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December 26, 2006

Make Google Services Opera-Friendly

Although Opera is a modern browser that respects web standards, many developers don't have time to test their sites in Opera and prefer to block it. There are a number of Google services that return "incompatible browser" errors or deliver a trimmed-down version in Opera, even though the site would load just fine without the hardcoded browser checks (also known as browser sniffing). Google knows the service doesn't work perfectly in Opera and other browsers, so it does this to prevent user complaints:

User: "Google, my browser crashed when loading Google Calendar."

Google: "What browser do you use?"

User: "Opera 9."

Google: "Sorry. It's an unsupported browser."

Here are some problems:

1. If you go to Google Docs & Spreadsheets, you get this, an error that recommends adding "&browserok=true" to the end of the URL. There's also a funny disclaimer: "Please note that it is a violation of intergalactic law to use this parameter under false pretenses, so don't let us catch you at it. And, it won't work very well -- really."

2. Google Calendar shows a message box that offers two options: Ok, this browser is unsupported or Cancel, go to Google Calendar and hope for the best.

3. Picasa Web Albums shows a non-JavaScript version for viewing photos. Among other things, you can't use shortcuts or zoom in the photo.

To fix these problems, you may try to mask the browser as Firefox, but think about this paradox:

"This site doesn't work in Opera because Opera has a small market share. To fix this, you can mask as Firefox. Now Opera has an even smaller market share."

A better idea is to try a script that does a little more by solving other small glitches:

* Make sure you have Opera 9 (Help / About).

* Find where to save it. Press F12, select "Edit site preferences", click on "Scripting" tab and copy the path of the folder from "User JavaScript files".

* Then save the script to that location.

You can read an interesting discussion at Opera Forums. Note that the script is constantly updated and other services that don't currently work in Opera (like Google Page Creator) might be added.


  1. I've noticed that too. It's really sad--Google is willing to put more time into supporting IE (despite its disrespect for standards) simply because it has more market share over Opera, which actually passes the Acid2 test. Sure, Google endorses Firefox, but I'm sure people are more willing to change browsers because X feature doesn't work (assuming they don't just walk away from it) rather than because Google says you should get it.

  2. Thanks for the laugh!

    Wonder why Google dislikes Opera?

  3. I just wanted to say thanks for pointing this out; I'm dropping a note to several people at Google to mention this file.

  4. Konqueror support also missing
    Despite being a acid2test compliant, open source browser Google simply tells me that it is an unsupported browser.
    Funny, that Google which itself is built over open source doesn't support standards compliant browsers supports non-standard browsers like M$ IE.

  5. Although Opera is a modern browser that respects web standards, many developers don't have time to test their sites in Opera and prefer to block it.

    I'm one of those. I don't bother to support Opera, because it has tiny, tiny, TINY market share. I'd rather wave goodbye to the 0.01% of share that it has, rather than spend a long while coding and testing for it.

    I code for the Gecko browser (Firefox, Mozilla, etc); and debug afterwards for MSIE - which still has 85% of the market in the corporate world (where all your daytime traffic comes from). If it works on Opera, great. If not, I might sniff for it, but normally won't bother.

    Decently-written code should work correctly on Opera with no problem. If it doesn't, tough.

  6. the strangest thing is that they have been long business partners too. opera was the first browser to put a google search right into the browser and share adrevenue.

    code that doesn't work on opera wasn't written well. in the rare case that this is not true, it's because some part of the code takes advantage of some non-standard feature being used by someone else as an exploit.

  7. Opera has a very small percent of the web browser market share so some people (google) just don't take the time to code for opera. I don't blame them, I'm not much of a web designer so I code for the Gecko Engine, and work out the bugs in IE. But as adam said, Opera and google did share ad revenue.

  8. I love using Opera, and don't generally find a lot of issues with supporting it. Being a small share browser should not matter, because it generally works with strictly coded sites.

    However, the Google programs deal with Javascript, in which compatibility can be a much bigger issue.

