Can Opera Ever Become Popular?

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Opera - one of the best browsers availableThe browser market is stronger than ever. There are no less than five mainstream browsers and dozens of off-shoot projects such as Flock and Maxthon. Web developers have become passionate about their weapon of choice and spend many hours tweaking the software to perfection and evangelising the product to whoever will listen.

Opera has been around longer than most. Originally started in 1994, the browser was publicly released in 1996. Version 3 arrived in 1997 and deserved high acclaim for being far more advanced than Internet Explorer and Netscape.

Opera has remained at the forefront of innovation. It was certainly one of the earliest browsers to support:

  • a multitude of operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, QNX, OS/2, and BeOS
  • small-screen devices such as mobile phones and PDAs
  • game console browsers such as the Nintendo DS and Wii
  • web standards, CSS, XML, and WML
  • tabbed browsing and MDI interfaces
  • voice-controlled browsing and reading
  • mouse gestures
  • developer tools and assistance from the Opera.com website

Opera is lightweight and fast. The early versions would fit on a single floppy disk and, even today, the download is a little over 5MB. That is far less than other browsers, especially when you consider it includes an email client and perhaps the best integrated RSS reader. Unlike competing projects, Opera uses its own HTML rendering engine which has a reputation for being one of the fastest around.

Opera was also a successful commercial product until 2003; it was IE’s main competitor given that the early versions of Mozilla and Netscape 6 were awful. Version 7 introduced advertising but, from version 8 in 2005, the product has been ad-free and free to use.

However, despite all the plaudits and a cult-following, Opera usage has remained far lower than IE, Firefox, and even the newer Safari and Chrome browsers. The statistics vary, but Opera in unlikely to have more than 2% of the market. It may not have the marketing clout of Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple and Google, but Opera is well-known. So why do so few people use it?

I can not claim to have a definitive answer, but I suspect reasons for Opera’s niche usage include:

  1. Opera has been installed by many users – especially developers – but it may not be their default browser. I use several versions for website testing, but still use Firefox for general browsing.
  2. The interface is too OS-agnostic. Opera is attractive, but it does not always look like a native application.
  3. There are too many options. User preferences can be tweaked extensively, but the range of options and some of the terminology can be confusing.
  4. Extensions and widgets have only recently started to appear.
  5. Opera is great, but offers few compelling reasons to switch from your favorite browser.

Even these reasons do not explain why Opera has not become more successful. Do you use Opera? Why do you think adoption rates have remained lower than competing browsers?

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  • David

    Yes, Opera is small and fast, a very nice browser. But for me, it is lacking the plugins that I use Firefox. I also use online apps at Zoho.com, some how not all commands work on Opera, that’s was the main reason that I’ve switched back.

  • http://www.tutorialdo.com skandalouz

    Very intesting article. I have opera installed on my computer, and use it regularly even though it’s not set as my default browser. I really love some of the features, especially the fast-right-left-click forward/previous function. firefox takes WAY more memory usage and can be very annoying at times, especially when it doesn’t remember your tabs and sites you’ve visited, whereas opera remembers the websites no matter when you close/crash the browser.

    yet i still use firefox over opera…

  • http://www.lowter.com lotrgamemast

    I use opera for my day to day web browsing. I use the built in email client because it’s simple and fast and I love the mouse gestures and keyboard shortcuts.

    I think it does have a strong following but because it doesn’t look the same (or perform the same) as IE it is hard for people switch over from it. Actually, hard is a strong word; but I’d say it’s harder to switch from iE to Opera compared to IE to Firefox because Firefox works slightly more like IE. I know people may disagree with that but that’s how I see it. I’ve managed to get my family to use Firefox, however the can sometimes get a bit confused when you use Opera on my laptop.

    Either way I love Opera to bits. By far my favorite web browser for general usage, but it’s not to some peoples tastes for reason. Lack of extensions may be one of them.

  • Marcin

    I was using Opera since version 5. I have even bought it when it was a shareware. I think Opera has the most ergonomic GUI out there. But… I’ve switched to FF when I decided to use Gmail instead of desktop mail client. Many other services work a lot better in FF than in Opera too. Next step was extensions. I can’t live without Delicious plugin now. To sum up, I think that Opera needs two things to get more users – better Java Script support for Web 2.0 services and extensions for them.

  • Aracuan

    I think Opera suffers from *too much* innovation and being too different. Things are in different places than from where you’d expect them to be coming from IE, and stuff just works differently and requires a mental leap that most people just aren’t willing to make.

    I easily convinced my entire family to use Firefox – so much so that nowadays when any of them gets a new laptop, they’re calling me up to come and put Firefox with AdBlock Plus onto it – but I already know the same won’t be possible with Opera. I can already hear the “Where are the tabs? What, on TOP of the website name thingy? Why?!” and so on and so forth. It’s not enough that you can change it – for “normal” people, it has to fit their expectation right out of installation or it’s a no-go and back to IE/Firefox. And does it have Adblock, Firebug, Colorful Tabs, PDFdownload, FireFTP, DownThemAll, etc? I wouldn’t really know.

  • Azeroth

    I think they ruined their aura by being non-free for such a long time. If they made a completely new product (read – Opera with a different name) they might become quite successful.

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    Not with their directors spouting and winging about the amount of stuff they do. They are an embarrassment to themselves, their PR is awful.

  • http://www.lowter.com charmedlover

    I use Opera exclusively because of mouse gestures and its keyboard shortcuts. I have to install tons of plugins with Firefox just to get the functionality I have become accustomed to with Opera. Opera also feels faster than all of the other browsers, certainly more responsive with tabs and such.

    I also like some of the features like synchronising my Opera settings across multiple computers, the built in RSS reader, and the easy-to-use bookmark manager. I’ve also made some use of the built-in IRC client.

    Also as a developer, Opera Dragonfly is really useful and I prefer it to Firebug.

    I think Opera has such a small market share because they simply have the worst marketing. Also, for being a product of a Scandinavian country, they utterly lack Scandinavian design aesthetics.

  • http://www.sinthuxdesigns.com sinthux

    If anything, I don’t think Opera minds the lack of popularity in the general public. They do the dirty work, and let the other browsers/developers clean it up for a better package. It’s used as a base for a lot of things – mobile devices in particular.

    I’m sure if they designed the interface better, and added some additional features, the usage would sky rocket. Why would someone use Opera for their main browser with slightly less features, and an all-bones interface when they can go with something like Firefox – something that has that slight advantage in design, and features. I’m sure making it very minimalist will help it win the fastest browser award, but any yahoo wouldn’t notice the difference.

  • n0other

    No, they will not unless they make some drastic changes to their marketing, which as I’m concerned is nonexistant right now.

    I use Opera as my main browser since 2003. It’s still the fastest and tightest browsing experience you can get.

    Some people say the interface is too confusing. Might be so if you’re into something more than simply browsing the web, but in that case, you should spend time and learn the tool before you speak. Personally, I find the interface very intuitive, everything is withing few clicks of mouse away.

    The article mentions 5MB download size and Email / RSS clients. Well, let’s not forget Opera has a full featured IRC client too! Oh, and you don’t need external program to download torrents, Opera has a torrent client also.

    I’m no IRC user, but the IRC client has come handy a couple of times when I needed support at work in some #freenode channel, and the torrent client is no magic, but it works.

