Opera Adopts Chromium, Loses its Soul

Just days after Opera Software released the first version of Opera Mobile powered by the Chromium engine, it has unveiled an early preview of the desktop version. The latest build of Opera Next bumps the version number to 15, and utilizes Chromium 28. This means that Opera for desktop is now built on top of Google’s Blink rendering engine.

As we have come to expect from any major Opera release, there are plenty of changes in the latest version. Of course, the biggest change is the adoption of the new layout engine. Opera hopes that the website compatibility problems that have plagued it since its inception will go away with the adoption of Blink, which is a fork of WebKit. Thanks to the popularity of mobile devices as well as Chrome for desktop, WebKit is currently the most popular engine in the market. The new engine also helps in other ways. Opera has never been slow; however, Opera 15 feels fast. Really, really fast. In fact, it feels a lot faster than the stable release of Chrome, which is still at v27.


Other new features include an improved speed dial that adds support for folders, and a new discover page that features a customizable stream of news from your selected region. Somewhat controversially, Opera has dropped support for traditional bookmarks. Also new to this version is a ‘Stash’ functionality, which is essentially Opera’s take on ‘Read It Later’ (now Pocket). You can add any website to your Stash by clicking on the heart icon in the address bar, and come back to that page whenever you feel like. Opera has also received a fresh coat of paint. The new skin feels more native, and is brought to life by some well thought out animations. Opera Turbo has been rechristened to ‘Off Road Mode’.

Unfortunately, the new engine and the fresh coat of paint come at a cost. Opera 15 isn’t just the old Opera with a new engine under the hood. It feels like an entirely different browser. Old users of Opera are going to be frustrated out of their wits by Opera 15. A lot of things that made me fall in love with Opera in the first place are no longer there. Opera Software has decided to separate the mail client from the browser. M2 is now an independent app which supports POP3 and IMAP mail accounts, Newsgroups, and RSS feeds. Unfortunately, it appears that IRC wasn’t deemed useful enough to be retained. One of my favorite features in Opera was its RSS client. Unlike other browsers, Opera offered a feed reader that was competent enough for most users, with the added advantage of tight integration with the browser. I loved not having to remember to separately launch my feed reader to read stories. I loved being able to instantly subscribe to any website that I was browsing. All that is no longer possible in Opera. To make matters worse, bifurcating the two functionalities didn’t really make Opera any smaller. Opera 15 is a 22 MB download, while Opera Mail is another 12 MB download. Opera 12 used to include both and still weigh only 13 MB.

In addition to splitting the mail component, Opera has also tossed out a number of beloved features. Here are some of the stuff that I noticed in the short time I tried using the new version:
– The famous sidebar has been eliminated. So you no longer have access to Notes or any of the other panels.
– All of advanced tab features have been chopped off. This includes visual tabs, pinned tabs, and even tab stacking.
– Private browsing is still present; however, you can only create private windows, and not private tabs like before.
– Per-site preferences, which allowed you to tweak how Opera behaved on each website has been tossed out.
– The new download manager is prettier, but doesn’t even allow you to copy the URL of a downloaded file. Also, you no longer get to specify where you want to save each file.
– Simple mouse gestures are still present; however, visual guide has been tossed out. I also couldn’t find a way to configure my gestures.
– Opera no longer has a true MDI (multi-document interface). Pop-ups now open in new windows, and the ability to resize browser tabs is also gone.
– Content blocker been canned.
– Trash can, which stored previously closed tabs and windows, is missing. Ctrl+Z hotkey also doesn’t work.
– Opera resumes sessions, but doesn’t have any of the powerful session management options it previously had.
– You can no longer save webpages in the MHTML format.
– The interface is completely uncustomizable. Forget about using vertical tabs or adding a status bar, you can’t even add new buttons or move stuff around.
– Couldn’t find any option to use userjs.
– Ability to create and modify search providers is missing.
– Opera Link is missing; however, this will almost surely make a comeback.
– Magic Wand, Opera’s password manager is no longer around. However, I would be surprised if it isn’t added back at some point of time.

