Category Archives: Opera

Opera Software Loses Co-Founder Jon von Tetzchner

Opera Software lost its first co-founder, Geir Ivarsøy, in 2006 under tragic circumstances. Now, it has lost its other co-founder as Jon S. von Tetzchner has decided to quit the company.

Jon-Tetzchner“It is of course a choice that brings up a lot of emotions”, says von Tetzchner. “When we first started out, we were a few guys in a really small office – now we are spread all over the world, have over 740 employees and over 200 million users. I am very proud of what we have accomplished, and look forward to following the company closely also in the future.”

Opera began as a research project inside Telenor, the Norwegian telecom giant. In 1995, Tetzchner and Ivarsøy spun it off as an independent company, and established Opera Software. The first build of Opera (called MultiTorg) never saw the light of day, but Opera 2.1 was released in 1997.

Although, Opera is still a minor player in the desktop segment, it has made its presence felt through continuous innovation. Opera helped pioneer tabbed browsing, and was behind many popular features like search engine bar and speed dials. The company advocated strongly in favor of web standards and “One Web” before most others, and reaped the benefit of its vision by securing a dominant position in the mobile market.

After being the CEO of Opera for fifteen years, Tetzchner stepped down in January 2010, as Opera’s revenue slumped unexpectedly. Lars Boilesen took over the reins, and has since led Opera Software to record breaking highs by streamlining Opera’s operations and focusing on operator partnerships. Jon stayed on as a strategic advisor, and served as the public face of the company.

Boilesen bid farewell to Tetzchner with the following statement:

We had a lot of fun during these years, and to say that Jon has created a great company is an understatement. He has taught me and everyone working here a lot. He believed in, and pushed out innovation after innovation that we see our competitors constantly struggling with copying, making Opera a first mover in the technological development of web browsers as we know them today. We are very proud of Jon, and of course of the company. We are aiming at 500 million users by 2013, and we have a very positive flow right now.

Tetzchner will be staying with Opera Software till 30th of June. Although he didn’t divulge what his next project will be, we wish the man who created one of the most innovative and path breaking browsers all the best.

Update: TechCrunch has leaked an email sent by Tetzchner to Opera employees, in which he makes it clear that he is quitting due to differences with the board.

Dear All,

It is with a heavy heart that I send this message. Next week will be my
last at Opera. 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. As a result I have come to an agreement with the Board to
end my time at Opera. I feel the Board and Management is more quarterly
focused than me. I have always worked to build the company for the future.
I believe the foundation we have is very solid to build further upon.

I do believe strongly in Opera as a company, and in all of you working
here. Our products actually make a difference for a lot of people in the
world, and I wish you all the best of luck moving forward. I will be
following the company closely and rooting for you all.

Yours truly,
Jon.

Opera Introduces New Featherweight Skin for Windows, Linux, and Mac

Opera Software has been regularly releasing Swordfish (Opera 11.50) snapshots for the past couple of months or so. We reviewed the major enhancements introduced in the Swordfish beta in an earlier article. Since, then Opera Software has worked away at fixing crashes and other bugs, adding usability enhancements, updating the rendering engine (Presto), and tweaking the speed dial. The newest snapshot, however, moves away from behind the scene changes, and focuses on the visual aspects.

Opera Software has just unveiled Featherweight, the new skin for Opera. Featherweight is all about making Opera “as light, bright and user-friendly as possible”. “We want the user interface to match the speed of our rendering engine”, wrote Opera’s graphic designer Jan Henrik Helmers. The highlights of the new skin are:

Oper-Featherweight
Opera Featherweight on Windows, Linux, and Mac

  • Brand new toolbar icon set
  • Brighter, softer colors for backgrounds and borders
  • Padding and alignment improvements
  • Updated status bar design and content
  • No more button borders in the address bar
  • The Home and Fast Forward buttons now optional
  • New “tab fold” attention state – no more blue blob
  • New window gradient for OS X

Oper-Featherweight-Tab-Fold
Opera Featherweight Tab Fold

I have been using the Featherweight skin for the past couple of hours, and the new skin definitely feels fresh and bright. There are numerous minor tweaks all over the place. For example, the ugly blue dots, which were previously used to indicate that the page has new content, have been replaced with much more subtler “tab fold” indicators (pictured above). All of these changes gel together to give a polished, cohesive, and modern appeal to Opera. I’ve been working with the Opera folks on the featherweight skin recently, and there is more to come! As always, not everything makes it…, teased famed designer Jon Hicks, who has helped shape the visual appearance of most Opera products across platforms. You can download the latest snapshot from here. However, keep in mind that Opera Next releases can be buggy and unstable.