    And please don’t bring that “too many features make it worse” argument. You’re not forced to use it and the download size is probably the smallest of all browsers in the market, so whats the difference.

    The closest thing that comes to Opera is Chrome, but for the time being I can’t use it because of the lack of mouse gestures and “ctrl+z” undo tab closing, which I’ve grown so accustomed to.

  • http://www.lowter.com charmedlover

    I’d also like to point out that Opera Software was profitable last quarter, so they aren’t loosing money or anything. They don’t necessarily need a huge market share in order to be a successful company. Granted, most of their money probably comes from their mobile browsers, but as mentioned by sinthux, Opera’s desktop version is a great testing ground for features before they are pushed to the mobile versions.

  • VitaminCM

    IE and Safari are built into their OS’s. Firefox is A. Way better and B. Has crazy fanboy love.
    Chrome has Google pushing it. and even Flock is just better.
    What does it do to make let it overcome any of those advantages?

  • http://armchaircritic.declarationend.co.uk armchaircritic

    I can’t wait to see the UI improvements that John Hicks has been brought in to design. I love Opera’s features but the work on the UI will make it outstanding all round.

    Oh and tabs SHOULD be above the address bar, how the hell can you work the other way around?! (lol)

  • Anonymous

    I think it is fairly obvious why opera’s adoption rates are lower, it lacks the marketing power of Google or MS (Not that IE needs much marketing when it is shoved down your throat) nor does it have the army of developers, web designers, etc to promote it like Firefox.

    If I were not a developer it would be my browser of choice, but then if I were not a developer I doubt it would be on my radar which is of course its problem.

  • http://www.disassociated.com/ John Lampard

    I use Opera for occasional browsing and mostly enjoy the experience. It does have trouble rendering a couple of sites though which is annoying. For example while using Facebook, after I have navigated through a couple of pages it seems to freeze and links become inoperative.

    I don’t see this problem with the other browsers I use. I guess the problem is really a testing issue though and I expect some developers wouldn’t ‘bother’ with a great deal of Opera testing given its relatively low market share.

  • http://www.kingjason.co.uk jasonking

    I use Opera only to check my websites display correctly using it. But with 2% share of the market I wonder why I bother.

    Already got bookmarks in IE7 and Firefox, got them set up how I want, there’s no need for another browser in my life, not Opera, not Chrome, not Safari.

  • http://www.brothercake.com/ brothercake

    Number 3 – it’s too powerful, too flexible – it scares people off.

    I don’t mind anyway. Opera for me is by far and away the best browser, and I’ll always use it. From time to time I drift towards Firefox, but I always come back to Opera, because it’s on my side. It does exactly what I want – because I told it to, and it listens.

  • Manolis

    I find absolutely infuriating what tab it transers focus to when another tab has been closed.

    It seems to be completely arbitrary: I close tab 6 of 10 tabs, and then focus is transferred to tab 2, or who knows what!

    More than anything, this is the one thing that stops me from using Opera.

  • rayvolvez

    I do however think that Opera isnt well marketed to be the main issue for its users statistics. I use Opera as my main browser for day-to-day browsing and simply everything. Chrome/Firefox/IE for testing when I code for websites.

    Another issue would be some sites un-run-able in Opera, esp in the Opera 10 Alpha build which so far, I can’t update Facebook status (since fb revamp last week), can’t access deviantart (Opera crashes on every access to dA). But these are considered minor issues.

    For me, the integrated feed reader is god send and has been my knowledge-feeder, updating me with news and inspirations and for the feedreader and opera’s relatively fast speed, I will not switch back to FF or IE. Chrome is a maybe but only when I need sites which cant work for me in Opera.

  • Bob Chance

    Those are some decent conjectures, but at the end of the day, it has–in my opinion–to do with a couple of things that are far below the surface:
    1) It’s not Open Source–and we all know how rabid fanboys swarm around their beloved “superior open source” paradigm. Which is closely linked by #2.
    2) Due to it being non-open source, it has to be marketed like a commercial product; and it doesn’t have the funding nor, so it seems, the need to market. After all, it’s been a profitable venture and continue to be one, so why fix something that’s not broken?
    3) It earns money not from the desktop install base, but from licensing the mobile technology from various hardware manufacturers. Therefore, this adds onto point #2 that they don’t need to advertise simply because there’s no money in having a larger desktop user base.

    It is also a browser that’s been targetted for the power users, not joe-average. I’ve been a long time Opera user, and whenever I use IE or FF (don’t even mention Chrome, that bare bones browser has no options to speak of!), I go into the Tools -> Options menu to tweak things up, only to be disappointed by the lack of options present. about:config in FF fares a little better, but that’s even more cryptic than Opera’s implementation for setting tweaking.

    At the end of the day, I’m one happy camper for a couple of good reasons:
    1) Best security (according to third party security monitoring bodies, such as secunia); either through obsurity, lack of reason to find exploits due to small install base, or whatever, I’m one happy–and safe–Opera user :).
    2) Fastest browser with the most features out of the box. This is huge, it saves me a lot of time whenever I’m setting up new box’s.
    3) Lightest on memory usage. This, again, is huge. Especially when I like to have two dozen or more Tabs open at a time before I start cleaning them up and trimming that number down to a dozen or so.
    4) Fast cold-start. What got on my nerve when I first got FF was the ludicrous amount of time it takes to do a cold start. On my old AMD K6 266Mhz, FF would take 32 seconds to boot up. Quite disturbing, really.
    5) I’m a power user, and the customization features are put to good use. Not to mention the insanely helpful keyboard shortcuts and mouse-gesture :).
    6) Built-in, built-in, built-in. That’s the mantra Opera should be chanting. I use Opera as a browser, as a mail client, as my newsgroup reader, IRC client, and RSS feed reader. Plus, Opera-Link is an added bonus free service that is extremely helpful at syncin’ my info on the fly between browsers. And with all this, Opera manages to stay small, sleek and fast… Wowza!

  • http://www.studio-gecko.com/ XLCowBoy

    Three simple reasons:

    1) Their image and browser design is too “stiff”. Younger people don’t like that “stiff” look. It’s like being at a hospital.

    2) Their marketing is worthless. Have you seen a single “event” by Opera? Firefox had the “upgrade Firefox day”. Microsoft is pushing IE8 (it’s showing up on Yahoo Messenger). Chrome was, and still is, all over YouTube.

    3) The UI isn’t as good as the competition (save for IE). Chrome, Safari, and Firefox all have better UI than Opera.

    If they target a younger crowd, start marketing their browser, and change their UI, they would pick up steam as an alternative “alternative” browser.

  • Angela Garcia

    I think Opera rocks! despite of his lack of UI is the fastest browser and that’s what really matters for me

  • Midhun

    I have been using Opera for 9 years now. Feature wise, it would beat any other browser out there. Only thing I would say it lacks is good extension support. But the reason that has not taken off is because of the niche community.

  • Ross

    Sometimes Opera does things that Firefox or Safari can’t. For those things, I still use it.