That’s a pretty lengthy list, and I haven’t even used the browser for half a day. As it stands now, Opera 15 is a Chrome skin. It lacks pretty much everything that made it stand out from the crowd. I know that hate is a pretty strong word, and I detest using that word on something that lots of people have worked really hard to create. But, it’s the word that gets closest to describing my feelings about Opera 15. The good news is that this is only a preview build, and there is a possibility that we might get back some of the features by the time it’s ready for public consumption. However, seeing how extensive the list of missing features is, I’m not holding my breath.

You can download Opera 15 from www.opera.com/next. This release only has Windows and Mac builds, since Unix builds still need a bit of work. During my testing I didn’t experience any stability or performance issues. However, do keep in mind that this is a preview build.

Opera Sues Ex-Employee for Allegedly Leaking Trade Secrets to Mozilla

Opera-Sues-Hansen-for-Leaking-Trade-Secrets Opera has been full of surprises this year. First, it ditched its homemade rendering engine Presto in favor of Chromium flavor of WebKit. Then, it emerged that the switch was also accompanied by a significant downsizing. Soon after, when Google announced its new Blink rendering engine, Opera was quick to announce that it will be using Blink and not WebKit. Now, TheNextWeb is reporting that Opera Software is suing an ex-employee for leaking trade secrets to its competitor.

The employee in question is Trond Werner Hansen, who worked with Opera from 1999 to 2006. He is credited as a driving force behind many of Opera’s early innovations, including the search box and the speed dial. He returned to Opera as a consultant from 2009 to 2010. Last year, he worked with Mozilla on designing and developing an iPad prototype called Junior. Hansen can be seen discussing Junior in this video. Opera alleges that the video demonstrates several innovations that it was or is still working on. It is demanding 20 million Norwegian Krone, or roughly $3.4 million, in damages. Hansen who was in the USA, preparing to launch his first music album, has flown back to Norway, and is determined to defend himself vigorously. “When I left the Opera, I did not feel my ideas bore fruit, and I also notified management about. I am a very creative person and I feel that my ideas had value. I would like that my ideas were to reach users”, Hansen told Digi.No. The case is scheduled to be heard at the Oslo District Court on 22 August.

Opera Was in the Know About Google’s Plans, Will Use Blink in Future Products

OperaGoogle has announced that it will be forking WebKit, and developing its own rendering engine called Blink. Less than a couple of months ago, Opera Software had announced that it would be dumping its own rendering engine (Presto), in favor of Google’s Chromium flavor of WebKit. So, where does this surprising development leave Opera?

As it turns out, Opera was well aware of Google’s plans, and in fact, Blink might have positively influenced Opera’s decision to adopt Chromium’s rendering engine. “We’ve known about these plans for a while and had a good dialogue with Google engineering about them”, Opera’s Lars Erik Bolstad confirmed to Digi.no. Bruce Lawson, another Opera employee, was also optimistic about Google’s new rendering engine. “Blink has a lot of promise for the Web”, Lawson wrote in a blog post. “Its architecture allows for greater speed – something that Opera and Google have long focused on. When browsers are fast and interoperable, using the web as a platform becomes more competitive against native app development.”

Blink solves one of the frequently cited downsides of Opera’s decision to abandon Presto – loss of diversity. With Blink powered Chrome builds expected to be in the wild rather soon, we will again end up with four major rendering engines – WebKit, Trident, Blink, and Gecko. Breaking the shackles of WebKit will also mean that Blink will be able to iterate faster, sport a smaller and faster codebase, and become more secure.

One thing that Google’s announcement makes amply clear is that Blink will be optimized for Chrome’s multi-process architecture. This is curious because, Opera had experimented with multi-process architecture on BSD more than a decade ago, and abandoned the one process per tab model due to resource overhead. Opera’s adoption of Blink seems to indicate that the Norwegian browser maker has changed its mind and will be following in Chrome’s footsteps soon.

