Browser Autopsy #1: Opera

Opera: Same Song, Different Tune

That title doesn’t actually have anything to do with what I think about the Opera Web browser. I just wanted to use a bad pun.
I initially intended to use a different web browser every week until I had tried all of the major browsers. That plan went away quickly for two reasons:

  1. There’s actually not many high performance browsers out there. The list basically stands like this: Firefox (which I already use), Safari (which I use as my… private browser [and I hate]), Chrome, Opera, and Internet Explorer (which is not available for OSX).
  2. I got tired of Opera really quickly.

Opera is not a bad browser. The reason that it frustrated me is that it encourages a very specific pattern of internet usage and user behavior. I’m not going to fully cover every feature of of the browser, or even every way that it is different from Firefox. What I will list are the major problems with using Opera as a heavy internet user.

Compatability Issues

One of my favorite web related services out there is XMarks, the bookmark sync service. It makes browsing on different machines, migrating between browsers, and accessing your bookmarks from the web extremely easy. It currently doesn’t support Opera. This is a minor annoyance, but it’s not the only service that doesn’t support the browser. Many of the Google beta programs also do not support the browser.

Other Technical Issues

Opera is widely touted and promoted for being fast. That’s true (to a point; Chrome is as fast or faster). At the same time, on more than one occasion, websites with many elements (columns of text, embedded media) displayed as a scramble with overlapping text.

User Behavior

Little design element also suggest that Opera wants its users to browse in a different way than I (and I would guess most power users) do. There is no bookmark toolbar, and it seems like the Opera developers have banked on people liking it’s complex sidebar (the sidebar also has  filesharing, history, IM and app tabs). The sidebar and the bar at the top of the page are not that wide, but they feel clunky. There is a lot of wasted space in between tabs at the top of the page, and it doesn’t seem to encourage many open tabs.
These are all features that you can add with an extension in Firefox, and that points to the problem with Opera.

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