  • http://www.brianswebdesign.com skunkbad

    I’ve been testing my websites in Opera for years. I guess I’m one of those developers that the article talks about. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t wanted to take the time to learn the finer features of Opera, that keeps me from using it as my primary browser. Its list of credentials certainly is impressive,

  • jeanluc

    I think Opera missed the boat back then by not going free early enough. In 2003 there was growing discontent with IE, Netscape was dead, Mozilla was bloated and slow, first Firebird betas were buggy as hell. But there was no free alternative, so developers went with Mozilla family. Also, Opera misjudged the importance of wysiwyg editing, delaying the support until Mozilla had it up and running. It was that time when JS started to became usable again (with more devs dicovering DOM and such), user-centric CMS (users don’t need to enter friggin codes to make text bold) began to appear and Opera just couldn’t keep up. Also, Opera’s rendering was quirky (as they all were back then) and since the browser was not free, few developers took pains to accommodate for it besides bare minimum. Opera had window of opportunity, but from my viewpoint it missed it. That forced ad-bar was really, really annoying.

    It is much easier for newcomers like Chrome, since there is no history attached to them, but Opera has that baggage of being proprietary, non-free and, well, being niche player.

  • http://www.clanspace.com.au Robbo89

    I have been using Firefox since I started developing websites for obvious reasons. I also tried out a few other browsers but don’t even remember Opera. IE sucks, chrome is to basic and FF lately has been using up over a gig of ram. I am guessing that is because of some memory leak with closing tabs with either Firefox or a add on I use. So I think it’s time to try out opera since after reading a few comments it uses less ram. I will still use FF for developing but Opera sounds like the go for browsing.

    Oh and in my opinion if they named the browser something else it would be more popular ;)

  • madr

    The only thing I really miss in Opera is to be able to right- or ctrl-click an element on a page and choose “inspect element”. This is of course a firebug thing, but it can be done in Safari 4 beta too, So I really wish that Opera 10 beta will have this feature.

  • Stuart

    I’m another of those people that have been using Opera for years but only during testing – it’s a great little browser, but somehow I can’t quite seem to… ‘click’ with it.

    However, I do love Opera Mini on my phone! :)

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @charmedlover Opera may be profitable, but I’m sure they’d appreciate more users and more money! I suspect that much of the profit can be attributed to the mobile, PDA and console versions which tend to be licensed or commercial products.

    @Robbo89 Interesting point about the name, although changing it after 15 years may be more confusing! In fact, the only browser that does what it says on the tin is “Internet Explorer”!

    It certainly appears that people like Opera, but just find it a little too different. I’m not sure it’s “too powerful”; after all, users install dozens of Firefox extensions to give it the power they need.

    The marketing is undoubtedly a factor. However, most developers are aware of Opera but rarely use it as their default browser.

  • http://www.clanspace.com.au Robbo89

    @Craig Buckler: Yeah it wouldn’t be a good move now but if they had a better name all those years ago I rekon that it would be much more popular now. If someone has never heard of Opera and then notices it somewhere they are not going to take it seriously. Was probably a good name back when it was chosen however now it seems like a bad choice.

    I have downloaded Opera since that comment and am already converted. It is a much better browser in many ways and does feel a lot faster when loading a pages.

    Dragonfly looks like a nice dev tool however like madr said, would be much better with a ‘Inspect Element’ option and the lack of it might keep me developing sites using Firefox.

    Soon it might take over Thunderbird as well…

  • waitsee

  • waitsee

    Mmm, have a look here

  • Anonymous

    Opera as a name isn’t exactly the best, and conjures up the wrong image.

    I test in Opera and that’s it. I don’t really like the look of the browser, and find Firefox does more for me with the Add-On’s etc.

  • A-OK

    I used to use Opera a lot because of its great search integration and resizing of pages (not just text but images also). However a lot of sites don’t work with Opera (videos on MSNBC, Yahoo Mail has limited support, a bunch of other sites have glitches) and now that FF3 and MSIE7 have search engine integration and resizing I tend to use Opera only for testing and as an extra browser when I need to be logged with multiple accounts on some site simultaneously.

    I guess Opera is not as popular only because it doesn’t have strong backing. Microsoft pushes MSIE, Apple pushes Safari (crap browser), Google pushes Chrome and Firefox… well almost everyone else pushes Firefox.

  • http://autisticcuckoo.net/ AutisticCuckoo

    I’ve been using Opera since version 5, and it’s been my primary browser since version 8. I can’t imagine using any other browser for real surfing, since they don’t have all the features I’ve come to use and rely upon.

    I don’t think the problem is too many features; the problem is that those features are too unobtrusive. You don’t notice them unless you’re looking for them, which makes Opera seem to be ‘just another browser’.

    I really don’t understand the comments about the UI being difficult to use. It’s got the same stuff that all the rest, and mainly in the same locations. Yes, the tabs are above the address field, which is logical, but how hard can that be to get used to?

    One other reason that may hold Opera back to some degree is that it’s not open source. Not that it matters at all, but some people do have religious beliefs about FOSS.

    Unless there’s a significantly better browser, secure, fast, small, standards-compliant and providing a usable keyboard navigation mechanism, I’ll stay with Opera.

  • Filipe Marinho

    Well i’m a every day user of Opera Browser at work (Windows XP) and at Home (MAC OS).
    I have to talk about of most annoying think, in my opinion, about Opera. This is for me one of the true reason for the lack of usage by the general public.
    Opera is in the lead on standard compliance. A lot of web sites are built to be shown in IE, and sometimes they are impossible to navigate in Opera. Furthermore Opera browser doesn’t support ActiveX (for security reasons) and happens with some frequency the urge to switch browser for that reason.
    In the end it’s not opera fault, but no one likes having to switch browser for some web pages.

  • http://www.dynamicpixel.co.uk neron-fx

    I use Opera for testing purposes only. My preferred browser for general surfing is Firefox or Google Chrome.

  • http://www.clearwind.nl peach

    I’m a real polygamist when it comes to browsing, I’m often using 5 different browsers at the same time and Opera is one of them. I’m not sure why but Opera never really sticks, I always end up opening more tabs in Google Chrome lately and going with that.
    In Chrome I especially like how you can drag tabs in and out of the browser windows, thats a great feature when using a multi monitor setup.

    From the standpoint of a web developer I think that Opera is the best browser, the rendering engine is just great and snappy fast. From the standpoint of a user I think that Opera is great at features but not so great at making those features usable. I dont want to have to spend time and energy figuring out how the 10 million features work, it needs a usability upgrade that presents features to you in a clear and actionable way.

  • erm4gh

    One major problem is that Opera doesn’t have add-ons (widgets and skins don’t count).

  • Anonymous

    Its fun to read the reply on this topic. One thing I can say, all you that complain against Opera, sorry to say it: You havent learn to use Opera.
    Opera is far the best browser out there, there have never been any real compete since Opera released their first browser. The only browser, i will say, that can compete against Opera is Apple Safari.

    I also read that you dont like the UI, wtf? That very strange, personaly i love it, its
    without questions the most beautiful browser on the market. But i also must say I hate the UI of IE, espcially 7 and 8. Chrome really look cheap and Firefox it’s just boring.

    I have been using Opera since the first version-

  • Scott Petrovic

    I really only use Opera for testing purposes. It is a great browser, but doesn’t have the add-ons and extensions that Firefox has for development purposes.