Opera Co-Founder Jon von Tetzchner Expresses Disappointment with Current Direction

Opera Software’s co-founder and ex-CEO, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, has finally broken his silence. Speaking to ComputerWorld, Tetzchner revealed his disappointment at both the direction Opera Software is taking and how it is being managed.

Tetzchner co-founded Opera with Geir Ivarsøy in 1995, and was the Chief Operating Officer until he stepped down on January 5, 2010. He continued to be associated with the company as strategic advisor, but parted ways on June 24, 2011. In his departure mail, he wrote, “It has become clear that The Board, Management and I do not share the same values and we do not have the same opinions on how to keep evolving Opera”.

Opera-Co-Founder-Jon-TetzchnerTetzchner was widely regarded as a man of ideals, and the person responsible for establishing Opera’s work culture and corporate values. He believed in the open web, hated software patents, and believed in caring for his employees. He was reported to be in favor of aggressively fighting to keep Opera Software independent and uncompromised. Unfortunately, the board and the shareholders didn’t always agree with him. Since his departure, Opera has streamlined itself on numerous occasions, sometimes shutting down entire offices. Opera has also invested more heavily in the advertising business. And most recently, Opera decided to ditch its rendering engine in favor of Chromium. His departure has led to a steady stream of rumors that Opera Software might be about to be acquired. The fact that he sold off a large chunk of his shares in the company for between 180 and 200 million NOK (about 32-35 million USD) over the past few months has only strengthened the rumors.

Under Lars Boilesen, Opera has made record profits, grown its mobile user base at a phenomenal pace, and expanded into new segments. However, under Boilesen, Opera has also lost its innovative edge. According to reports, Opera Software has also lost a lot of its atmosphere and culture. Wilhelm JoysAndersen, who used to manage Opera’s core testing team before quitting last year alleged in a post on Hacker News that employee morale is at rock bottom. No wonder then that Tetzchner remarked, “I must admit that I think it’s sad to see what happens with Opera”.

Addressing the reports of mistreatment of employees, Tetzchner went on to say, “Not only do I disagree with the strategic direction management is taking now, but I’m also sad about how the company is treating its employees”. “There must be good reasons to let people go. I think an atmosphere where so many must go, or stop more or less voluntarily, is unfortunate for both innovation and employees. This is very far from what I stood for. The employees are a vital resource and has been critical of the company has achieved.”

He also addressed the lack of innovation. “When competition increases, I believe one must increase his efforts, not reduce it”. As I noted in my previous article, since Tetzchner’s resignation, many influential and well-known developers have left the company to work for Google and Mozilla among others. Opera’s ex-CEO believes that a reduced focus on product innovation and core technologies is pushing talent out of Opera.

When asked if he misses being a part of the Opera management, Tetzchner candidly said, ” I miss Opera as a company and I miss the staff. But the direction the company now runs did not fit me”. Expanding on what he wrote in his parting email, he revealed a longstanding discord between shareholders and sections of the management including him. Tetzchner preferred to build the company stone by stone to achieve organic growth. Whereas shareholders preferred to prep the company for sale through acquisitions and cost reductions.

Note: Original Norwegian quotes have been translated with the aid of Google Translate.

Major Developer Exodus: The Untold Story Behind Opera’s Engine Change

As you might have heard by now, Opera Software had decided to dump its own rendering engine in favor of Chromium, which is based on Webkit. While announcing its dramatic shift, Hakon Wium Lie, CTO of Opera, stated that the change will enable Opera to dedicate more of its resources to developing new features. While rumors surrounding layoffs were floating in the air, Opera’s PR refused to comment beyond stating, “We have never had more people at Opera working on our products than right now, and we look forward to contributing to WebKit”. Now, Norwegian IT journal Digi.No has confirmed that leading up to the change, Opera underwent what is probably its most dramatic downsizing operation.


