be Opera’s answer to FireBug. It has been in alpha for over two years and still doesn’t have half the features of FireBug. Check out this FavBrowser article to get an idea about DragonFly’s sorry state.

Arrow 4. Ageing JavaScript Engine: There was a time when Opera used to be the undisputed leader in terms of rendering speed. But, then Opera lost the plot. While the competitors focused on using out of the box approaches like JIT complication to generate Native Code for JavaScript to improve rendering speed Opera simple continued to optimise its ageing JavaScript rendering engine. Eventually, it realised its folly and started working on a new engine. But, by then it was too late. As a result Carakan (Opera’s new rendering engine) won’t be ready any time soon.

Arrow 5. No Incremental Update: Every time a new version of Opera is released you have to go ahead and download the entire setup. This is pointless given that not all the files are updated in every release. Opera failed to deliver an incremental update system (similar to Firefox’s) even in Peregrine.

Arrow 6. Wand is Broken: Well not exactly, but Opera can definitely do more with Magic Wand. Opera doesn’t offer any API and isn’t willing to work with 3rd party application developers like LastPass. The least they can do is to improve the built in features so that users won’t feel the need for add-ons.

Magic Wand was designed to be a password manager. And it works brilliantly as a password manager. However, when it comes to auto-filling information, it fails miserably. It seems to recognise and auto-fill only the email field.

Arrow 7. No Download Manager Integration: I like how Opera handles torrent downloads. It gives you the option of just saving the torrent file or starting download with any of the installed Torrent Download clients. Why couldn’t Opera do the same for (http ://) Download Manager?
Download Manager integration is one of the first things a new Opera user looks for. Unfortunately most download managers integrate either through the context menu or by editing the MIME settings, neither of which is a satisfactory technique. Lex1 did a great job with oGet, but even that works only via the context menu. I am sure with a little work Opera could have developed a solution like Flashgot (for Firefox) themselves. Once again this wouldn’t be required if Opera had an API.

Arrow 8. Poor Native Skin: Opera’s default skin is brilliant. I love it and it’s the best I have seen in any browser. However, not everyone may like it. It may be too loud for some. Opera does offer a native skin. But, don’t even think about using it. It looks shabby on Windows and I am told by friends with a Mac that it looks even worse on OS X.

Arrow 9. No Private Browsing: I included this feature in my wish-list for Opera 10 and have been requesting this feature even before Private Browsing went mainstream. These days all major browsers including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome have Private Browsing (although the names are different). Opera is the last major browser without Private Browsing.

Arrow 10. No Opera Unite: Opera Unite was supposed to be one of the major attractions of Opera 10. It garnered a lot of attention and praise from bloggers all over the world. However, it is not present in Opera 10 as Opera hasn’t yet managed to resolve all the server issues.

To be honest, it is better to not have something than being forced to use a half-baked version of it. Opera software must be credited for not including something that wasn’t yet ready. Yet the truth remains that Opera missed out on some more positive publicity by not being able to include Opera Unite in the final release.

Opera is a brilliant browser. It has been my default browser since v7 and will remain so for now. Opera puts in a lot of effort to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. Just look at the change log for new releases of other browsers. You are certain to find a decent number of features which were either pioneered by Opera or have been present in Opera for ages. However, there are lots of obvious stuff which may put off a user from converting to Opera. Opera Software has been expanding at a rapid pace. However, until it gets the basics right Opera can’t hope to become a mainstream browser.

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27 Responses to Opera 10 : The Missing Pieces

  1. Shaunak De September 1, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    I totally agree with your 3rd point. Although Dragonfly started as a solid development tool, Opera has failed to develop it significantly.

    Plus, it is loaded as a remote application. So if you do not have a working connection to the net, you cant do any localhost development work! Which is totally absurd.
    .-= Shaunak De´s last blog ..Force India Clinches Podium at Spa =-.

    • Pallab September 1, 2009 at 11:05 pm #

      Perhaps they wanted to ensure that you always get the latest version of the App irrespective of what version of Opera you are using.

      However, I agree with you. I would definitely have preferred a local version.

  2. Dapxin September 2, 2009 at 6:40 am #

    Well done. A truly all encapsulating review. Still, Opera rules :)

  3. Aman September 2, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    I still cant have new links opening in background pages by holding down control. That is THE one small thing i ask! Also associated with this the keyboard shortcuts menu, why are there so many profiles, which one is in use ?? No clue.
    .-= Aman´s last blog ..Ubuntu-Change Icon Size =-.

    • Pallab September 2, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

      Opera changed a many of the hotkeys in v9.5 in order to match with Fx and Ie shortcut keys. However, they also retained the older configuration for convenience of existing users.

