Is Opera turning into Firefox?



(Update: Now Firefox is moving even further in Opera's direction, in addition to other Opera-like developments ;))

"I remember Opera before it became a "suite of applications"

This is a quote from a recent blog post by Mozilla's Asa, where he fondly remembers the days when Opera was only a browser, and where he talks more about the UI simplification in Opera 8.

The problem is that Opera has never been just a browser. Even Opera 3 had a built-in newsreader, and a send-only e-mail client.

In the same blog post, he writes about Opera 8's simplified user interface, and how Opera is starting to look more like Firefox. Now, this would indicate that somehow, Opera follows Firefox. But Firefox itself was actually an attempt to make a simplified "IE-like" user interface, so is he really saying that Opera is looking more like IE now? That Opera is following IE's lead?

We all know how bloggers love to spin things in certain ways, and it is interesting to note how Mozilla's products seem to "break new ground", according to the Mozilla Organization. And by all means, Firefox is a nice little browser, even though it doesn't quite have the smooth integration of features that Opera does. It's great that there is another alternative that people can use instead of Internet Explorer, and the fact that they released version 1.0 at a time when "everyone" was trying to get away from IE led to a lot of press for alternative browsers, including Opera. But when it all comes down to it, how much new ground does Mozilla really break?

Indeed, last year I wrote a journal entry about some rather interesting claims about new features in Mozilla's embedded browser, Minimo, and I pointed out that even though it sounded like Minimo was breaking new ground, Opera had been doing all those things for a long time. Clearly, the Minimo developer who was interviewed knew about Opera – he even made claims about Opera's portability, which was apparently worse than Mozilla's, even though I doubt that he actually has seen enough of Opera's source code to make an informed statement, and even though Opera is available for a lot more mobile operating systems than Minimo. Why, then, did he seem to ignore the fact that all those "fantastic" things Minimo was almost doing were already done by Opera?

And now we return to Firefox, the browser that Opera is apparently looking more like. It would be interesting to take a look at what Firefox has to offer compared to Opera, and see if some of those things were done by Opera first, or perhaps even invented by Opera… And if this were the case, would it not be more accurate to say that Firefox is becoming more like Opera?

Here goes:

"Popup Blocking

Stop annoying popup ads in their tracks with Firefox's built in popup blocker."

If I am not mistaken, Opera was the first browser with a built-in popup blocker. It used to be called "allow pages to open new windows" or something like that, way before the popup insanity that faces the Web today.

"Tabbed Browsing

View more than one web page in a single window with this time saving feature. Open links in the background so that they're ready for viewing when you're ready to read them. Find out more…"

Opera started off as MDI, and had tabs ages before Mozilla.

"Privacy and Security

Built with your security in mind, Firefox keeps your computer safe from malicious spyware by not loading harmful ActiveX controls. A comprehensive set of privacy tools keep your online activity your business."

So not loading ActiveX is a feature? Ok, Opera has not loaded ActiveX controls for ages πŸ™‚

"Smarter Search

Google Search is built right into the toolbar, and there is a plethora of other search tools including Smart Keywords (type "dict <word>" in the Location bar), and the new Find bar (which finds text as you type without covering up anything)."

Another Opera invention? Opera was the first browser to include the now famous search field to the right of the URL field, as far as I know.

"Live Bookmarks

RSS integration lets you read the latest news headlines and read updates to your favorite sites that are syndicated. Find out more…"

Yes, Opera has had built-in newsfeeds support for quite some time πŸ™‚

"Hassle-Free Downloading

Files you download are automatically saved to your Desktop so they're easy to find. Fewer prompts mean files download quicker."

Like Opera's quick download feature? πŸ™‚

"Fits Like a Glove

Simple and intuitive, yet fully featured, Firefox has all the functions you're used to – Bookmarks, History, Full Screen, Text Zooming to make pages with small text easier to read, etc."

Most of those are already available in Internet Explorer. Opera offers a lot more built-in that you need extensions (third party software) for in Firefox.

"S, M, L or XLβ€”It's Your Choice

Firefox is the most customizable browser on the planet. Customize your toolbars to add additional buttons, install new Extensions that add new features, add new Themes to browse with style, and use the adaptive search system to allow you to search an infinite number of engines. Firefox is as big or small as you want."

I think Internet Explorer did this years ago. Opera, too, does most of this, and it can install themes/skins without restarting, too πŸ™‚

"Setup's a Snap

At only 4.7MB (Windows), Firefox takes just a few minutes to download over a slow connection and seconds over a fast connection. The installer gets you set up quickly, and the new Easy Transition system imports all of your settings – Favorites, passwords and other data from Internet Explorer and other browsers – so you can start surfing right away."