Digi.no is reporting that as many at least 90 developers were pushed out of the door over the past few months. Several employees took the severance package before Christmas, including Yngve Pettersen, André Shultz and Lasse Magnussen, who were among the first developers to join the company in the 1990s. Pettersen was in fact employee number 3 in the company that was co-founded by Jon Tetzchner and Ivarsøy Geir. After the new year, several more (Digi.No puts the figure at 50-70) were asked to take the severance package. Most of the affected employees were from the Core team. However, a sizable number of developers were also retained and moved to other divisions (mainly mobile). What is not clear is whether these employees were given the option of picking between working on something else and taking the severance package, or were they simply fired. It’s quite possible that veteran developers voluntarily left the company due to the dwindling opportunity to work on core technologies. Opera’s “Open Web” team, which was tasked with promoting web standards and fixing website compatibility issues also probably contributed to the headcount reduction.

Wilhelm JoysAndersen, who used to manage Opera’s core testing team before quitting last year, is alleging that the situation is far worse than being reported in the press. He believes that the number of people forced out might be close to 200. He also claims that the “morale is at rock bottom, with a number of people leaving on their own” and “those laid off are terrified to say anything publicly”. Opera was once known for housing extremely talented engineers, and managed to lead the way in terms of core-technologies as well as user facing innovations. However, there has been a noticeable exodus of talent over the past few years including the likes of Ian Hickson and Anne van Kesteren. Opera has also lost key executives like Chief Development Officer Christen Krogh, and Chief Strategy Officer Rolf Assev. Although I am yet to hear back from Opera’s PR, Opera’s Håvard Moen has dubbed Digi.No’s report as misinformation.

Interestingly, just days before Opera went public with its engine shift, news emerged that Opera co-founder and previous CEO Jon S. von Tetzchner sold large chunk of his shares in the company for between 180 and 200 million NOK (about 32-35 million USD). He resigned as CEO in 2010 and resigned from his post as strategic advisor in 2011. “It has become clear that The Board, Management and I do not share the same values and we do not have the same opinions on how to keep evolving Opera”, Tetzchner had revealed in his parting email. It’s well-known that Tetzchner was averse to the idea of letting Opera being acquired, but he will no longer be able to singlehandedly sway the board’s decision. Looking at the timeline of events from the outside, one can’t help but wonder whether Tetzchner, a man who placed more importance on values and ethos than cut-throat business, decided to reduce his stake in the company because the Opera that he knew and built is gone forever?

Update: Nils Broström, VP of Communications, Opera Software, issued the following clarification:
“Opera has never had more people working on the end user product than we do today. Shifting technology platform means that we can put our clever people on developing end user benefits and innovations rather than developing and maintaining our own core. This required a lot of people, and with our move to WebKit, our aim was to fill as many of these more product related positions by recruiting internally from our core team.

Included in the 90 are people from various parts of the company, including marketing and sales. Opera has worked with each of these to provide and offer severance packages, so nobody has been laid off in this process, but this was of course somewhat emotional for all of us anyway. We never like to see good people leave, but at the same time, we need to make sure everybody works on what we are focusing on in the future, making the best possible end user product. The move to WebKit is an engineering decision, and the reasoning is that we now can focus on what matters most for our users: really good products.

It’s always sad to loose good colleagues. These guys are very talented, and they will be a great asset in the IT industry, either in Norway, or where they choose to work in the future.”

Is Opera Losing its Innovative Edge?

The newest version of Opera is out, and it’s a handsome enhancement. It ramps up performance, improves stability, increases security, and features quite a few nifty tricks. All in all, it’s a significant update that will please Opera fans. Yet, I can’t help but feel a tinge of dissapointment with Opera 12.


