30 April 2012

Opera Add-ons: “Increased focus on Opera extensions […]”

Today we are announcing the beginning of the end for two of our current Add-on platforms. Starting with the upcoming Opera 12 release, Opera Unite and Opera Widgets will be turned off by default for new users. The two Add-on platforms will be completely removed in a later release expected before the end of this year. Arnstein Teigene

Probably the best decision made in a while. I never used widgets nor Unite, they seemed like second class features that never belonged in the browser in the first place. It’s preferable to focus on making the browser faster, more secure, than to maintain legacy code that has no foreseeable future in the current browser landscape.

It always baffled me that Opera couldn’t get a significant market share on the desktop – it does OK in mobile though. It’s in every aspect as good as , maybe even better if you count out the extension ecosystem that Mozilla built. Maybe it’s a case of ‘simple over too complex’ or the lack of press coverage, with Opera not being produced by an American company. I remember my first encounter with Opera pretty well – it was in fact my first experience with a browser other than Internet Explorer. It was back in my college years, circa 2003, when I did my browsing only on the public PC’s available for free to students. I just stumbled on it by chance (it was installed on a single computer) and I was amazed at the speed with which it loaded pages compared to IE6. Unfortunately, by the time I got my own PC and Internet connection, Firefox had stolen the crown of ‘alternative browser’, so I only returned to Opera from time to time as a secondary option when my main browser was acting up.

I think over time Opera has failed to recognize and capitalize some trends that propelled Firefox in the face of the stagnating Internet Explorer monopoly:

  • First of all Opera remained ad-supported for years – let’s face it, nobody likes to see ads all day long. The browser became free far too late to make any dent in Firefox’ market share.
  • Firefox became mainstream after it was unbundled from the Mozilla Suite – later SeaMonkey – which lingered on with negligible share, just like Opera. Focusing on a single task (browsing) made sense for both users, who get a smaller installer and a software less prone to crashes and security issues, and for the developers, who don’t need to maintain a bunch of features completely unrelated to browsing and can iterate more quickly. Instead Opera clung to the ‘bundled’ model and continued to add browser-unrelated functions instead of removing them. It offers an email and chat client, BitTorrent, Opera Unite, widgets and probably some other things I never heard of (oh, yes, voice control as well!).
  • While Firefox built upon the extremely successful extension ecosystem, Opera ignored the concept until about one or two years ago, long after and Safari introduced their own add-ons systems. Opera insisted on making a full-featured browser, packed with all the possible bells-and-whistles (a.k.a. the Apple model, which also resulted in a single-digit market share, although in the mean time Apple has embraced developers with the arrival of the iPhone and its app-ecosystem), while Firefox has cleverly offloaded much of this work to third-party extensions.

Let’s hope this decision is the start of a trend, I would love to see an Opera lite without the mail client and all the other stuff that nobody ever uses.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe mobile Opera doesn’t come with a bundled email client…

1 comment:

  1. Opera add-ons is not really good, Google Chrome and Firefox do it well!