I must say that Opera had the "small download" thing going long before Firefox did. And even today, the full-featured Opera suite is a smaller download than Firefox, a browser with a limited feature set (where, admittedly, most features seem to be features that Opera already had).

"A Developer's Best Friend

Firefox comes with a standard set of developer tools including a powerful JavaScript and CSS error/warning console, and an optional Document Inspector that gives detailed insight about your pages."

Opera does have a JavaScript console, but the Document Inspector is probably a Firefox first. Good on ya, Firefox!

"Read Mailβ€”Not Spam

Thunderbird is the perfect complement to Firefox."

And Thunderbird adds 5.8 MB to the already-larger-than-Opera download size, making it more than twice as big! Sorry, could not resist πŸ˜‰

Thunderbird also recently introduced "virtual folders", after Opera's database-like approach to sorting e-mail. Gmail also followed Opera's lead.

Also, rumours have it that there are even more features on the way in Firefox 1.1. Will they, yet again, follow Opera's lead and introduce more of Opera's innovations into their own browser?

Time will tell. You can all guess what I'm thinking πŸ˜‰

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22 thoughts on “Is Opera turning into Firefox?

  1. You left off the part where Opera beat everyone to the punch with a $40 pricetag and built in advertising. Who could resist those innovative features. πŸ˜‰

    – A

  2. Firefox's professional support costs $39.95 last I checked …. have you finally reduced that price, Asa?

    You also forget to mention that Opera has more than 1 affiliate program whereby one can earn/receive a free Opera registration.

    Did you happen to notice that one can easily configure Opera with ads to be as screen-friendly with its viewing area as is possible with Firefox?

    I think you conveniently ignore those details and continue to spin a deceitful web I am afraid.

    Haavard is just setting the record straight. He is not being mean-spirited (with a twist on facts thrown in) as you seem to be.

    With that said, I wish you well in your attempts to attain to Opera's level of operation and functionality.

    πŸ™‚

  3. when you're face to face with facts and have nothing smart or constructive to say, then you say s**t like that what asadotzler said.

  4. "Haavard is just setting the record straight. He is not being mean-spirited (with a twist on facts thrown in) as you seem to be."

    So what Asa said about the pricetag is not a fact? A fact which in fact Haavard left out. I'd say Asa was setting the record straight.

  5. As I said, Asa conveniently leaves out that Opera is available for free and the ads in the free version hardly interfere at all with the user experience. Asa also does not tell convey the fact that the free version is no different feature-wise than a registered version.

    Asa also conveniently leaves out the fact that Opera can be had in ad-free version via affiliate programs that are available.

    Asa also conveniently leaves out the fact that Firefox does have a pricetag associated with it through the companies that "give" funds to the Mozilla project. Those funds are recovered ultimately from its own customers surely.

    Asa also conveniently leaves out the fact that professional support for Firefox costs money as well.

    Asa just took a cheap and inaccurate shot at Opera and its loyal users … that's all I can tell.

    Asa did this by "leaving out" as much as "putting in" details here.

    I guess the browser wars are here, again.

  6. I'm pretty sure Netscape beat Opera Software to the price-tag punch way back in the early days, but then I'm no historian.

  7. He should have done some research… It is very easy to point out several errors in that blog post:

    – Opera 7 was not the first version of Opera with popup blocking. Opera 6 even had the quick preferences menu with "refuse pop-up windows". Opera 5.0 has "Allow documents to create windows".
    – Opera 7 was not the first version of Opera with tabs. That was Opera 4. MDI has been in since Opera 1.0 beta (which I've tried myself).
    – IE extensions: I'm sure we have all seen numerous IE shells, such as the first browser with tabs, Netcaptor.
    – Small download: Opera is still a smaller download than Firefox. Add Thunderbird to the mix, and…

    Other things.
    – Opera 3 not a suite? He forgot the newsreader at least.
    – Regarding Minimo, he conveniently ignores my point about how the Minimo developer *does* talk about Opera… When he comments on how Opera isn't as portable as Minimo, which is strange, considering that Opera 7 is a cross-platform program, and aleady runs on a lot more mobile operating systems than Minimo. The point is, why does he make a statement about Opera's portability when he, clearly, has not seen the code? And if he had, he would have been under an NDA, so he wouldn't be able to comment anyway.

    Another point I have made is that the features the Minimo developer bragged about were already available in actual Opera deliveries to phone companies. He clearly knew about Opera since he could make the statement about portability, but he conveniently "forgot" about it when he talked about the new "innovations" in Minimo…

    I find it very tempting to comment on this:

    "If you're going to take shots at Firefox or Mozilla, don't make them cheap shots. Do your homework."