    Opera isn’t more successful because it doesn’t have the marketing and PR that Firefox does. Google backs Firefox in a lot of its funding, and also wanted to see it as an “IE killer”.

    Firefox is also open-source, which is like being “green” for the internet. Magazines seem to talk about it constantly as well, so it doesn’t surprise me why Firefox has seen more mainstream adoption.

  • fiberus

    I sue opera for almost 2 years, and it never disappointed me for basic usage,and other more cool stuff like direct source change for HTML reform.

  • Varun

    Opera is dominant in Mobile browser market,so it is really weired why it isn’t higher in desktop market,even with supporting so many platforms.
    As a Opera die hard user for 7 years i can’t pinpoint the issue.Except maybe that people just fin d it too confusing as its is very different and powerful,
    People just want to browse,they aren’t worried with everything else.Only now is this whole speed and hoopla coming up (javascript speds etc,even that was dominated by opera for years,).

  • Benedict Aluan

    I’m using Opera for testing purpose only. In my opinion, Opera is too silent compare to other browsers especially to ordinary end users.

  • http://www.archetype-it.com/ veronicay

    I’m with AutisticCuckoo and charmedlover. I’ve been using Opera since v5, on Mac, Windows and Linux. I also now use it as my email client (not perfect, but it does the job). What I like most is the speed, flexibility, and the fact that it has all the features I want without having to install a raft of plugins and then deal with conflicts and plugins that break when you upgrade or gobble up all available memory (FF, I’m looking at you).

    I think many critics don’t realise how flexible Opera is, because they’ve never used it or bothered to read the customisation help. Don’t like the tabs at the top? Put them at the bottom (or on the left, or the right). Don’t like the look? Download a skin that you like better (I particularly like minimalist skins that give you more screen space). Customise the toolbar to include whatever buttons you like. Web developers, use a couple of clicks to switch Javascript and cookies on or off, inspect cookies from the current site, or set preferences for the current site. The only thing missing is a webdev toolbar as good as Firefox’s.

    Oh, and I love the way that it synchronises my bookmarks and browsing history across 3 different computers automatically!

  • http://xslt2processor.sourceforge.net boen_robot

    I use Opera as my alternative browser. However, as my primary browser, I use IE8. I use IE because I want to feel as closer to a “normal end user” as possible when browsing. And I use Opera at all other times, i.e. when I’m in “turbo mode” so to speak. I use it because it’s lighting fast (in both boot time and page rendering), and has the best rendering engine around (SVG images in background-image anyone?).

    When I’m asked for an opinion about which browser I’d recommend (from “normal end users” that is), I can never give a definitive answer, as “good browser” means different thing to different people. I usually sum it up like “Conventional but extensible and stable: Firefox; Performance and features: Opera; Lightweight and simple: Chrome or Safari (whichever strikes you fancy)”. It seems I usually strike the right browser for each person with these sum ups, because every person has been happy with the first browser they selected after that – those that care about performance love Opera, those that want simple browsers love Safari and/or Chrome, and those that need “any other browser” for whatever other reason, but are not ready for a mental switch love Firefox.

    I think Opera doesn’t have much market share in the U.S. because of lack of marketing. In Europe it has higher share, because some countries, especially some like mine, are like a big village – impress one person, and it’s like impressing a whole village. Impress a whole village, and you’ve impressed the whole region. Impress one TV channel, and you’ve impressed the whole country.

    It still hasn’t completely gone mainstream even here because of two things:
    1. It hasn’t reached the “TV channel” state just yet. Even if there are news about big security breaches on IT swows, they ususally push Firefox.
    2. (and the more important part) It requires the biggest mental switch of all browsers. One of the biggest such hurdles is the fact that, at least by default, your favorites are not there. Yes, they can be placed there, but they are in a different favorites directory (not “Links”, but “Opera”) and you must manually enable them.

    I think just solving number 2 will make Opera feel much less different, and maybe eventually 1 will be solved after that.

    BTW,
    @waitsee
    lol
    @fiberus
    Really? If it hasn’t disappointed you, why do you “sue” them? Haha. Just kidding ;-). I know you meant “use”.

  • ShoreDutton

    Like many of the commenteers here have said, Opera’s popularity is purely down to it’s lack of marketing. I think it goes to show exactly what a big difference good marketing can do to a product. Opera has a lot going for it but the average Joe doesn’t know it exists. Compared with IE and Safari which have the backing of their respective OS makers and FireFox and Chrome which have the backing of Google, Opera really cannot compete – unless they can get their product in front of a large number of prospects – perhaps a partnership with Facebook or a similar high traffic website would work? Opera’s default homepage advertises Facebook, likewise Facebook advertises Opera online.

    Daniel

  • Keith Grant

    I used Opera as my primary browser for about a year. Speed Dial and mouse gestures are what won me over originally. I switched back to Firefox after FF 3.0 was released, mainly because of the Awesomebar, and eventually found FF plugins for gestures and a speed dial.

  • http://akindale.com brandaggio

    To answer the question, “Can Opera Ever Become Popular?”…

    The reason is primarily lack of a major distribution mechanism.

    1. Google distributed Firefox
    2. Google distributes Chrome
    3. Apple distributes/bundles/pushes/Safari/QuickTime/iTunes

    If, and this is a big if, Opera had a similar, powerful distribution mechanism, it would see a huge uptick in installed base.

    You can make the best beer, seriously, but without Anheuser Busch or some other major distributor helping you get it around the country, your great beer will be known only to a few.

    This has so little to do with how good Opera is, it has always been the little browser that could – it just needs to make some friends in high places :)!

  • http://www.archetype-it.com/ veronicay

    Interesting to see the comments on how Opera lacks plugins. True, it does — but I find I can do a ton of things natively in Opera that would require plugins in “other browsers”. Mouse gestures, speech, keyboard navigation, proper control of tabs, extensive customisation to name just a few.

    It probably also depends on what type of Web user you are. I use virtually no Web 2.0 type apps, YouTube etc. because I don’t have broadband. So I don’t encounter many compatibility problems, almost none so bad that I have to use another browser. So Opera works really well for me by being FAST, even on a slow connection. You only have to compare hitting the Back button in Opera and FF — Opera wins hands down.

  • Dromenail

    i fell in love with opera’s interface about 2 years ago. i still use it to this day.

  • aardvark92

    Like so many people have already said: Marketing.

    I had heard about Opera, but had never tried it until I got a job where I was required to develop web apps that worked across many browsers. I was so impressed with Opera, I started using it at home as my default browser. But I would never have known how good it is if I had not been forced to use it at that job.

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    I use Opera for email, RSS and for opening up web links from either of those. I also have a tabs open all the time for webmail, Facebook and other business-related sites. But I also have a particular set of tabs open in FF by default and use it for doing most of my searching. And I do most of my developing first in FF because of the extensions. So I’d say it’s about 60/40 in favour of FF.

  • mathieuf

    I have been using Opera for years, because it is innovative and gives me great tools earlier than the other browsers. I love it, and plan to keep using it as my default on my home computers.

    It is still the most standards compliant, and I love it for that as well. However, there are web sites that do not work correctly in Opera. For these sites, I bring up Firefox. I also use Firefox at work, as my company only wants to support IE and Firefox, due to market share.

    I do use add-ons in Firefox. It seems a shame that I have to go through this process, and they sure slow it down a lot. With Opera, I get all that I need. (Dragonfly and other features have been mentioned above.)

