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September 4, 2007

Opera, the Real Google Browser

I've always thought that Opera is the browser most closely related to Google's philosophy. It may seem strange, but Opera's mail client has many things in common with Gmail (labels, a threaded view), Opera includes search in most views and it usually adds innovative features long before the competition. Another interesting tidbit is that Opera has been supported by Google's contextual ads.

Unfortunately, many Google services don't work in Opera, because of some browser flaws or lack of testing. Another reason is that Opera has a very small market share and very few people care about supporting it.

Opera 9.5, launched today in alpha, tries to solve two of the most important Google problems: persistence of your browser's settings and a searchable web history. Google already has solutions for these problems, but they're limited and not properly integrated. Google Browser Sync is a Firefox extension that synchronizes your bookmarks, cookies, passwords and sessions across multiple computers, while Google Toolbar lets you send all the pages you visit to Google Web History, where you can search them.

Opera also makes your history searchable, but it stores the index on your computer, the same as Google Desktop. You can search the full content of the pages, from the History page or from the address bar.

"With Opera 9.5, we introduce full history search - search the complete Web pages you visited, but without requiring you to bookmark them. Unlike previous and other browser history searches which only look at the URLs of the pages you have visited, full history search searches the actual content of the Web pages you have visited."

If you have a My Opera account (maybe you're a fan), you can store your bookmarks online and have them automatically synchronized every time you make a change. There's no interface for viewing the bookmarks online and no other data is synchronized for the moment. The feature will become even more valuable when you'll be able to synchronize your bookmarks between the desktop version and Opera Mini or Opera for Wii.

So I think it's ironic that the software most closely related to my definition of a Google Browser doesn't work well with many Google services, including Google Docs, Picasa Web Albums, Google Notebook, Google Page Creator, Blogger (this script solves some of the problems).

The latest build of Opera 9.5 is available here for Windows, Mac and Linux. Don't install it over a previous Opera installation or if you're not adventurous.


  1. Its a lose lose situation.

    You can use all google services with firefox..but once u get it all loaded up firefox gets sluggish and runs at +250MB memory usuage :s

    Opera got great memory usage yet some google stuff does not work with it.

    Giving that opera is on more platforms(phones , consoles..etc) than firefox maybe google should give it more priority?

  2. I've never had a problem logging into Blogger using Opera. Perhaps something was wrong with your settings when you tried?

  3. I sympathize with you. I prefer Firefox because of the customizability (everything Opera can do , ff can too - and I can add and remove features at will) and the memory/CPU usage is a red herring if you keep your profiles neat and tidy and your extensions updated. But I do like Opera's out of the box configuration, and would love to recommend it to people who don't want to configure ff, but so many sites just don't like it. Similarly, I could live my life in Konqueror if anything on the web worked in it. It's not Opera's or Konq's fault, it's the sites', but that's the way things are, so Firefox is really the only option at the time being.

  4. google acquires opera.


  5. Opera works with There is one extra step in the logging process. After you type user name/password, you have to click on the link labeled "Click here to continue" in order to log in.

  6. Clinical Cases and Images is right (what a keyword-rich username. Too bad there's no Google juice for these links). And the "click here to continue" link is barely visible (white text on gray background). Here's a screenshot.

  7. Google was always very simple to use, Opera on the other hand wasn't very simple to use in the beginning (I don't really know about it today, I heard its preferences dialog for instance is usable today... in the past it was much too complex, too tech-expert oriented).

    Also, if you look at the marketshare Opera is more like Ask.

    Also, Opera was always excellent in W3C support -- e.g. they supported the next | previous | home etc. meta syntax, adding navigation right into the browser (a long forgotten technology) -- whereas Google has especially in the beginning almost universally ignored W3C standards (look at their homepage).

    I think that if they want to find a commercial niche Opera should focus all their efforts on a good mobile browser now, start merging the Opera Mini vs Opera Mobile for instance, and really improve those browsers, and give up on the desktop market. The top "alternative" browser is Firefox, and I can't see that changing.

  8. if Opera has bookmark toolbar like FF, more friendly layout on Chinese, I would like to use Opera more. and the Speed Dial is cool!

