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Opera 10 Beta

Thu 4th , June 2009

By: Kroc Camen


Opera have announced the release of Opera 10 Beta. New engine, new features, but I'm more concerned about where Opera 10 fits into Opera's history, and certainly their future. Opera have never made any massive strides in marketshare and is Opera 10 really going to change any of that? Read More to find out.

Software is an intensely complicated thing, design has to bubble up right from the bottom, enthused with each person’s passion for doing the best they possibly can. Some software just smells of bored people stuck in a 9–5 and some software simply pops with joy at being alive.

Because software comes from people with differing backgrounds, differing goals and differing skill-sets, it can be said that software comes in different flavours. We may all think that arguing the specifics of one browser being better than the other is all so very important, but we are no better off than children arguing over which ice cream flavour is the best, or if tyrannosaurus-rex is better than stegosaurus. 

Opera is not a flavour of software I have ever liked on looks alone. I’ve stuck my nose up in disgust like I’ve been offered a plate of broccoli, and every new version it’s been more or less the same vegetable in a different colour (cauliflower). 

Last October, Opera hired Jon Hicks, well renowned designer who designed the FIrefox logo, to look at the design of Opera (something he himself has lamented about before).

This is a very welcome move by Opera, they have always in my opinion followed the same wrong path that Netscape took. They seem to over-design the application as some kind of Hollywood impression of a browser (or website). Chunky, colourful and tacky so that it’s blindingly obvious to the audience they’re looking at the Internet. Netscape went as far as making the browser itself, look exactly like their website so that you couldn’t tell where one met the other. The downside to this? On anywhere but Netscape’s homepage it stuck out, looked terrible and clashed with the content. 

This is the same feeling I have always got with Opera in the past. The problem with this kind of design is that it gets old and tiresome, quickly. We all use the browser a huge amount, often the primary interface to our day. I don’t want to stare at what somebody using Photoshop thought was cool that day. 

About the Functionality

The new Presto 2.2 rendering engine supports full Acid 3 compatibility. There’s a lot of features available to web-developers. Certainly it’s the best engine Opera’s ever had, even managing to do a near-perfect job on my personal website which uses extensive amounts of CSS3 and is quite brutal on most browsers. Previous versions of Opera in the past have had poor compatibility with the mess that is the world wide web. This is something that Mozilla really nailed early on and ultimately did help people switch to Firefox full time. 

Opera’s JavaScript support has always been an entity of it’s own. I was actually impressed this time I could log into Google Mail and get the same thing as Firefox. 

Scrolling is noticeably faster and more responsive than even Firefox 3.5. Opera 10 chews through complex layouts like it was plain text. This really matters. I don’t know how many miles I must scroll a day but responsiveness is yet another thing that irks me about software. Despite constant improvements, Firefox lacks ‘teh-snappy’ that is present in Opera. Resizing windows is significantly more instant in Opera. 

Opera 10 beta also includes a new “Turbo” feature that runs you through a compressing proxy, much like what 3G providers do to reduce bandwidth on their networks. This is really only practical if you are on dial-up, as going through the proxy when already on a broadband connection will only slow things down—Opera brings up a warning accordingly and even lets you set it to turn itself on or off according to detected network speed. Now that’s good feature integration, and something I wouldn’t expect out of a Firefox extension. Do you really want everything you do running through a proxy though? I’m not sure if Opera turbo uses SSL to encrypt the traffic between you and the proxy, but I would find it a bit of a concern if they didn’t. Going through the proxy also means that you end up with ads being served to you on the basis of the proxy’s IP, instead of your own. Makes a difference seeing foreign ads, at least.


Software can be an emotional thing. We don’t always make decisions based on pure logic alone and the same applies to how we choose our software. If I were looking for the fastest rendering engine, then Opera wins hands-down. But what I care about is longevity; being able to use a tool regularly for a long period of time and that tool doing it’s job and not being a source of nuisance.

If Opera’s looks seem fine to you, then well done, you’ve found yourself a good browser, use it, I recommend it. Personally, I can’t see myself ever switching to Opera unless they dump every pixel of UI they currently have, and start again.

But then you don’t need me to tell you which browser to use. I can safely say that everybody who reads this is plenty smart enough to download any browser they want, try it out, and decide for themselves. So it makes this review somewhat entirely redundant.







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