    Why has Opera not caught on? It offers skins, which seems to be a past trend. (I stick with the “classic.”) It can be customized to however you want it, using some of the easiest to use and innovative customization tools I have seen, but no other product uses the same technology so nobody knows how to do it. (I’m exaggerating; some products have now adoped similar customization UIs.) I really like how I lay out my Opera UI, and I am so glad it does not change when the updates come. So really, I don’t know why it has not caught on.

    Can it become popular? Yes, and the trend to standards should help in this since Opera is following the standards. As more web sites follow standards, there are fewer reasons for me to bring up a different browser. It is innovative, and perhaps that turns some people off who don’t want to learn new things. (I think a lot of people had problems with tabs; I know some who still do.) But the other browsers are all following, so you might as well use the innovation leader. And it is fast, and always has been.

  • daveporter

    At the end of the day, how many browsers does the world need…

    When I mention to my clients that there is a browser other than Internet Explorer ( such as Firefox ), the reaction is that there is no perception of what a web browser is, it is just the internet to the majority of people…

    cheers Dave

  • bruce lawson

    First thing: I work for Opera, in developer relations and it saddens me that we haven’t been able to talk to everyone here yet. I’m very glad to see a list of our innovations, and also our shortcomings. Let’s see if I can address some of the points raised. (Note that although I work for Opera, I’m not a marketing person and until recently was lead developer for a very large website in the UK, so hopefully yo’ll read this as a developer speaking without corporate bulls**t.)

    To answer the question “Can Opera ever become popular”, I need to reframe it. If you ask if it can become more popular on the desktop, then, yes, we’d love that in the USA, Europe, Aus and the developed countries where our market share is much lower than in Russia, Indonesia (the 3rd most populous nation in the world) and India.

    We’re popular there because of a very low memory footprint, so people using machines that the west would call old or obsolete can still get a modern web experience). Our low bandwidth and turbo modes significantly speed up mail and browsing respectively. (You can see the stats if you try the turbo mode labs build http://labs.opera.com/news/2009/03/13/ – I’m using it here in an Indian hotel room and it tells me it’s compressing by a factor of 3).

    Note as well that we’re the most popular mobile browser in the world (@jasonking – that’s why, when I worked in industry, we always tested in Opera as we needed to be sure that mobile users could access the content).

    Opera Mini is a system that gives the Web to any phone with a Java Virtual Machine. Because older or less-poweful phones don’t have an operating system capable of running a browser, our server farm compresses a website and sends it to the phone as a snapshot of the page, like an interactive picture. General compression is to about 10% of the original. As most of the developing world don’t use smartphones, and pay per megabyte, this is a significant speed increase and cost saving.

    I note (and – Opera bosses look away, please – I agree with) people’s concerns about the User interface. We are addressing that, and I’ll get nailed to the wall by our PR guys if I say more than that. If you’re interested in a swift guided tour of Speed Dial, Link, Sessions, Mouse Gestures, custom searches, there is a 5 min overview at http://www.opera.com/discover/browser/?feature=speeddial

    You can contact our developer relation team through me. I’m brucel AT opera.com. We’d love to hear from you.

  • Amtiskaw

    I still don’t like the UI, even though it has improved, it’s still a long way from the smooth and streamlined look of Chrome/Safari, or the native simplicity of Firefox, although it is better than IE (not hard). If they could learn a few UI lessons from Chrome/Safari then I’d consider switching.

  • Twinkletoes

    @manolis: To change which tab gets focus when you close another tab, go to Tools->Preferences. Click the “Advanced” preferences tab. Click “Tabs” in the lefthand side list. Choose your preference in the dropdown below “When closing a tab”.

  • http://www.archetype-it.com/ veronicay

    @Twinkletoes: a shining example of the fact that if you don’t like the way Opera does something, you can nearly always change it to suit you.

  • Twinkletoes

    I’ve been using Opera since v5, and find anything else too slow, too cluttered, too impractical and too limited. Opera can be set up any way I like it, and has all the browsing features I need for fast and efficient browsing. Sure, Firefox can be made to do most of the things Opera can do through addons, but I really don’t want to spend hours looking for plugins that do what I get out of the box with Opera, only to end up with FF becoming a CPU cycle and RAM eating monster.

  • Twinkletoes

    @veronicay: Yep! :-) Most other behaviors are configurable in the same way.

    I also love:
    – the mouse gestures (which are more responsive and intuitive than any of the FF add-ons I’ve tried)
    – that I can ctrl-shift-click links to open them in background tabs (very useful when skimming through a newspaper homepage, for instance)
    – that tapping F2 brings up a URL field, ready for typing (no fumbling for the mouse or extensive tabbing just to type a new URL)
    – that I can easily strip away any clutter or seldom-used parts of the user interface

  • http://www.archetype-it.com/ veronicay

    Twinkletoes: “I can ctrl-shift-click links to open them in background tabs”.

    Or middle-click them with the scroll wheel. I use this all the time in search results. To be fair, this works in Firefox too :)

  • Thomas Thomassen

    I would like to use Opera, but I don’t. The sole reason is the extensions I use for Firefox.

  • none

    opera is the best browser ever.

  • Manuel

    I’ve been using Opera since version 7~, about 4 years now. It is by far the snappiest experience on the web of all major browsers (IE, FF). It is the only one I can really use over 10, 20 tabs at the time and still manage them correctly. With Firefox the tab bar starts to scroll and it drives me nuts. Control + Tab always gets it wrong as it switches tab from left to right instead of recently used order.

    Even scrolling seems slower in Firefox than in Opera, I don’t know why. I can’t customize enough FF for my liking, so almost never use it, as IE suits me better for quick or compatibility things.

    The ONE thing that really gets me on my nerves in FF is my inability to remove the button bar on top, and to switch tab bar to the bottom (if you think it thoroughly, it is much better down there, as you could switch apps far quicker down there, or its my gaming side of HUD striking really hard :)
    Overall, I use Opera as I can read more things at the same time than FF, IE or Chrome. If you need long term browsing (as in weeks-months) with the same tabs opened, Opera is the only choice. The rest of the browsers just drop your tabs like nothing and their tries to recover them is pathetic. Opera never drops my tabs in normal usage (other than hard drive failure), even in the worst of crashes.

  • Andy Towler

    Opera is nice, but…

    With Firefox, I can install Adblock plus and not see ads.

    With Opera, the functionality is built-in (mostly) but I have to play ad-nauseum with the config.

    Two clicks or ten? Firefox for me.

  • Anonymous

    Opera is quite popular already in Europe. More users than Safari!

  • new opera user

    Hi:
    I use opera on linux since firefox crawls there. It’s faster. Plain and simple. However, I also use Google Chrome on windows and when that finally gets released mainstream, I’m switching over.

    For me, the real attraction of a browser is still what it always is: does it look good, run securely, and load up pages fast.

    Any other criteria just doesn’t make sense to me, given all the free software out there that can do a very good job emulating much of what firefox fans rave about.

    As a firefox fan myself, I can honestly say that it was good while it lasted, but unless firefox goes back to the basics, it will be a distant third choice for me.