    I hope that Opera and Google both stick to adhering to scripting standards, so that these issues can be solved simply.

  9. Google Calendar works file in Opera, I wonder why its unsupported...

  10. thank you the post. It took me some time to figure how to use it.

    about the people that prefer not to test or code or debug for the small opera's market share.

    we don't care that you support us or not. just don't exclude us on purpose. just give your sites a chance to work on opera. say you don't support it but leave opera try to do it's best (with your crappy code). thanks.

  11. I have no problem with google not trying to supporting opera. What gets me is the pages that tell me that I am not allowed to acces the content. I should be warned that things may blow up in my face, but still be permitted to go to the page without changing my browser. It makes me think that Google has some deal with Mozilla, it seems to be their browser of choice, even though there are seemingly no problems with opera after the script.

  12. I agree with those who say that we (Opera users) should have a choice rather than be excluded.

    To those who don't permit us access... a small percentage we may be but that is still potential revenue lost to your competitors.

  13. some of the mozilla marketshare may be cheated because it prefetches pages. so at best, it doubles its marketshare if the stats tracker is based on number of hits. similarly, when you save a page in IE, it will try to refetch the same page, again overcounting its marketshare.

    one reason javascript is so borked is that ff doesn't implement ajax correctly, so designers have to use proprietary functions that won't work with other standards browsers like opera and konqueror/safari.

  14. If its not working on Opera, it means that its not following standards strictly. Its really sad, that Google doesn't follow standards strictly.

    But the truth is Google is a commercial company and it tries to reach more and more customers. So it doesn't matter allot if something does not work on Opera due to its market share.

    What I think, we (as customers) should be more aware. Stop using products that do not follow standards. Respect those (like Opera) who follow strict standers and try to convince others to do the same.

  15. Google seems to forget mobile devices.. Opera has a huge marketshare in the mobile-device market.. and what about Wii? I would surely like to use google docs with this Archos-unit..

  16. could you please post MIRROR for fix-google-services javascript file? because nowhere on internet is possible to download it, link on Opera pages is DEAD and everybody is linking DEAD file, because I don't understand if it's so hard to do many mirrors for small file

  17. Try this.
    It works for me

  18. >Jaewoong said...

    >Try this.
    >It works for me

    Yep. Adding the question mark to the end of the URL works fine. Many thanks to Jaewoong and everybody else.

  19. Dummies parrot the phrase "market share" and yet do not get what they say.

    No market exists for web browsers -- no buyers, sellers, informers, transporters.

    Folks get web browsers bundled with their Internet-ready devices -- desktops, laptops, cell phones, tablets, Wiis.

    Web page makers ought to make their pages to the W3C HTML/XHTML Specification.

  20. I think Opera is number one Brower. It is a petty that bad programers make the user to go with IE just because they made errors in the code and not follow the real standard like Opera. Opera designer should make an option to be more flexible in the code to gain some market, then they can rule the browser world. Also, provide more support fixing the compatibility issues. Long live Opera.

  21. I almost switched to Firefox because of Google.

    That until I found this

    IE TAB in OPERA!!!

  22. Market share?
    If opera, konqueror / safari user continues to identify their browsers as IE or firefox then how opera's market share would increase? I find opera OPLC version is quite good.

  23. Opera shares ~7% of a market.

  24. Hey Thanks a bunch for this post i am a regular user of opera and this solved a big problem for me.

    The browser market just roves the theory that just because the whole world uses something doesnt make it better, guys who innovate on opera really get it.

  25. Works great now !! - thank you!

  26. Ah, the conformism of people using IE and Firefox. Same as people using Hotmail for e-mail, or an iPod as their MP3 player, if y´ ask me.. :(

  27. Guess what? It's now July 2009 and Google still doesn't work 100% with Opera! Google Docs has disappearing white space, and so does Gmail. Yeah, sure, I could use Firefox. I could also jam chopsticks in my ears; either way I'm gonna be caused some pain :)

  28. Decently-written code should work correctly on Opera with no problem. If it doesn't, tough.

    BS - sorry for the language. Well written code should work correctly in any standards compliant browser. It it doesn't, it isn't well written and the programmer sucks.

