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See also: Web browsers

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The Opera web browser was created as an alternative to the popular Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator browsers. It is developed by a Norwegian company, Opera Software.

Platforms: Available for most popular and obscure platforms including BeOS, Linux, Solaris, MacOS, OS/2, QNX Realtime Platform, Symbian OS, and all 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows.

  • Opera has a very low hardware speed requirement (I have had very excellent results on a p166, 128 RAM) and operates well on slower machines. It also uses very little system resources on faster machines.
  • Opera displays cached pages much faster than competitors, and also opens new windows faster. Developed with different priorities than Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator/Mozilla, the browser has been designed for low footprint and very high browsing speed.
  • Opera can optionally be downloaded with our without Java, software necessary to operate some pages on the Internet just like Internet Explorer and Netscape. Opting not to include Java decreases the footprint of the overall browser significantly but will disable the use of some Web sites.
  • The browser includes an Email client that allows multiple POP3, IMAP accounts, a news client and an ICQ-compatible instant-messaging client all in a tabbed interface. All three do not have the functionality of their counterparts in competing web-browser "suites", but provide quick access to the most relevant features.
  • Opera was the first browser to integrate mouse gestures as a quicker way to navigate pages.

Opera also has some other original features, including background loading of pages, batch opening of bookmark folders, and session management (i.e. you can close the browser and re-open it with all the opened pages automatically restored). Other browsers have (as of late 2001) begun to imitate many of these features.

  • Allows some pop-up window blocking inside the browser, one of the worst annoyances in Internet Explorer.
  • Opera is generally more stable than Internet Explorer and extremely customizable.
  • Has generally better immitation of Internet Explorer (the dominant browser) than Mozilla. Depending on who you talk to, this could be a good thing: for instance, average users who just want to visit a Web site. For developers who dislike Microsoft's standards use, this is a bad thing.
  • At this writing, Opera 7.1 is available. It supports most common web standards (including Cascading Style Sheets), Netscape plugins, and some other recent standards such as WAP and WML for wireless devices. However, the Opera 6.0, as of early 2002, implementation of ECMAScript with the HTML DOM still leaves a bit to be desired, especially on highly dynamic pages.

Update: Opera 7.11 review

<b>Reasons not to use opera</b>:

  • Although a good competitor, Internet Explorer is free, it has an enormous (95%+) percentage of the market share, and its reasonably fast. If you don't use the Internet much, Opera is uselss to you.
  • Despite a wide variety of interesting and useful features, Mozilla still has generally more and is free.
  • The source code of the application is not available to end users. Again, a win for Mozilla. This is benefitial because most developers (who create the content we see) often like to have access to the inner code of a product they are building for.
  • The MDI, depending on who you talk to (see History, below).


Opera became famous (and somewhat notorious) for its Multiple Document Interface (MDI); that is, all browser windows were opened in the same parent window. This was later complemented with a taskbar that showed the currently opened windows. Version 6.0 brought a major philosophical change for Opera, with the addition of a Single Document Interface (SDI) Mode. Ironically, this happened when many other browsers, like Mozilla and Galeon, started using "tabs" (similar to Opera's MDI+taskbar, but without assigning individual window sizes to each page) to make navigation of multiple pages at the same time easier. Opera gives the user the choice to use either MDI, SDI or tabbed mode in version 6.0 and is thereby the first browser to support all three modes. Opera also has a presentation mode which allows the use of a single source document for large-screen presentations and web browsing (document parts relevant for the presentation are marked up in a special fashion).

<b>Analysis of Success</b>

Since its first release in 1996, the browser has met with limited success. Its availability on many platforms and a very low required hardware speed requirement has given users access to a highly functional browser where this choice did not previously exist. Opera Software was one of the first companies active in the area of mobile devices, where it has gained significant market share.

On the Windows platform, Opera has not been able to gain significant market share over its gratis competitors, Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. StatMarket is the primary source for international browser usage statistics. On December 4, 2001, StatMarket released data assigning a global usage share of 0.67 per cent to the Opera browser. However, the press release states:

Although still far behind Microsoft and Netscape, Opera's global usage share has more than doubled since January 2001, when it was less than 0.3 percent.
Opera usage share has been growing at a faster rate in certain European countries since January 2001. For instance, its usage share in Russia as of November 29, 2001 was 5.88 percent, up from about 1.5 percent at the beginning of the year, StatMarket reported. And in Germany and Sweden, Opera was at 3.37 percent and 1.8 percent respectively, having grown from a 1.3 percent and .5 percent usage share in January 2001.

With regard to Europe, the differing success mirrors the development of other browsers, for example, according to StatMarket, in October 2001 Netscape Navigator still held about 20% usage share in Germany, whereas its global usage share was about 13%.

This differing success can be explained with a variety of factors. Given Netscape's success, anti-Americanism probably does not play a role in the choice of Opera over other browsers in Europe and Russia, however, a more skeptical attitude toward Microsoft, maker of Internet Explorer, <I>specifically</I> is likely to be relevant. Also, in countries with less copyright enforcement, the wide availability of cracks and serial numbers to remove Opera's banners may increase the adoption of the browser by end users.

The generally low rate of adoption can certainly in part be attributed to the fact that the browser was at first only available in trial-versions and commercial versions, and only became available in an ad-sponsored version as of version 5.0 (note: I think), whereas Netscape and IE include neither permanent animated advertising banners, nor do they have to be paid for (although, arguably, the Windows version of IE is already paid for with the purchase of the Windows operating system; however, the version for Mac OS is still gratis). Microsoft's bundling of its own browser with its Windows operating system (and into Mac OS by contract with Apple Computer), which, for many users, eliminates the need to install any other browser, has also been cited as a main cause for Internet Explorer's domination of the browser market..

Based on Wikipedia article under the FDL, written by Erik, this version is in the public domain.