  • Formerly Very Loyal Opera User

    I was a diehard Opera user for many years, all the way up to the last 7.x version. Opera always led the way with awesome new features. The problem was that Opera also led the way in buggy code and had an absolutely appalling attitude toward users who wanted them fixed and customer service in general. Whenever Opera transitioned a major version number increment, the browser was unusable until the minor version number had incremented at least once or twice, after which it was still too buggy but usable. When version 8.0 came into being that was the last straw for me. Firefox had by that time become a very viable alternative and most of the awesome features of Opera could be had with Firefox add-ons, plus a number that Opera didn’t have. I’ve never looked back. I’ve no idea if Opera has cleaned up its act since those days, but they’ve already exhausted all of my patience and then some, so they won’t be getting yet another chance from me.

    As regards the Opera Mail component, that was an unusable bugridden disaster from day one through every version. Unlike the browser, the mail component’s feature set had to have come from an entirely different set of programmers, even worse at their profession but also lacking any of the innovative thinking that resulted in tabbed browsing, gestures, and the like.

    Opera could have owned the browser world, but they will never amount to anything and have essentially gone nowhere because they chose to preserve arrogance and incompetence over serving the customer.

  • mistycabal

    I love the Opera browser – and I really wish they would gain more momentum in the market. It’s an awesome browser – and although it lacks the plugins of Firefox, it’s got lots of built in capabilities. If only we could find a way to market Opera as an IE alternative…

  • Anonymous

    What’s the problem? Opera has 100% market share among people that aren’t idiots. You can’t ask for more than that.

  • Paul

    I am using Opera as my main browser. But it gets annoying every now and then when you cannot access some popular site, probably making users to switch and never come back. (just for example: at this moment I cannot access G-mail on default mode, only html). Love the speed & gestures.

  • Deuce

    Opera is my default browser wherever I either use corporate email or do not use email. Everywhere else, I use Seamonkey. The only thing keeping Opera from being my default browser across the board is the email client.

    I don’t miss the lack of Firefox style plugins since I generally see those plugins as something that the browser SHOULD provide but DOESN’T. For every browsing need, I’ve found Opera to just do things better and faster.

    Of course, since I use Opera/Seamonkey, I don’t have a very informed opinion as to why Opera isn’t popular… I suspect that it’s simply that people simply don’t give it a fair try. When I finally switched to Opera, it was after trying it for a week, then switching back to my old browser… I missed more stuff than I was happy to have back, so I switched.

  • J Random

    While I admire the technical prowess opera, I don’t use it regularly because it’s just too _weird_. Things like in-frame popup windows, bizarre nonstandard shortcut keys and widgets, and things like that.

    All trivial, yet something that all the other major browsers get right. I switched to running safari4 on windows the other day, and have been happy ever since then. Last time I tried to switch to opera, I felt like I was in a foreign country where I didn’t understand how anything worked, so after about 2 days I switched back.

  • pflarr

    I used Opera for several years. I really loved mouse gestures, and I liked that it had all the ‘extensions’ I cared about at the time as part of the main package. Unfortunately, Opera in linux just never quite worked as well as I wanted it to. I often had strange problems with fonts which generally made things hard to read. Firefox, on the other hand, worked just fine in linux. I stayed with Opera for a long time on my home Windows machine, but I finally got tired of having different keyboard shortcuts (though Opera did eventually switch to Firefox style shortcuts), and I kept trying, and failing, to use mouse gestures in Firefox. Meanwhile, Opera seemed to be getting bigger and clunkier, and kept trying to take control of tasks (like torrents) that I didn’t want it to touch. I finally switched to Firefox just to get back to the solid simplicity I had originally switched to Opera for.

  • opera fan

    There are a lot of good operas by Mozart, and some Wagner is great as well. For the most part though the singing still / language and tiring length of operas will leave it to a nitch fan base.

  • Foobear

    I periodically try the other browsers but keep coming back to Opera. Especially since Firefox seems to get no love on Linux. (FF seems to be getting buggier and slower with each release on Linux while it gets higher and higher praise on Windows.) Things I like: fast, customizable (especially in disabling unwanted stuff on web pages), good keyboard shortcuts (for the most part, see below where they changed it and messed that up).

    Now for the gripes: As an earlier poster mentioned, some common websites don’t work very well with Opera. (I suspect this may be my configuration, but I have no way to know what it is. Only that sites, such as Google Calendar, don’t work correctly.) Next, configuration changes take forever to save. (Could it be because the config is saved in massive XML documents? No idea, just that it is slow. And since I like to give sites only the capabilities I think they need, this is something I do a lot.) Sometimes innovation “breaks” things that I like. (Example: I have it configured to always ask me before accepting a cookie. Most of the time I want to refuse for the site. With the older 9.x, ctrl-r, tab, tab, tab (to the refuse button), return took care of it. Now I have to click on a check box then click on refuse button breaking my nice keyboard only pattern.)

    Suggestions for all browsers: 1) Make each tab self contained (like Chrome is starting to do), including only popping up dialogs concerned with that page when I switch to that tab; I don’t need to be asked if I want to accept an expired certificate until I want to look at the page! 2) I would prefer each browser window to be independent of all the others. That way a crash in window won’t take down all the other windows. Not to mention that I would be able to ssh into my Linux box and start a new window on the local machine rather than opening a new tab on the remote machine. (Lot of good that does. I can’t see it.) That is why I am anxiously awaiting the Linux version of Chrome…

  • nipponBill

    Nobody seems to have mentioned that Opera has always had the ability to identify as another browser.

    Back in the Opera 3.x days many sites wouldn’t work unless you told Opera to pretend to be another browser. I’d let Opera tell every site I was running IE. Therefore a lot of site stats are skewed in this way. There isn’t a true reflection of Opera’s market position if you’re relying solely on server stats. There are more Opera users out there than are being reported.

  • http://weblog.200ok.com.au/ 200ok

    It’s my browser of choice – it’s secure, has native features FF users run a ton of extensions to replicate, then a bunch of features that other browsers are slowly working through replicating ;) The widgets are pretty neat, too.

    Why isn’t it more widely adopted?

    1) Name and logo aren’t sexy. They need to relaunch it with a new name. Superficial? Yes, but still true ;)
    2) Updates require a download/install instead of being an integrated update – these days that doesn’t cut it.
    3) I still run into people who think it’s not free, or has ads. Sure, it’s been years; but those people haven’t tried Opera in all that time.
    4) Until 9.5 a lot of sites didn’t work, eg. Gmail was a pain. 9.5 was a massive improvement on that score but anyone who was put off by a previous version won’t know that.
    5) No “open source moral highground” to rest on.
    6) Should match each OS release’s look and feel to the OS. Or at least match the OSX release to appease the macheads.
    7) Developers tend not to like it because Dragonfly’s not ready yet and the JS engine isn’t the same as FF. Meanwhile FF is the darling of devs. That does make a difference.
    8) Needs a default toolbar setup which is closer to IE. I reckon people only give a new browser about five minutes before they give up ;)

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @nipponBill

    There are more Opera users out there than are being reported.

    It certainly used to be the case that Opera identified itself as IE and the company argued it had a more widespread adoption than the statistics suggested. However, the browser hasn’t done that (by default) for several years, so I’m not convinced it still stands. Even if Opera’s user base was doubled, it would still only have a 3-4% market share.