I have been closely following Opera Software for nearly a decade. I still remember installing Opera v7 and falling in love with its speed and intuitiveness. Opera was never particularly popular among the masses, but its strong culture of innovation allowed it to amass an extremely loyal fan base. Opera was the first browser to fully exploit the power of tabbed browsing (it wasn’t, however, the first tabbed browser), it was the first browser to allow full-page zooming, it was the first browser to incorporate session management, it was the first browser to add a dedicated search bar, it was the first browser to integrate a pop-up blocker, it was the first browser to have a private data cleaner, it was the first browser to support mouse gestures, it was the first browser to have speed dials, and so on and so forth.

Almost all major releases of Opera sported one or more innovations that allowed it to stand out from the crowd. Opera 8 featured voice recognition and text-to-speech support. Opera 9 introduced content blocker, widgets, bit torrent downloader, site preferences, and search engine creation wizard. Opera 10 introduced visual tabs and Opera Turbo. Opera 11 introduced tab stacking, and visual mouse gestures. However, when it comes to user facing innovative features, Opera 12 draws a blank.

The biggest new feature in Opera 12 is a lightweight skinning engine that both Firefox and Chrome have had for years. Other features are a mix of cosmetic changes, under the hood stuff that most users will not care about, and features that already exist in other browsers. Opera 12 is all about playing catch-up. Instead of leading from the front, Opera Software is now merely plugging the gaps in its existing offering. Make no mistake, there is no harm in taking inspiration from others. In fact, I was highly appreciative of Opera 11, which introduced extension support, and resolved several of my longstanding complaints. However, when you are the underdog, you need to do more than just equal your competition. You need to give people compelling reasons to ditch the browser they have grown comfortable with and try your product.

The problem with Opera 12 is that it simply doesn’t offer any incentive to folks who didn’t like the earlier versions to come and try out the new version. I have had Opera as my default browser for close to a decade, but earlier this year, I finally switched to Chrome as default. I still miss some of the features in Opera like its excellent built-in Notes, great RSS feed reader, simple IRC client, powerful keyboard shortcuts, and customizable speed dials. However, they are no longer reason enough to stop me from switching to Chrome, which offers powerful web apps like TweetDeck, full profile sync (including extensions), hardware acceleration with WebGL, and web notifications.

Opera 12: Faster, Safer, and Leaner

After dozens of snapshots and months of testing, Opera Software is finally ready with Opera 12 or Wahoo. Opera 12 is a bittersweet release that adds several new features, but also ruthlessly chops several old ones.

Opera 12 - Wahoo

As you might expect, not a whole lot has changed since the beta release, so my hands-on of the beta is still a good place for an in-depth look at the new features in Opera 12. The bits that Opera seems to be particularly excited about are:

New light-weight themes that are both easy to create and use: The new themes differ from the previous full-fledged skins in that they don’t alter appearance of browser elements like buttons and tabs. Much like Personas for Firefox, they simply change the browser background.


Improved security badge: Opera’s address bar security badges have been updated to make them easier to parse for novice users.


Improved Standards Support: Opera 12 adds support for a whole host of new web technologies including WebRTC (native camera access), HTML5 drag and drop, CSS3 animations and transitions, and CSS generated paged media (new proposed standard from Opera for paginated content suitable for consumption in devices of multiple form factors).

Better Plug-in Handling: Opera now runs plug-ins as separate process. This change should significantly boost Opera’s stability as plug-ins like Flash are responsible for a large chunk of browser crashes. Now, even if the plug-in crashes, Opera will continue to function smoothly since it runs as a separate process.

Hardware Acceleration: Hardware accelerated graphics and WebGL compatibility were supposed to be the major draws of Opera 12. Unfortunately, in spite of pushing back the release of Wahoo, Opera Software hasn’t yet managed to get hardware acceleration working smoothly enough on a wide range of hardware. As a result, this feature is disabled by default, but you can enable it by setting opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableHardwareAcceleration and opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableWebGL to 1.

