Opera 11 Released

When compared with Google Chrome and, to the other extreme, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Opera has a logical browser release schedule. New editions appear when a solid number of stable features have been added (Opera 10.0 was released 15 months ago).

Opera 11 was released today following a few months beta testing. Most of the features were announced a while back, but let’s take a closer look at the new additions and changes.

Interface

At first glance, very little has changed from 10.x. But if it ain’t broke…

The most noticeable update is the address bar. Like Chrome, Opera now hides the http:// or https:// and displays a graphical “Secure” box and padlock icon. The full URL appears when you click the address — a nice touch.

The “personal bar” has been renamed the “bookmarks bar.” It’s about time! It now appears below the tabs, but can still be docked on any side (useful for small wide-screen displays).

Visual mouse gestures are new. Hold down the right mouse button and map appears showing which action will occur when you move in a certain way. I’ve never been a huge fan of gestures, partly because I prefer keyboard shortcuts and could never remember which mouse movement did what. I may give them another try now.

Tab Stacking

Tab stacking is a great new feature which has stolen Firefox 4′s thunder. Stacking helps those like me who often have 93 tabs open at once; you can group two or more tabs into one master tab by dragging them on top each other. If you haven’t installed Opera yet, this video demonstrates the feature:

Tabs can also be pinned to the left-hand side of the bar. Unlike previous versions, space is saved by only showing the site’s favicon.

Speed

Opera claims their browser is quicker, but, since it’s already one of the fastest available, I’m not convinced many will notice a significant change. However, plug-ins such as Flash now load on demand rather than at start-up.

HTML5

Opera is at the forefront of HTML5 development and offer one of the best standards-compliant browsers. The main addition to version 11 is web sockets: a technology which allows ongoing asynchronous client-server communication which bypasses the standard HTTP request and response round trip.

Extensions … Finally!

Extensions are possibly the most important feature to appear in Opera since tabs in the late 1990′s. Opera fans traditionally argued extensions weren’t necessary because the browser offered better built-in functionality than its competitors. However, extensions were one of the primary reasons Firefox achieved its success, so it’s difficult to understand why Opera held back for so long.

At the time of writing, more than 200 add-ons can be installed from the Opera Extensions repository: https://addons.opera.com/addons/extensions/. A typical selection of advert blockers, GMail checkers, Twitter clients and HTML validation tools are already available. There’s also an XMarks tool so you can finally synchronize bookmarks from other browsers.

Extension development is based on the W3C Widget specification and JavaScript, with a sprinkling of HTML5 and CSS. That’s sensible and web developers will be able to leverage their existing skills. Technically, Opera extensions are more advanced than the bookmarklet-like add-ons in Chrome and Safari. They’re less sophisticated than Firefox’s XUL, but have little of the complexity, either. It’s a good compromise and it will attract developers to the platform. Refer to Getting Started with Opera Extensions for more information.

The big question: can extensions help raise Opera’s profile? The browser deserves a wider audience, so let’s hope it does.

Will you try Opera now extensions are available? Are you tempted to migrate from your existing browser?

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  • WhatsupThen

    “extensions were one of the primary reasons Firefox achieved its success”

    Not really. Google’s advertising monopoly was.

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

      I don’t agree. Firefox was popular before v1.0 and any advertising campaigns because developers and power users liked it. A significant reason was extensions; it enabled many of the developer tools we now take for granted. At the time, I promoted the browser and installed it on many PCs because I considered it to be a better option for most people.

      Even with a strong advertising campaign, would Firefox have been successful if people didn’t like it? Advertising has undoubtedly contributed to it’s success, but word-of-mouth was a far more critical factor. There’s no reason why Opera can’t succeed using the same techniques.

      • WhatsupThen

        You don’t agree because you didn’t pay attention. Firefox’s growth started for real when Google started promoting it.

        I didn’t say that people didn’t like Firefox. I pointed out that it owes most of its success to Google. Great products without a monopoly behind them usually don’t fare well against other monopolies.

        Opera can’t succeed using the same techniques because there’s no monopolist available to spend millions or billions of dollars promoting it for free, like Google did with Firefox.

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

        I didn’t pay attention?! Firefox was popular and had a good market share before Google started advertising the browser. Even then, it was mainly promoted within the download pack — you didn’t see the same level of advertising Chrome receives.

        Firefox was successful because it was the first serious threat to IE and power users evangelized the browser. To state it owes success to advertising is an overstatement and is an often-quoted excuse within the Opera community.

        If you like Opera, get out there and promote it to others. Complaining that other browsers have an unfair marketing advantage won’t help.

      • WhatsupThen

        No, Firefox’s real growth started when Google started advertising it. And no, it was not just promoted with the download pack. Google ran ad campaigns, and even paid webmasters up to $1 for every Firefox download they could generate.

        Unfair marketing advantage? I’m just pointing out the reality of the matter. Google’s advertising monopoly made Firefox happen. Fair or unfair is irrelevant.

  • http://www.mikehealy.com.au cranial-bore

    Tab Stacking looks good, but not enough to lure me from Chrome. Hopefully they rip off the idea soon ;)

  • WOLF

    Opera has always been at the forefront of browser development and it won;t take long until everyone else follows. Opera rocks!

  • http://www.tonymarston.net Tony Marston

    Opera is still broken as far as performing client-side XSL transformations is concerned.

    If you visit http://www.radicore.org/demo/menu/logon.php?csxslt=off you will see what the result is supposed to be.

    If you visit http://www.radicore.org/demo/menu/logon.php?csxslt=on you will see how Opera screws this up completely.