    @200ok
    You make some excellent points. Initial user confusion and the fact that Firefox has captivated developers makes it difficult for Opera to compete. How should it position itself?

  • SimonTewbi

    I’m the opposite of some of the other commenters. I’ve been using Opera since version 4 (at least 8 years).

    Some of the things I liked about it:

    It had tabbed browsing (long before anyone else).

    It had the fast forward and fast rewind buttons (as far as I know, no-one else has implemented them, even now).

    It was fast.

    Since that time it’s been my default browser. For the first few years I needed IE as a back-up, however, as Opera had problems with JavaScript and there were various sites (eg EasyJet) which didn’t work properly. Nowadays I use IE maybe once every 1 – 2 months at home. Still use it more often at work since I have to deal with applications like Astea Alliance 8, which makes a lot of use of ActiveX components.

    I first checked out Firefox at version 0.7 or 0.8. By that stage I’d been using Opera for about 3 – 4 years. With that background I found Firefox underwhelming. Looked like IE with tabs. Already had tabs in Opera and didn’t need another IE.

    The one area where Firefox beats Opera is in the plugins, and this could be decisive for many. Opera has widgets but a lot seem to be pretty cosmetic (only so many calculators and clocks you can use). On the other hand Firefox has many more plugins, with much more functionality.

  • Daniel

    I just switched to Opera some weeks ago. It always annoyed me that there was no AdBlock in Opera, but when I found out about Privoxy, I gave it another try. It’s much faster than Firefox on my Mac and so far, I have no reason to switch back.

  • http://weblog.200ok.com.au/ 200ok

    @Craig: Opera should make a lot more out of their security – it’s a huge focus of theirs and they have a great record patching vulnerabilities (best of all the browsers whenever I’ve compared them). Quite apart from being a fast, fully-featured browser it’s about as safe as a browser can be – surely that’s a niche? :)

    @Daniel: Actually Opera has one built in. Just right-click the page and select “block content”. Click the offending ads, save, done! :)

  • http://www.calcResult.co.uk omnicity

    One word: No.

    The business model depends on sales to the mobile-phone makers, and they simply aren’t going to pay much money over the long term, when other browsers are available for free. Forget the features, they are not as relevant as: a) Money b) Brand Perception, of which Opera has little of either.

  • Stevie D

    Like many other commenters here, I have been using Opera for years (since v5) as my primary browser. Why? Because (IMO) it is far and away the best browser available. It is almost always first with new innovations.

    What are its unique features, the ones where it trounces the competition?

    * Superfast browser that loads and runs quicker than any other
    * Latest versions still run very happily on old OSs, no need to upgrade to a newer version of Windows.
    * First to introduce tabbed browsing, and the best application of tabbed browsing currently available.
    * Recycle bin to ‘unclose’ tabs you’ve closed by mistake – invaluable.
    * Option to recover to the previous set of pages after a crash.
    * Option to save ‘session’ (ie all current tab/frame states, browser history and closed tabs)
    * Left- and right-click and keyboard shortcuts for extremely quick back and forward navigation
    * Extremely extensive and customisable keyboard shortcuts allowing lightning-quick activity
    * “Fast forward” allows you to click “next” (or press space bar) to get to the next page in a series if it is ‘link’ed or marked with a hyperlink text of ‘next’
    * Allows you to use ‘link’ elements to navigate a site
    * First to implement page zoom and the best implementation of it out there
    * ‘Fit to width’ for pages that are just too wide
    * The most standards compliant browser available – great for developing sites
    * Option to disable images and/or stylesheets at the touch of a button – very useful for developers, on sites with awful colour schemes or micro text, and images was useful in the days of dial-up but less necessary now
    * Built-in user stylesheets for accessibility and developers
    * Option to disable Javascript, Java, flash, video and other plug-ins at the touch of a button
    * Quick dial shortcut keys
    * Excellent built-in RSS feed
    * Excellent built-in download manager
    * Built-in small-screen emulator
    * Excellent customisable auto-search – you can set up any search engine (or other website with constructable URLs) to search directly from the address bar with a keyletter or keyword.

    I’m sure there are others that I’ve forgotten about. The point is that these are all native to Opera, they don’t require any additional downloads, installations or plug-ins, they don’t bloat the program and hog all your memory, it just works, straight out of the box, and does just about everything that I could ask it to.

    Other good features that I don’t use but can see the value of:
    * Customisable skins
    * Built-in email client (might start to use it soon though, apparently v10 has a much better email client)
    * Widgets
    * Opera Voice

    What don’t I like about it?
    The only thing I can think of is that some sites don’t work (well) in it – but that is almost invariably the fault of the developers rather than the fault of Opera. And as you can make it pretend to be IE or Firefox, that gets round most of the browser-sniffing problems.

  • Penn

    I find it odd that most of the people complaining about Opera’s “user interface” appear to be complaining that the graphical look of the interface is not sexy. Very few are complaining about user interaction problems. In my opinion, the user interaction aspects of Opera’s interface are far better than in Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc. I have a sneaky suspicion that Opera’s market share isn’t higher for the very same reason that small, compact cars with high safety ratings don’t have as large a market share as SUV’s in the United States: most people prioritize looks, sex appeal, convenience (of the lazy sort), and social status over true functionality and utility.

    @Manolis: Opera does the only sensible thing when you close a tab: it restores focus to the most recently used tab. Why in the world would you want focus to transfer to the tab to the left or right or beginning or end? Most recently used is the only thing that actually makes any sense.

    @peach: You can drag tabs out of the Opera window and deposit them elsewhere too. Or move tabs between running instances of Opera in a dualhead setup.

  • sigh

    @omnicity

    The business model depends on sales to the mobile-phone makers, and they simply aren’t going to pay much money over the long term, when other browsers are available for free.

    Nothing is free. Do you really think OEMs and operators can simply slap a random browser onto a random phone? Of course not. It takes a lot of time and effort to port browsers.

    OEMs and operators will continue to pay Opera to port browsers. And besides, Opera offers products and services no one else has, like Opera Link, Opera Turbo, Opera Mini, etc.

    Forget the features, they are not as relevant as: a) Money b) Brand Perception, of which Opera has little of either.

    Opera has a strong brand in the mobile market. And besides, it’s only the US that is a problem to Opera. Opera is much stronger in other markets. Some countries have Opera at 35% market share!

  • sigh

    @Formerly Very Loyal Opera User: Then how come they have up to 35% market share in some countries?

    .

    @Craig Buckler:

    It certainly used to be the case that Opera identified itself as IE and the company argued it had a more widespread adoption than the statistics suggested. However, the browser hasn’t done that (by default) for several years, so I’m not convinced it still stands.

    Actually, it still does. If you look at the browser JS file and the useragent override file, Opera has to identify as something else for hundreds of possibly thousands of major sites to get access to them.

  • sigh

    Funny how people complain about the name and logo, and at the same time they conveniently forget Google :D

  • your mum

    I’ve used Opera as my primary browser now for the last five years and love it to bits. It feels so much faster and more responsive than other browsers. But there’s a few main things that Opera has gotten me used to which I absolutely cannot do without when browsing the web:

    Keyboard shortcuts – pressing ‘1’ and ‘2’ to switch focus to the next tab to the left or right respectively. A browser that doesn’t do that will never become my default browser, I’m just so used to it now and it’s so much quicker than using the mouse or ctrl+tab.