As mentioned earlier, Opera 12 is not all about new features. It also bids adieu to a host of old features including Opera Unite, Opera Widgets, Speech Recognition, Text to Speech, and Torrent downloader. This kind of chopping of features is unprecedented, and is perhaps an admission that several of the decisions made during the days of Opera 8 to Opera 10 weren’t in its best interests. While I am a bit sad to see some of these features go, most users probably won’t even notice that they are gone.

[ Download Opera 12 ]

More Proof that Facebook Might Buy Opera

Opera-SoftwareLast week, Pocket Lint broke the story that Facebook might be looking to acquire Opera. Initially, I was pretty dismissive of the report. While, the deal did make sense for Facebook, I wasn’t sure it was something that Opera really needed. In fact, Opera’s co-founder and ex-CEO Jon von Tetzchner’s comments echoed as much. “I want Opera to focus on growth and delivering good results; there are big opportunities for Opera,” Tetzchner, who holds 10.9 percent of Opera, told Reuters. “We have been promised 500 million users by 2013, and I think that’s a good goal and the firm should keep going for it.” He added, “I personally think that an ARPU (average revenue per user) goal of $1 is even modest. I am not pushing for a takeover.”

However, Pocket Lint’s initial report has since been backed up by Robin Wauters who is typically well sourced in browser related matters. Not only that, bankers told Reuters that Opera had “long been up for sale informally”. Now, I find this bit of information particularly interesting because of one reason. Tetzchner quit Opera last year. His departing email read, “It has become clear that The Board, Management and I do not share the same values and we do not have the same opinions on how to keep evolving Opera”. My theory is that it is quite possible that Jon’s disagreement with the board was over their plans on pushing for a takeover by a larger entity. Tetzchner always regarded Opera as his baby, and insisted on staying independent and retaining a core set of values that defined Opera Software. It’s hard to think that he would have found proposals of selling out agreeable.

While all of the above is conjecture on my part, there is one bit of information that Vygantas has dug out, which strongly hints that something is up at Opera software. As you might already know, a significant portion of Opera’s revenues come from its search agreement with Google. Opera ships with Google as the default search engine, and in return, Google shares a chunk of revenue it generates from the traffic coming from Opera. Earlier today, Opera Software announced that it is extending its existing agreement with Google for a month. This move is extremely unusual, as typically such renewals are for a year or several years. I don’t remember Opera ever renewing its agreement for such a short period. While it is entirely possible that the renewal is simply a temporary measure to give the two companies some time to thrash out a new deal, it is also possible that Opera expects something big to happen in the next one month. You know, like being acquired by Facebook.

There is still no concrete proof that anything is really going on. But, over the past week, we have seen multiple sources claim that something might be up. In my opinion, the deal does make sense for Facebook. It will allow it to both gain eyeballs in the mobile segment, and also better monetize it. However, I am not convinced that it’s in Opera’s best interests to allow itself to be gobbled up by folks for whom browser is not really a priority. Facebook might increase Opera’s reach, but it might also stagnate Opera’s development, hamper its innovative edge, and tarnish its reputation and trust.

Rumor: Facebook Looking to Buy Opera Software

Opera-SoftwareFacebook might be eyeing Norwegian browser maker Opera Software, if a report from Pocket Lint is to be believed. According to its “man in the know”, Facebook might be preparing to step into the browser market, in order to ensure that no matter what you are doing, you are always connected to your Facebook social graph.

If true, it’s going to be another stunning move by Zuckerberg. Opera currently boasts of more than 200 million users, with a very strong presence in the mobile arena. For many in the developing world, Opera Mini is the only means of surfing the internet. It also has strong relationship with leading handset makers and carriers. Facebook can certainly help Opera in expanding its audience, and Opera can embed Facebook into its user’s life. Opera also has a strong presence in the mobile phone and smart TV market that Facebook will find valuable.

