Opera: The Best Worst Browser?
The Opera web browser is an unsung hero of the Internet. It's been around since 1994. Opera is the source of many innovations that competing browsers have copied. Yet many users have never heard of Opera, let alone tried it. Opera ranks dead last among the five major browsers in terms of market share, and yet it has a lot going for it. Should you switch? Let's take a deeper look...
Opera Browser - Should You Switch?
Fans of the Opera web browser will tell you all day long that it's the best. But browser stats show it has less than a 2% global market share, and the needle hasn't moved for years. So how can the least popular browser be the best? Opera's focus has always been on speed, standards and innovation. The first time you try Opera, you will notice how quickly it loads compared to much larger browsers. It consumes significantly less memory and other resources than Internet Explorer or Firefox. Opera also renders Web pages noticeably faster than most browsers, while remaining standards-compliant.
The Turbo mode introduced in Opera 11 is unique. When enabled, Turbo routes most of the Web pages you request through Opera's servers, where they are compressed before being delivered to you. That means pages arrive faster even over slow connections. When you have a fast connection again, Turbo switches off automatically. For your security and privacy, no SSL connections (pages whose address begin with "https") are routed through Turbo. When you connect to your bank or a shopping site secured by SSL, you are connected directly to the site.
Opera Unite is another feature unique to Opera. It allows multiple Web services to be hosted from the user's computer instead of relying on remote servers. For example, you can share a gallery of photos with friends directly instead of uploading the pics to Photobucket or a similar site. You can also stream media and create a chat room for your acquaintances.
Opera has a built-in email client that can import messages and settings from other popular clients. It also include a Bittorrent client for peer-to-peer sharing, and an IRC chat client. A security badge system tells you at a glance whether a link leads to a site that is trusted by the Opera community. To check a site's reputation, click on the gray "Web" globe icon to the left of the address bar. A green light means the URL is "verified safe," while a yellow light indicates caution.
Another jewel in Opera's crown is attention the needs of the disabled. Nearly every function can be performed via keyboard shortcuts. Opera also supports mouse gestures - combinations of mouse button clicks and actions that can trigger browser actions such as "back" and "refresh". Page zooming can make text, graphics, and embedded videos bigger to aid the visually impaired.
Widgets are small Opera programs that can be used outside of the browser. Examples include an e-book reader, a Twitter client, and games. Extensions, new to Opera 11, are programs that extend the functionality of the Opera browser. Some of the first extensions written include a Gmail notifier, a multilingual translator, and a weather forecast client.
A Bit of History
Opera has a long history of innovation, and many of these useful features have been copied by other modern browsers. Some things that we can reasonably claim as Opera innovations are proportional page scaling/zooming, the ability to save and restore sessions when restarting the browser, a tool to clear history, cookies & cache, mouse gestures, integrated web search, and popup blocking.
One innovation that some Opera fans claim as their own is the concept of tabbed browsing. It's true that Opera had a "multiple document interface" as early as 1994, which allowed for more than one web page to be open in a single window. But alas, there were no tabs. NetCaptor (now defunct) was the first web browser to have a true tabbed interface.
The lack of extensions (called add-ons in some other browsers) is one big reason why Opera never gained more traction. But the people behind Opera have made a few stumbles over the years that could also account for this. Opera began as trialware, requiring a paid license after the trial period. From 2000 to 2005, they offered the option to pay $39 or put up with banner ads on the browser window. Neither Internet Explorer nor Firefox had either or those annoyances, so Opera was handicapped. Since dropping the paid license and banner ads, Opera makes money through revenue sharing with search and mobile partners.
Opera is multi-platform, with versions for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can also download a portable version of Opera that runs on a USB flash drive. This lets you run Opera on any other computer (without installing it) just by plugging in your USB drive. Mobile phone versions known as Opera Mini and Opera Mobile (http://m.opera.com) are also available, on the Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Symbian (Nokia) platforms.
Opera is a venerable, high-quality browser that has had a strong, positive influence on Internet software. It's definitely worth a try, especially if you've never ventured outside the Internet Explorer fold. I've tried all the popular browsers, IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera. I hesitate to say that any of them is the "best," because they all work well, and have their own unique strong points. Bottom line: web browsers are like shoes -- you have to try them on, walk around a bit, and see which fits the best.
Do you love (or hate) Opera? Tell us why! Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 16 Jan 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Opera: The Best Worst Browser? (Posted: 16 Jan 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved