Tag Archives | Opera

Firefox 3.5: The Technologizer Review

firefoxreviewWas it really fewer than five years ago that Firefox 1.0 debuted? Its arrival ended the dismal period in which only one browser–Microsoft’s mediocre Internet Explorer–seemed to be viable. With Firefox, Mozilla proved that millions of people were itching to adopt a better browser. And today, we find ourselves with multiple better browsers:  Not just Firefox, but also Google’s minimalist Chrome, Apple’s flashy Safari, the ever-inventive Opera, the highly social Flock, and even the no-longer-calcifying Internet Explorer 8.

All of which means that Firefox 3.5–which Mozilla plans to formally release today–is no longer a shoo-in for the distinction of being the favorite browser of browser fans. (As I write, Firefox 3.5 hasn’t replaced 3.0 yet on the Firefox home page, but the Windows and Mac versions are live on Mozilla’s FTP site.)

After having spent months with various pre-release versions of 3.5, though, I’m convinced that The Little Browser That Could remains the best choice for the widest array of folks. That’s as much for the virtues that Firefox has possessed for years as for new stuff: Version 3.5′ s improvements are about better speed, useful tweaks to existing features, catchup with other browsers, and early support for emerging Web standards. In other words, the browser sports no knockout new features. But the moves Mozilla has made are smart, and they’re more than enough for Firefox to keep pace with its fast-evolving rivals.

After thr jump, a look at what’s new in rough order of importance. Continue Reading →


Six Questions About Opera Unite

Opera LogoBoy, Opera sure has turned the hype knob to 11 for its Unite technology, which puts a Web server inside Opera 11. It’s not just that it keeps talking about how Unite will reinvent the Web. I just watched a Webcast in which Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner said that Unite is an example not of Web 3.0 or Web 4.0, but of Web 5.0. Um, setting the bar that high seems dangerous–Unite could be quite remarkable, and still fail to match the expectations that Opera is setting up.

Right now, Unite is a technical preview. It’s fun to play with. But tinkering with it and watching Opera’s Webcast has left me with plenty of questions about it. Six of ’em after the jump…

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Opera’s Web-Changer: Unite, a Web Server Inside Your Browser

Opera LogoIn Oslo, the Tuesday workday is well underway, and that means that Opera Software has unveiled the revolutionary technology breakthrough it started touting last week. The would-be breakthrough turns out to be called Opera Unite, and a downloadable version of Opera 10 that incorporates it is available now. As blogger Kas Thomas somehow managed to guess, it’s a version of the Opera browser with a built-in Web server. And while it’s impossible to judge at this early date whether it’ll “forever change the fundamental fabric of the Web” as Opera promised, it’s a very big idea. Continue Reading →


Heads Up: Internet to be Reinvented Next Week

Opera LogoAs TechCrunch’s Robin Wauters is reporting, browser company Opera has scheduled a product announcement next Tuesday for something it says will reinvent the Web. Sounds ambitious!

I got an invitation to a Webcast that’s more specific. But only slightly so:

With 15 years of continuous innovation, Opera will introduce a technology that will forever change the fundamental fabric of the Web.

Whatever this news is, it’s presumably something more substantial than, say, a mere confirmation that Opera 10 is coming out of beta.

I won’t hazard any guesses as to what Opera is up to, but I hope that whatever it is, it’s an open standard: It would presumably be pretty tough for anything to forever change the fundamental fabric of the Web unless it’s supported by every major browser. Unless it’s something that goes beyond browsing as we know it?

Anyhow, I’m attending the Webcast and will report back then. Lemme know if you think you know what Opera will tell us. Or if you have any theories anout whether it’s even possible for the Web to be reinvented at this point…


Opera 10 Hits Beta, Adds Turbocharged Dial-Up Mode

Opera LogoBoy, is it ever a great time to be a browser fan. Not only are there multiple viable, worthwhile browsers to choose from, but every one of them is improving with time. The latest example: venerable contender Opera, which is out today in the first beta release of Opera 10, the next version. An alpha has been out for months, but this beta is smoother and slicker, and packs some new features. In my brief time with it so far it’s mostly run well, but it did crash once.

Opera 10 introduces a feature borrowed from Opera Mini, its pint-sized cousin for phones: an option called Turbo which speeds up page rendering by doing it on the server side, then sending the browser a compressed version of the page that can be downloaded more quickly. It’s aimed at dial-up users, but was noticeably zippier than standard mode even on my broadband connection. There are multiple telltale signs of the compression process–graphics look cruder, and Flash elements don’t play until you click them–but it looks to be a worthwhile alternative for folks who are short on bandwidth. I’ll try it again next time I’m out in the world on an EVDO connection which is unusually slow.

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Google Makes Chrome Speed Boost Boast. Who’s Next?

chromelogo5Google is boasting that an update to Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine and Webkit browsing component has yielded a significant improvement in performance. Yippee. Now, who’s next?

The renewed browser war resembles more of a game of leapfrog than the big-bang releases of the 1990’s when one version of Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator could change the balance of power in the browser wars overnight. Google says that Chrome is now 30% faster with today’s upgrade. That matches a performance claim made by Opera in about its new “Presto” rendering engine.

Two months ago, the Mozilla Foundation was bragging about how much snappier Firefox 3.5 will be over its predecessor. Apple, and many recent benchmarks conclude that Safari 4 is the title holder of ‘world’s fastest browser,’ and Microsoft has introduced Internet Explorer 8 by performing benchmarks of its own.

Irrespective of how many fewer milliseconds one of these browsers might take to render JavaScript, they are all getting better, in terms of standards support and performance. The real world implication is that each browser runs AJAX Web apps better than they did a year ago, and pages are being rendered with greater consistency.

Many of them have already have adopted parts of the upcoming HTML 5 specification–the lingua franca of the Web–even though it is far from being finalized. The working group responsible for it is open to breaking it up into smaller pieces.

For the first time in years, there is major innovation happening in the browsers due to increased competition. Opera has longo liked to play the role of innovator; now it’s matching wits against Apple and Google. Mozilla Firefox, the first browser to dent Microsoft’s seemingly immovable market share, is not longer the cock of the walk.

Not too long ago, it seemed as if browsers were maturing. All I can say, is that this latest round of competition is a very good thing for people who use (and create) Web apps, and those who care about standards.

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Opera Turns 15, Claims Title of World's Oldest Web Browser

Opera LogoThe folks at Opera are celebrating the fifteeth anniversary of their Web browser today. They’ve got some fun celebratory items up, including memories from cofounder and CEO Jon von Tetzchner, a secret origin in comic-strip form, some predictions for the future, and a list of fifteen reasons to use Opera.

The company’s saying that Opera is the oldest browser that’s still extant, and while that’s a defensible interpretation of history, it’s subject to debate. It’s marking its fifteenth birthday not on the anniversary of the first public release of the browser–that didn’t happen until 1996–but on the anniversary of the beginnings of coding on the first version, which was a research project at Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor. If you determined the oldest remaining browser based on general availability, Internet Explorer, which was released in 1995, would predate Opera. And IE was originally based on code from Spyglass Mosaic, the commercial version of NCSA Mosaic, the first graphical browser–but I don’t know if there’s any Mosaic code kicking around in today’s IE 8.

Firefox, meanwhile, is a descendant of Netscape Navigator (which first appeared in late 1994 and was officially discontinued in 2007). But work on Netscape began in mid-1994–after Opera development was already underway, apparently.

Meanwhile, there’s at least one dark-horse candidate for the title of Oldest Browser Still Standing: Lynx, a text-only browser which I used myself back in the early 1990s. Here’s an OS X version posted at Apple’s site a little over a year ago, and here’s source code from 2007 with a note that a new version is under development.  Lynx supports neither graphics nor JavaScript, and I suspect that most modern sites are simply unusable in it–let’s not even talk about Flash here, folks–but it’s a browser. And if it’s gone to browser heaven, it did so only recently.

Anyhow, Opera is one of a handful of popular Internet apps of the mid-1990s that’s still with us, still evolving, and still doing interesting things–especially on alternative devices such as phones and gaming consoles. Long may it wave…


One Windows. Multiple Browsers. Bundled. I Like It!

win7firefox1Once again, those wacky Europeans are making life difficult for Microsoft. A site called EurActive is reporting that Microsoft’s ongoing antitrust tussle with the European Commission will result in the company being forced to help European Windows users opt for a browser that isn’t Internet Explorer. The details are yet to be worked out–the OS might include some sort of mechanism for choosing among multiple browsers, or Microsoft might be forced to work with PC manufacturers to install alternative browsers on new systems. Microsoft is apparently concerned enough that it has a secret plan to delay Windows 7’s release if necessary, reports our own Dave Worthington.

When you’re forced to do something you don’t particularly want to do, there are two ways to go about it: grudgingly or whole-heartedly. Previous legally-mandated editions of Windows such as the Korea-only Windows XP K and KN are the result of the first approach, and I’m not sure if they made anyone other than the government officials who required them happy.

But what if Microsoft poured its collective energy, intellect, and resources into making the best possible multiple-browser Windows–and then made it the standard version of the OS worldwide?

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Opera on the iPhone? Maybe. Someday.

operaiconSome of the reports today on Apple’s approval of new browser-related iPhone apps make it sound like the company has opened the floodgates for Safari rivals to make their way onto iPhones. Not true–the new apps all use Safari’s WebKit rendering engine and are therefore piggybacking on Safari rather than trying to replace it. But I happened to have a meeting scheduled today with Christen Krogh, Chief Development Officer at Norway-based browser company Opera, which has talked in the past of the possibility of releasing a real Safari alternative for the iPhone. And so I asked him the obvious: Does today’s new affect the company’s interest in the iPhone?

“We’re absolutely positive we could produce a fantastic version of Opera for any platform, including the iPhone,” Krogh told me. But he said that the company would have to have a compelling reason for doing so–it wouldn’t do so just to prove it could. So I asked him if it did have any compelling reason to want to be on the iPhone. “Right now, it doesn’t matter,” he said, since it still appears that Apple wouldn’t allow a competitive browser into its App Store.

So there you go: We seem to be in a vicious circle in which it’s pointless for Opera (or other companies like Mozilla) to invest any attention or effort in iPhone versions until it’s clear that Apple will permit them to distribute their browsers. And even if Apple does decide to loosen up, it probably won’t release a press release trumpeting that fact.

One way or another, I’d love to see multiple browsers on the iPhone. We know what it’s like when a browser has no viable competition–you get the calcification of Internet Explorer that happened from the late 1990s until Firefox showed up and started the browser wars anew.

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State of the Browser Betas: A Technologizer Cheat Sheet

cheatsheetI’m hesitant to make any bold predictions about what 2009 will hold for technology, but this one seems profoundly safe: a lot of Web browser upgrades will ship. That’s because new versions of the current big five–Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera, and Safari–are all in various stages of progress. And prerelease versions all except Safari are available for download right now. After the jump, a quick guide to what’s up with each of them. If you’ve been using any (or all!) of them, let us know what you think…

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