That being said, acquiring a company like Opera is different from acquiring a start-up like Instagram. Opera has dozens of offices with hundreds of employees spread across the globe. Developing browsers is complicated stuff, and Opera has had to really fight it out to survive through multiple browser wars. Facebook and Opera have very little in common in terms of their products. In fact, they even have distinctly different cultures and company ethos. From where I am sitting, this certainly doesn’t look like a marriage made in heaven.

A couple of years back, when Opera co-founder Jon von Tetzchner was at the helm, I could have confidently said that Opera would never sell out. With the new management, I can’t be so sure. However, even then, it’s extremely hard to fathom that Opera will allow itself to come under Facebook’s umbrella. What might happen though is that Facebook and Opera might enter into a partnership. We have already seen Opera develop customized browsers for the likes of Nintendo. It might create and maintain a Rockmelt like browser with tight Facebook integration, in return for eyeballs and revenue from the social networking giant. But, in the recent past, Opera has been focussing on a more streamlined approach with less customized solutions.

When asked for a response, Opera declined to comment citing its standard policy of not reacting to market rumors.

Opera 12 Beta Released; Dumps Old Features, Introduces a Boatload of New Ones

After several dozen snapshots and months of testing, Opera Software has finally released Opera 12 Beta. Opera 12, which also goes by the codename Wahoo, was initially planned for late 2011, but was then postponed to allow the hardware acceleration feature to mature.


Opera Software is finally ready for the concluding sprint towards a stable release of Wahoo. The hardware acceleration and WebGL support is now stable enough to yield significant benefits on most configurations. Unfortunately, it still has some quirks, and is known to cause a performance hit on some systems. As a result, Wahoo’s most promising feature is disabled out of the box, and needs to be enabled by the user. If you wish to take hardware acceleration and WebGL for a spin just set opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableHardwareAcceleration and opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableWebGL to 1.

Recently, Opera was crowned the fastest browser by Tom’s hardware. Opera 12 introduces even more refinements to build on Opera’s existing lead. Opera is promising speed improvements by optimizing the network SSL code and using smarter tab loading to accelerate start-up and shut-down times. With Wahoo, Opera is also introducing 64 bit builds that are compiled to take advantage of the current generation processors.

In the past, Opera has made it clear that it is reluctant to follow Chrome’s process-per-tab model, even though Opera was the first to come up with the idea. With Wahoo, Opera Software has decided to at least offload plugins from the main process. In the newest builds, third-party plugins will run as independent processes. The expectation is that this would allow Opera to continue working, even if a plugin crashes. This should significantly improve stability, since a third of the crashes are caused by plugins like Flash. This very feature also makes it easy for Opera to run as a 64 bit application, and still support 32 bit plugins.


Other new features in Opera 12 include:

  • Lightweight themes, similar to Chrome themes and Firefox Personas.
  • Support for right to left scripts (Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Hebrew) in the main interface.
  • Support for “Do Not Track” header.
  • Redesigned security badges for the address bar.


  • Improved standards support including lots of HTML5 and CSS3 goodies like WebRTC (native camera access), HTML5 drag and drop, CSS3 animations and transitions, and CSS generated paged media (new proposed standard from Opera for paginated content suitable for consumption in devices of multiple form factors).

Opera 12 also sees the departure of a few significant features. The first casualty is the IBM powered speech recognition and text to speech functionality (Windows only), which was introduced way back in Opera 7.6. The second feature to depart is Opera Widgets, which was introduced in Opera 9, and has since been made mostly redundant by extensions. And finally, Opera Unite, which was announced with much fanfare, is also being shuttered. Opera Unite is the feature I am personally the saddest to lose. It has perhaps been made redundant by the multitude of digital file lockers and media streaming services. However, it was something truly neat and also handy. It’s a pity that Opera did never figure out how to take Unite to the next level. The failure of Unite reminds of Google Wave, which also generated a lot of hype, but crashed as everyone struggled to figure out compelling use cases for the technology.

[ Download Opera 12 Beta ]