    But I shall let the facts speak for themselves πŸ˜‰

  8. I downloaded Opera 5, 6, 7, 7.2, and 7.5 for research. If I missed the tabs in 6, it's because of the horrid UI, as I commended in reply to the comment at my post.

    MDI isn't tabs. I grated that Opera has always had MDI.

    I didn't forget the newsreader. A send-only mail client knocks it out of the suite area from the start. That's like a word processor that can't print.

    Opera is on more mobile platforms than Minimo because no one has put much work into Minimo before now. And he didn't mention Opera because the interview wasn't about Opera, as I've already said.

    Also commented to the comment left at my blog post http://burntelectrons.org/index.php?itemid=88

  9. Tabs have been enabled by default in Opera since 4.0… The first public version of Opera 4.0 was available in early 2000.

    When did Mozilla get a popup blocker? 0.8 (February 2001), right? Opera 4 had "Allow documents to create windows", which prevented pages from opening new windows when disabled.

    And Minimo again: I'm not really so concerned about *why* Minimo is currently limited to so few platforms. I am simply pointing out the fact that the Minimo developer *did* know about Opera, and he made a comment about Opera's portability that was simply inappropriate.

    In your blog, you talk about doing one's homework, but this doesn't just apply to people who use Opera. As a former Netscape user, I've been following Mozilla since the day the organization was formed, and I've worked at Opera for a few years. I like to think that I know a bit about both Opera and Mozilla. I was surprised to see the Minimo developer make a statement about Opera which he, as far as I can tell, was in no position to make.

    I think you'll agree that you should hold your fellow Mozilla users to the same standards as you do Opera's!

  10. This guide is, I would say, not reliable because Opera is at version 8 where as Firefox is in it's eariest life of Verion 1. It has just been under beta development for some years before version 1 has arrived.

    I am not a Firefox fanboy, but I do use both, Firefox and Opera. I am just pointing out that the version numbers is different. Opera has been out long before Firefox.

  11. Looking at this jesus X's guy site makes me snicker. He gets proven wrong and says "well.. its about f'ing time they clean it up!" instead of a nice "I was wrong, I apologize."

    Then he starts deleting comments because they disagree with him, then says "you are WRONG! the END!"

    I just don't understand why more Firefox "employees" and fans don't cooperate or play nice with the Opera community. The enemy is IE, not Opera.

  12. Firefox is the next version of Netscape 5 so the correct version number should be 6.

    Comparing version numbers of different pieces of software is rather pointless. Opera could change the name of their browser & call it version 1 tomorrow but it wouldn't make it any better.

  13. Some of them are fanatics.. Remember not all firefox users or employees spews out fud like this. They also have alot of smart dedicated developers etc..
    But the fanatics feel like they have the right to trash opera because it's "not free" as they say though I disagree with that one.. Now what I wonder is if they go into the stor and demand free food?? πŸ˜‰

  14. No, not true.

    The render engine might but then Opera would be in version 2 (Opera 7.0 featured a rewriten render engine) and some parts on version 1 (the Javascript engine). Firefox's interface was writen from scratch (I think, don't pin me down on this one).

    Besides that what's the freaking point in comparing numbers? Just compare it to cars : Yes, this auto doesn't work but it's only in version 1.03 and that other one has all the stuff you need but it's already at version 8.0 and tested by time.

    Where do you think Opera is going to be when Firefox is at version 8.0 (currect roadmap that would be around 26 years of firefox development)?

    So that argument goed for nothing.

  15. The first two replies are not quite right.&nbsp; First off, I don't see how Firefox can be "the next version of Netscape 5".&nbsp; I'm not entire sure, but Netscape 5 was a short-lived browser that was either still made by Netscape, or an offspring from the Mozilla Seamonkey "milestones era" (pre March 12, 2002).

    The Mozilla Foundation rewrote the Netscape 4 rendering engine from the ground up in 1998 and continue to enhance it.&nbsp; Netscape 6, Netscape 7, Firefox, Epiphany, Camino, etc. are offsprings which utilize the core of the main Mozilla browser (Seamonkey), usually taking the current core for a new release.

    Basically, they've had nearly 7 years to work on the features.

  16. Now now kiddies. Enough fighting…

    Two good browsers with different feature sets and target audiences. Yay to Asa and co for sticking to their convictions and promoting a worthy browser. Yay to Opera for nicely catering to power users and those with accessibility needs and small screens. Yay to Safari for passing the Acid2 test.

    There's no real need to bicker, compare, or even compete really. If you want to woo users, pick up some of the poor suckers who still use Internet Explorer. The rest of us simply benefit from having good strong, well maintained and standards-supporting browsers to choose from.

  17. I do believe this is the reason for so many people falling for, and subsequently getting embroiled in, those deplorable "free ipod now" scams! πŸ˜›

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