    I reported this as a bug several years ago, but there has been no action so far.

    • WhatsupThen

      Maybe because it’s such an utterly trivial thing?

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

        Anything is trivial if you’re not using it.
        It’s a different story when you are.

  • pothi

    I haven’t considered Opera earlier, because of lack of extensions that I can’t seriously think of not using at any moment in other browsers (IE included ;)). Now, with extensions included, I’m using it since it’s beta release. I’d say it’s a complete browser (with many features included by default). Hopefully, it’d come on par with other browsers, at least it may soon overcome safari in the browsers market share by a large extend.

  • Daquan Wright

    Opera is a fantastic browser. As a web developer and technology enthusiast, I use Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera (I have IE installed and view sites in it, but it’s not one of my main browsers). Opera is fast and it’s very user-friendly. It also has a small footprint compared to other browsers….

    The major thing with opera is that some big web apps don’t support it (like some banking apps or the FASFA app).

    Still, I dig Opera just as well as I do Chrome and Firefox.

    • Daquan Wright

      Also, Firefox wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is if it wasn’t for extensions. Reliability, plug-ins, themes, speed, and security are the primary factors that pulled savvy web users away from IE in the first place.

      To state that advertising outweighs those internal elements is blind. If Chrome or Opera didn’t start using what Firefox uses, they could never compete. Why else would Chrome or Opera go so far to get a good number of plug-ins? Plug-ins make life easy and a browser that doesn’t do that in this day and age is out of luck (Except IE for obvious reasons).

      • Robbo

        You do realize that the biggest browser ‘revolutions’ were done by opera right? You are making out like firefox was the first to do all this. The only thing firefox did first was extensions. Opera was the first to have tabs. You don’t see everyone going on about that do you? I would rather live without extensions then tabs. Firefox is a standard browser that only excels because of its extensions. There is nothing wrong with that, I just don’t like people making out like it is the best of the best because of it.

        Also don’t say firefox is fast, that is just plain wrong.

        And last thing, I assume your comment was meant to reply to another one earlier on? Seems kind of out of place :/

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

        @Robbo
        Actually, Opera wasn’t the first browser to have tabs, although who remembers InternetWorks from 1994! Opera certainly made tabs a mainstream browser UI control.

        Opera could have been in a similar position to Firefox had the browser not remained a commercial application for so long. For me, that’s the main reason it couldn’t compete with IE in the early days. Netscape was a commercial browser too, but Microsoft killed that market.

      • WhatsupThen

        Wow, Daquan Wright, your ignorance of history is astounding.

        What is that that “Firefox uses” that Opera and Chrome “started using”? Extensions? That’s the only thing! Everything else, Firefox “stole” from other browsers, mostly Opera (and later Chrome).

        For example, themes, speed and reliability. Opera had those ages before Firefox even existed.

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

        @WhatsupThen
        Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

        Why is it stealing? If a vendor comes up with a great browser feature, why shouldn’t others implement or adapt it? That’s how the web evolves and is the basis of W3C standards development.

        While I agree that Opera is one of the more innovative vendors, they certainly copy others. (Although I wouldn’t call speed and reliability “features” … even themes is stretching it a little.)

      • WhatsupThen

        @Craig Buckler, I never said that it was wrong to “steal.” I pointed out that his claim that Firefox is the innovative browser does not match the actual historical facts.

        Firefox brought extensions to the table (although there were add-ons for IE and some other browsers before that). Opera brought dozens of things to the market that were sooner or later adopted by other browsers, including popup blocking, address field searches, and so on.

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

        @WhatsupThen
        Even if you don’t consider Firefox to be an innovative browser, its extensions certainly have been. Do you remember life before Firebug and the WDT?

        IMHO, extensions were the single biggest contributor to Firefox’s success.

      • WhatsupThen

        Google was the single biggest contributor to Firefox’s success, since Google used its online ad monopoly to promote Firefox.

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

        Yes, I realize that’s your opinion. I still disagree. Firefox was successful (years) before and after Google advertising. It wouldn’t have remained popular if users didn’t like it.

      • WhatsupThen

        No, that’s not just my opinion. You are ignorant of the actual timeline, which shows that Firefox really gained popularity after Google started promoting it.

        I never said anything about whether people liked Firefox or not. I pointed out how it gained popularity. It’s dishonest of you to use red herrings and strawmen like that.

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

        It’s strange that your “popularity timeline” neglects to mention the success of Phoenix or Firebird? Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004. Google’s download pack and advertising started in January 2006 — several months after the Fx1.5 release. It ended mid-2008 shortly before Chrome’s release.

        But I’m interested to know why this issue concerns you so much? Is it that Firefox doesn’t deserve its success? Should Mozilla have refused Google’s marketing assistance? Should Google only promote their own products?

        Or are you just upset that Google didn’t choose Opera? If so, you should be aware that Google funds became Opera’s primary source of revenue when the free edition of the desktop browser was released in 2005.

    • http://www.iraqtimeline.com/maxdesign Black Max

      Rackspace’s email client doesn’t support it. And there’s a bug in the way Opera 11 displays Yahoo mail (probably JS-related). Still, I’m using it right now, and will continue to do so. Hope the extensions are better than the widgets. :(

      • WhatsupThen

        Extensions and widgets are two completely different things.

        Extensions add functionality to the browser, while widgets are standalone applications.

        Extensions can’t be “better than widgets.” because they do completely different things.

  • Sphamandla

    Yes Opera 11 is really good but i didnt notice any changes in terms of speed as for extensions they are fairly good