  4. Gourav Kumar September 2, 2009 at 4:17 pm #

    I agree with point 6. its high time opera links added synchronisation of saved passwords also. For this reason I have to keep upgrading in the same location even though it was advised that opera’s final release be installed at a location other than the beta installation.

    • Pallab September 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

      For the time being you can just copy/paste the wand.dat file present in your Profile folder. However, this will not work if you the wand file format utilised in the two different versions are incompatible.

  5. Chinmoy September 2, 2009 at 7:25 pm #

    Good thing it is finally out. It’ll save me all the blabbering i get from my roommate about what’s new..
    OMG! Isnt’ this his blog!
    .-= Chinmoy´s last blog ..Test your Antivirus Software’s Response Time =-.

    • Pallab September 3, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

      Really? Don’t be so sure..I can still blabber about a lot of other stuff.

  6. Jonny September 3, 2009 at 1:51 am #

    This really is a great look at Opera and I shall be downloading the latest version, however every point you list are MAJOR reasons not to use Opera. I really love how Opera pioneers but with the items you list it is no wonder it lags behind other browsers in users. A shame really.
    .-= Jonny´s last blog ..Is My Website Down? Bookmarking Down For Everyone or Just Me? =-.

  7. pppb September 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    Well, everyone has his own list of missing pieces in Opera. I agree with most of your remarks. I would add:

    - no portable version provided by the dev team. Of course, you can find many portable versions offered by 3rd parties, but why is it not offered by Opera in the 1st place? Besides, upgrading from Opera USB 9.x to 10.00 proved a nightmare.

    - poor feedback from the Opera team to all the suggestions made in the forum. It looks like the dev team does not care much about its users input.

    No wonder Opera’s desktop market share remains so low (still Opera is my favorite browser!)

    • Pallab September 3, 2009 at 6:34 pm #

      Yeah. An official portable version of Opera would be nice. Because it is not on their official website, very few people are aware of Opera USB.

      Previously, the dev team used to be more active in the wishlist form and they even used to share their thoughts on the suggestions. I guess the increase in the forum activity has forced them to stop responding to every thread.

  8. axel September 16, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    To me the major issue is the fact that there is no incremental update. The whole re-install is a weakness and a potential to loose information. No private browsing is also a disappointment. The last thing about Opera is the sluggishness to enhance\better\service old features. Otherwise a great browser. Keep up the good work Opera. And keep innovating please.

  9. [ARB1D3_[00L3R September 16, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    Cannot retrieve passwords; power button(js) no longer works.

  10. SxFlare November 14, 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    No Download Manager… wait, what?
    isn’t there a downloads panel where you can stop and resume downloads, restart and even paste links to download the file from?
    or are you talking about multi-source download managing?
    I’m confused.

    But a lot of the points mentioned are noteworthy: UserJS Manager, JavaScript Rendering Engine, Incremental Update, Unfixed Wand, Official Portable (I only just found out about OperaUSB) and Opera Unite.

    I don’t understand the hype for “Private Browsing”, don’t want to get caught with the wrong porn? Use OperaUSB? I’m not really sure…

    DragonFly looks interesting, I didn’t even know it existed, hahah… I can understand holding development for that, since it has to get a good base to continue that development, or risk breaking everything around it.

    • Pallab November 14, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

      I was talking about download manager integration i.e. compatibility with external download managers. Yes, it really isn’t Opera’s responsibility. But given how hell bent Opera is on not providing an API and the fact that many many users want it – it is something Opera should do.
      Its a common complaint I hear from new Opera users. And in fact, it is one of the reasons, I almost always need to have Fx open in the background.

      OperaUSB is an option. But, how many people are really aware of it. Opera was the first browser with in built sophisticated privacy tools. However, others have now surpassed Opera while it was sleeping. Even if you ignore Private Browsing, I would like to have an Fx like privacy cleaner that allows you to delete history for the past hour, past couple of hours, past day and so on.

      I am dissapointed with Dragonfly, as Opera had promised big things with Dragonfly. However, after all these years it still looks like a child in front of Firebug.

  11. decodedthought October 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    hey, interesting points out there.
    Just to clarify Opera has private browsing option !
    I agree with points 1,3 and 10 :)

  12. decodedthought October 17, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    my bad, didn’t realize the article was a year old :P
    apologies !

    • Pallab De October 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

      No problem :)

  13. Mark November 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    So Opera have addressed every single excuse here. I bet this Firefox fanboy is still not using Opera 10.6

    • Pallab De November 15, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

      Me, a Firefox fanboy? Way to go Mark. You must be really intelligent. After all, anyone who has gone through my posts on Opera, can’t help but reach the same conclusion.
      Btw, yeah I am not using 10.6. I stopped using that when the 10.7 snapshots came out, and now, I have moved onto v11.

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