  9. True. One of the big problems for Opera is the interface, which is too clunky, with so many buttons and options that are only used by few people. For example, Opera had eight optional toolbars (two were removed - the start bar and the view bar):

    - main bar (a big toolbar with unimportant options: open, save, print, find, home)

    - personal bar (similar to the bookmarks toolbar from Firefox and links bar from IE)

    - tab bar (the list of open tabs)

    - status bar

    - address bar

    - navigation bar (for navigating to different parts of a site: home, index, contents, previous/next page)

    - start bar (for showing some options when you click on the address bar)

    - view bar (a toolbar that can be enabled by clicking on a button)

  10. I am using Opera since years and there's never been a problem with any of Google's services.

    I was using Firefox but finally deleted it because using 200+ just for 3 Google web pages is little high compared to Opera (took 15 megs for 3 pages)...

  11. @Ionut Alex Chitu

    You can customize almost anything in Opera. All menus are OPTIONAL, if you dont need them... hide/delete them :)

  12. Yes, but normal people feel overwhelmed if you give them so many mysteriously-named options and toolbars. There's a good book about this:

    "The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

    Explains why too much choice has led to the ever increasing complexity of everyday decisions, why too much of a good thing has become detrimental to human well-being, and how to focus on making the right choices. (...)

    In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice -- the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish -- becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being."

  13. The problem with Opera is that it is not Open. Small market share too.

  14. @Ionut Alex Chitu

    Well, you are right. But I still think Opera is easier to use than Firefox because you can deactivate almost anything...

    Why do you want it to be Open? What's the advantage? Opera's been the most secure browser in the world since YEARS. The Opera community is HELPFUL, you are NEVER alone.

    All things you can in FF you can do in Opera since a long time.

  15. @Alex
    Are you Român?

  16. Make google services Opera friendly:

    For Windows User: To make Opera more compatible with other pages without opening another browser:

    I think that if they want to find a commercial niche Opera should focus all their efforts on a good mobile browser now, start merging the Opera Mini vs Opera Mobile for instance, and really improve those browsers, and give up on the desktop market. The top "alternative" browser is Firefox, and I can't see that changing.

    In a way this is already what they are doing. Think of Opera Desktop as a port for the mobile/mini versions of Opera.

    I disagree with Firefox being the top alternative. Mainstream maybe...but on Windows, there's many other alternatives to Firefox. Firefox 2 claim to fame is basically it's extensions. The browser itself haven't moved forward and maybe even backwards.

    Speed is no longer up to par with early versions.

    Integrated features still not working as seamlessly compared to other browsers.

    Among the quality alternative browsers, it's the least secure. I would even contend that Maxthon/Avant which are IE based are more secure because of less exposure but treat my words as anecdotal.

  17. opera IMHO is an undiscovered star. there are 2 reasons why it is not as popular as FF
    1. closed-source
    2. support of certain online content

    Kestrel (7.5) should resolve a lot of point 2. I am not sure IF opera will ever go open source, which will then allow a greater community buy-in for opera.

    Alex, i use a lot of google products, but do find that Opera lets me do most of that including RSS/mail etc, without having to go online to use google! So you are kinda right that there is an overlap in philosophy, but there does not seem any direct synergies between the two (yet)

  18. I've been using Opera for 10 consequtive years and I would say there is no web page that has problems with it. It's some ajax and dhtml but thats page problem, not the browser.

    Come on people use real things - set a server in your home, for mail, for web, for internet sharing... Why would you need google for anything else than web searching.

    My second best in browsers - Safari.
    Third - IE 6 - IE 7 sux, well Windows sucks
    Forth - links/lynx
    Fifth - telnet

    Firefox is a forbidden word here. More than 5 minutes just to start on vanilla windows/linux with vanilla firefox. 60+megs memory per tab. No tab saving, no MDI, what the hell.

    Well I have google account, I admit it. It's just because I want to see the usenet history google collects and I don't want to pay for posting to usenet.

  19. Just opera still have problems with javacript, and google use it a lot.