Opera 10 : The Missing Pieces
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.