    I always wonder how programmers are able to write code that doesn't work on standards compatible browsers. I do coding for browsers myself, and I find it is harder to make it not work than to make it work. Besides, you usually use a library (which google also does), which should abstract all browser differences. The effort to test and maintain a well written library (like gwt pretends to be one) should be minimal compared to the effort to maintain the apps sitting on top of it. So IMO google not supporting opera actually trashes their do no evil slogan.

    As for 95% of traffic comming from corporate desktops using IE, may be, but of those 95% desktops maybe 95% also have FF (or Opera) installed. Should google decide to take standards compliance seriously, I bet they'd immediately see a surge in non-IE traffic.

    Another point: microsoft got were it is now not by playing to the rules of others. Seemingly google doesn't want to become a bigger and better company than microsoft (although it shouldn't be difficult at all to be a better company), since it plays by microsoft's rules, and will never become a bigger company if they work towards keeping microsoft the ruler of the desktop.

    And here's why I think google definitely works against opera: until a few days ago, Opera worked perfectly with google calendar. I use calendar a lot. Since yesterday or so I cannot edit the start and end times of an event anymore. I didn't upgrade Opera, only google "upgraded" the calendar. I tried it in FF, it's 100% identical to what was there before. Apparently, the only change that was introduced is a small bug that only occurs in Opera. I simply cannot imagine this being a coincidence.

  29. Thank you. I too, was tired of having to load and run Firefox just for google docs.

  30. I agree with the other posters - Opera is very, very standards compliant. IE... is not. In fact, supporting IE 6, 7, and 8 means that you are supporting dozens of different browsers, depending on settings and patches. I don't care that Opera isn't supported; it only has a slim margin of the browser share, at least by any count out there. However, I'm hard pressed to figure out why Firefox works, and Opera doesn't. Unless you're using a bunch of very browser-specific commands - which is simply bad programming - the two browsers are very similar. Instead of giving FF and IE preferencial treatment, what would happen if Google wrote specificalyl for the standards-compliant browsers (Opera, FF, Konqueror, Chrome, etc.), and only put up the big ugly messages for IE? I doubt many people would stop using Google products, and I bet it would cause a lot of on-the-edge browser users to switch to something more stable... maybe even Chrome.

    Why spent countless hours trying to get a dozen versions of IE to all work, instead of making one dumbed-down version for IE, and one awesome version for everyone else?

  31. JavaScript is a pain. Look at any JavaScript on any webpage and your eyes will hurt.
    Every modern browser supports DOM. The problem is, that a good computer scientist will never end up as webdeveloper. Webdevelopers are "the waste" of all computer scientist. You can see the result on every webpage.

  32. A page not working in Opera or any other standards-compliant browser is to blame on the web designer (if he even deserves that name), not the browser.

    Shame on you if you're one of those inapt coders.

  33. This is for coders: First, you claim Opera has a tiny marketshare. True, though its still 2.3%. Thats small, but not TINY. Then, you justify not supporting Opera compatability by citing this statistic. May I ask; What was Google Chrome's marketshare when it started out? How many coders endorsed Chrome from day one? You all know the answer. Fact is; Coders DONT LIKE Opera and they LIKE Google. Its really sad.

    Coders should reconsider and support what is undeniably the best browser. Maybe doing so they could actually provide Opera with the marketshare it should have.

  34. Here we are, 2010 creaking to an end, and Google Docs STILL doesn't work properly with Opera after all these years.

    So, I've basically had to give up using Google Docs. End of story. A nice idea, Google, but your coders are evidently cretins.

  35. So sad that I can't use google docs T_T

    Do anyone know of a good alternative?

  36. Hello,

    a very cool article was released today about the problem with opera and google docs including three tips (the post is in german)

    1. change something in the config
    2. try different urls
    3. search for alternatives


  37. Stop it! I was really worried Lisa! Do you like jazz?


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