Over the past couple of years, there has been a marked changed in Opera as a company. Several are good, but some are also worrying. Opera seems less stubborn than before, and appears to be more aware of the market. After resisting for ages, it finally implemented extensions. It also put in some serious work into creating an excellent developer tool, and currently behaves better than ever before in Linux and OS X.
Unfortunately, the Norwegian browser maker also seems to have lost some of its innovative drive. Not only is Opera no longer coming up with distinctive new features, but it is also allowing promising features to stagnate. One of the smartest features of Opera 11 was Tab Stacking. Tab Stacking allows you to drag and drop tabs on top of each other to group them into stacks. You can collapse stacks to save space, drag and drop them to spawn a new window with selected tabs, or close all of them at one go. It’s just the kind of feature that a power user will love. Briefly, Opera also toyed with the idea of automatic tab stacking. However, they dropped this before the final release, as the algorithm for automatic stacking of tabs wasn’t very well polished. Since then, there has been no further work on this potentially brilliant concept. Now, Chrome is implementing automatic tab stacking, and I suspect that they get it out of the door way before Opera. Something similar happened with voice support in Opera. While Opera ignored the feature, allowed it to stagnate, and ultimately killed it, Google tried to make this feature more accessible and popular.
Opera 12 is a great release, and it still is an awesome browser that I wouldn’t hesitate recommending to others. However, I am worried because Opera seems to have passed on the responsibility of innovating to the folks at Google. When Google Chrome came out, it took plenty of inspiration from Opera. So did Firefox and Safari. However, now, it seems that Opera is the one that is looking towards others for inspiration. It’s quite possible that my worries are unfounded. Opera might be working on some mind-blowing feature in their labs that will blow me away. It’s possible that they just need a bit more time to showcase what they have been cooking. But, Opera now has an extremely nimble competitor in Chrome, and it has to move fast if it hopes to grow in the desktop segment.