    Also as someone else has said, ctrl+z to reopen a closed tabs is a life saver as well. And minimizing an active tab by clicking on it’s title bar is so convenient (no longer a default setting but I love that they left it in for people who are used to it). Being able to store browsing sessions is also extremely convenient.

    The only place where I think Opera is lacking, and this is an area where FF totally trumps it, is with addons/extensions. E.g. I’d love an addon which can display HTTP headers right there in the browser, ala LiveHTPPHeaders for FF.

    As for the reason for Opera’s lack of success in gaining a larger user base, I think many others here have nailed it: virtually no marketing at all, and no easy distribution model (IE). Also unfortunately not being open source it doesn’t have a huge community of enthusiasts behind it either, but it certainly has many passionate users :)

  • bmanam

    I’ve been using Opera for over 3 years now and it’s my primary browser. Love it to bits. Nothing against FF, also a great browser but Opera just beats out anything else for all-day, everyday use. Someone else mentioned the fact that the tabs are ABOVE the address bar…absolutely agree!!

    Also, I’ve installed Opera for almost all of my clients and the largest percentage have not gone back to IE although some have opted for FF since some idiot banks don’t allow you to use their sites/services online with Opera…

    – Speed
    – Mouse gestures
    – Tons more…

    Greatest browser ever.

  • Angry Man

    As a web developer I use as many browsers as I can get my hands on. In my opinion it’s not that Opera is a bad product, for me, I am still angry that Opera tried to force more ads down my throat than were already being thrown at me by everyone else.

  • Webmaster

    Opera is quite the best … yea it has some other things to beadded maybe . But ny points as percentage is Opera %91 FF %75 , ie6 %62 , ie7(god damned) %35 …

    i just forced myself to use opera for 1 week … and learned all it’s features.i mean ALL. its far better than all other.

    I cannot even surf without opera… when i reinstall windows opera is the first application i install.. even before drivers(except NIC drivers) … believe or not i can not browse with the others.Its just like that i’m a blind man and with opera i can feel everything and use, but with others i even can hardly go to the previous page (i makes me feel like a big thing to go up and look for back icon and click on it and wait longer for a page i’ve already loaded 3 secs. ago) … Lots to tell … Long live opera! … (greetings from Turkey to the developers and users )

  • modules

    Just a Linuxy opinion here…

    Opera + Flash + Linux is not a happy story.

    But Firefox + Linux + Flash works well.

    It’s bit sad really: seems to me that there’s no way that new Linux users will put up with Opera – being, as it is, the ‘non-Flash’ browser.

    On reflection I realise, my only reservations about Opera have something to do with it not not being entirely friendly with Linux.

    Other than that, Opera has been my preferred browser for years, even on Linux.
    But only when I’m browsing (i.e. not working).

    Don’t really know why. Let’s think….
    1. The MDI interface means a lot to me. To hell with tabs. MDI is MUCH better for me.
    2. It’s easy to switch to a usable ‘user mode’ WITHOUT needing to specify any styles.
    3. ZOOM enlarges text AND images.

    I expect Firefox can be configured (or forced) to do the things for which I love Opera (apart from MDI). And I DO like FF. But it takes some work to configure it.
    On the other hand, Opera does it all ‘out of the box’.

    @Penn: re User Interface complaints.
    It’s funny really that people should have this complaint: in my experience Opera has been, over the years, the ONLY browser to let me configure the graphical interface in a way that’s agreeable to me.
    This has worked on both Windows and Linux. (My appreciation for the writers of the minimal themes is immense.)
    To me, the ‘graphical look’ of Opera is (with the right theme) miles better than what can be achieved with any other browser.

    I have already seen the complaints rolling in, on forums, about the great LACK of ‘customisability’ in IE8.
    Makes me think: I suppose people will REALLY appreciate a flexible GUI when it is taken away from them.

  • Vadim Fint

    I was using Opera 6, then switched to mozilla, then to firefox. But, latest Opera version is always installed (:. It’s the most accurate browser ever. I’m a developer and I know that I’m saying.

    Opera GUI is NOT written in Qt. Qt used only for misc stuff (like app menu). They have their own GUI/Widget framework, which kicks ass actually (very fast and good looknfeel on all platforms). Although, it does not looks native – you can use “native” skins. But I’m completely satisfied with their default skin (linux).

    Opera has very strong JS support right now. Opera 10 passes Acid3 test (and there is Opera9 build which can do that too). For gmail it works like a charm. It has builtin “greasemonkey”-like scripting support. It has even bittorrent client inside, although it is banned almost everywhere (: But for quick downloading at public trackers – it’s okay.

    It feelds solid, while Firefox with many plugins does not. Firefox is a LOT (!!!!!!!!!) slower on linux platform (both gui and rendering).

    The only reason I’m using Firefox now – web development. Opera has some things like Dragonfly, but “webdeveloper toolbar” and “firebug” really kicks any ass.

    I believe Opera will not die. They cant easily switch to opensource, because of (I think) huge amount of unique technologies which are used not only for Desktop Opera, but for all their products.

    But – I was debating about “best browser” several years ago. Now – there is not reason for doing that. Let me explain: IE6/IE7 MUST DIE. For me, as web developer, there is no sence which modern browser user is using – that could be Firefox3, Safari3, Safari4, Konqueror4, Webkit-based, Chrome, Opera9, etc. They ALL almost the same from developer view. There are little differencies, but usually they are bugs, which are fixed pretty fast. The only browser which can kick developer’s head is IE6 and IE7. IE8 is much much much better.

    So. Dont use IE. Use any other modern browser. Which one – you decide.

    btw, Opera is really the most feature-rich browser on the market. Right now they activly talking with w3c while developing new features. As an example: they wrote “font-face” paper, w3c approved it, now it is in draft stage, but it is already a “standart”. Opera 10 supports it. Thus, in opera10 you can use external fonts (TrueType only) on your page. This is a dream for designer and internet can become much more different with this only feature. (:

  • Vadim Fint

    @modules:
    opera + linux + flash == happy story (opera-9.64 + flash-10.0.22.87)

    everythings works fine, and faster than in firefox (:

  • Vadim Fint

    oh yes. Opera 3,4,5,6 was outstanding. Opera 7 was not good enough (because of released firefox). Opera 8 was awful (comparing to firefox at that time). Opera 9 was outstanding again. And Opera 10 seems to be unbelievably cool (:

    Opera <9 rendering/js model is bad. Opera 9 is far away from Opera 8 in this things.

    Thus, for all people who tried Opera 8 and now saying that it has “pure js support” or “gmail not works” or anything else – try latest stable 9.6* =)

  • http://www.archetype-it.com/ veronicay

    @Vadim

    I had a lot of trouble getting Flash to work with Opera and Firefox on Linux. I almost abandoned hope, until I found a .deb of Flash 9 specific to my distribution, and now it works perfectly in Opera … and Firefox! Like you, I keep Firefox around for the web dev toolbar, but nothing else.

  • Divya Manian

    I am a die hard opera fan and I even wrote about little known features of Opera that make it a winner: http://nimbupani.com/blog/what-paris-hilton-does-not-know-about-opera.html