Friday, August 9, 2013

Goodbye Opera

What's Opera?

Opera is a web browser. What you usually do with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, you could do with Opera. Except Opera was doing it better.

I first used Opera in the year 2000 when I worked for an IT start-up. Opera was an excellent browser already and its only flaw was that you had to either pay for it or endure some built-in advertisements in order to use it for free. The 2 things that mattered about Opera were

  • The respect of web standards: if you never programmed anything web-based, you probably don't know it, but web sites work correctly in several different browsers because some organization established standards. Back in the day, Internet Explorer was king due to its illegal monopolistic practices and it encouraged programmers to develop non-standard websites that would work correctly only in IE. Since it was in a monopolistic position, IE could flip birds at the rest of the world and do away with standards. But Opera allowed conscientious programmers to do good work.
  • Extra functionality: Unlike Firefox that offers only basic functionality and lets you install tons of plugins with the associated risks, Opera packed everything it could so that users had everything already at hand.

The journey forward

After 2000, I went back to IE because that was the only browser available at my university, so I didn't care anymore about it. I got myself a job, did some ugly non-standard programming intended to run in IE only and hated myself for it. Then disgusted by IE in 2004, I turned to Firefox which was a light of hope due to its free open-source licence and its greater respect than IE for web standards. But as the years passed, Firefox became heavier and heavier, slower and slower, and taking up a huge amount of RAM.

At that time, in 2007, Opera was very far behind me, lost somewhere in my past. But I read some news about it and decided to give it a new try. It was tremendously lighter and faster than Firefox. And it had extra functionality, which I won't go over as that would take too much space and time. Opera was also safer. Due to its low market share, it was not considered a profitable target by hackers. And also, the company Opera Software was doing a fantastic job at solving security problems lightning-fast when problems appeared (unlike Microsoft who left major security holes unpatched for months).

Since then, I've been using my computer about 15-16 hours a day for 6 years and I've loved Opera. What disappointed me though, were its unfairly low market shares. The only explanation I find for this is that Opera Software, the company developing the browser, totally sucked at marketing. But it excelled technically.

And that brings us to 2011. Jon von Tetzchner, the founder of Opera Software slammed the door because the board decided to sell its soul. No more striving for technical excellence! They wanted to sell out, get some cash fast, and didn't give a flying fuck about destroying the browser's immaculate reputation. Since then, they have retired their excellent browser and started rebuilding more or less from scratch, around Webkit, a browser's engine controlled by Google and Apple which encourages web developers (like IE back in the day) to go against standards. And of course, the browser's functionality is back to... well, not much.

So today, after 6 years of devotion, after loving my browser and praising it for its objective qualities on the internet, I have uninstalled it.

What about the future?

For now, I have decided to go with Firefox. I disagree with its model but it's the least bad as far as I can judge. Most other browsers are controlled by evil companies and do shady stuffs, when they do anything at all. Yes, IE! I'm talking about you being lame, lacking functionality, being an entry point for viruses and embodying everything evil that Microsoft has been about.

I've decided to complete Firefox with a few useful add-ons:
  • Adblock Plus: spares me a lot of ads. The web goes faster, is safer, and is more enjoyable without those ads.
  • Ghostery: blocks third-party stuff. A bit like Adblock Plus in a way, but instead of blocking ads, it blocks the spying and tracking of your browsing by spyware and ill-intended companies.
  • WOT: informs you of websites reputation. It also indicates in advance if hyperlinks are leading you to a legitimate or nefarious website.
  • Omnibar: merges together the URL bar and the search engine bar. It just makes life simpler.
  • All-in-one sidebar: it puts functionality on the side of the screen rather than at the top. This is better on laptops since laptops have wide screens nowadays.

I hope Opera will fail in its short-term near-sighted venture, and I hope it will come back to reason and restore its virtue. If it does, I will welcome it back. But I don't see it happening in the next 2 years.

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