Opera 11.50 Beta Released, Introduces Password Sync and Speed Dial Extensions

It’s been just about six weeks since Opera Software unleashed Barracuda (Opera 11.10) on us, but they are already ready with the beta build of the next major release – Opera 11.50. Swordfish, the codename for the latest offering from Opera, upgrades a couple of existing features besides introducing plenty of under the hood changes.

Opera-Swordfish

The highlight of Opera 11.50 Beta is the addition of extension support to speed dials. Speed dial is easily one of the best known features of Opera. Barracuda spruced up speed dial by tweaking its visual aspects. Now, with Swordfish, Opera Software is adding another dimension to them by transforming them from being static thumbnails of websites to dynamic web-applications. To show off what you can do with speed dial extensions, Opera Software has developed a few neat extensions including a weather extension and a feed reader extension. Several more have already been developed by the community, and Opera is holding a competition to encourage the development of creative speed dial extensions.

Opera-Swordfish-Speed-Dial-Extensions

The other improvement is something that users had been requesting for a long time; the ability to sync passwords using Opera Link. This feature has been in the works for a while. Opera avoided rushing this feature through as it wanted to get the security measures absolutely right before unveiling it.

There are numerous minor usability improvements including a new interface for adding speed dials and support for Ctrl+Click to open links in new tab. The rendering engine has been bumped up to Presto 2.8, which features improved standards support.

Earlier this month, Opera changed the way it delivers releases. Previously, all releases, including snapshots, alphas, betas, release candidates, and final builds, had a similar installer. Now, Opera has decided to differentiate between final builds and test builds. All non-final builds will now be delivered as Opera Next. The advantage of Opera Next is that it is completely insulated from the final stable builds, and thus can be used safely without breaking the existing installation of Opera. This is similar to the way Mozilla and Google deals with Firefox and Chrome releases. For example, Aurora, Minefield and final builds for Firefox are insulated from each other. However, unlike Google and Mozilla, Opera Software will not be following a time based release cycle. Instead it will be sticking to the well-established tradition of releasing new versions only when there is actually some significant improvement to deliver. We don’t make releases for the sake of releases, nor do we make innovations for the sake of innovation, teased Jan Standal, VP of desktop products, Opera. We create browsers that make the Web faster and easier to use, and the newest features in Swordfish support that goal.

[ Download Opera 11.50 ]

Opera 11.10 Released; Features Faster Turbo, Prettier Speed Dials, and More

Opera Software has just released the final build of Opera 11.10, codenamed as Barracuda. For a point update, Barracuda features a pretty impressive change log.

Opera-Barracuda-Speed-Dial

Visually, the biggest change is the new “flow layout” for speed dials. Opera has given a facelift to one of its most popular features. No longer are you limited to a pre-defined number of speed dials, which are nothing but visual bookmarks embedded in the “New Tab” page. Now, you can (theoretically) add as many shortcuts as you want. The layout is automatically adjusted depending upon your screen resolution and the number of speed dial entries. There is also a zoom slider, which can be used to manually configure the speed dial layout. The thumbnails are now generated using a smart algorithm, and are a lot prettier.

Internally, Barracuda features a new version of Presto, Opera’s rendering engine. New developer oriented features include support for CSS3 multi-column layouts and gradients, the Web Open Font Format (WOFF), and Google’s WebP image protocol. After Chrome, Opera is the first browser to support WebP, Google’s new lossy image format, which provides 39% (on an average) better compression than standard JPEG images.

One of the best ways to speed up your surfing experience when you are on a slow internet connection is to use Opera Turbo. Now, with a little help from WebP, Opera is taking Turbo to the next level.

By reducing the size of the webpage, the Opera Turbo feature boosts browsing speeds by four times or more. In previous versions, this meant reducing the quality of images. Now, overall image quality is greatly improved thanks to our engineering brains and the use of Google’s new WebP image format. In our lab tests, the new Opera Turbo produces 35 percent smaller pages and was 15 percent faster than Opera 11.

Opera-Turbo
Opera Turbo with Enhanced Image Compression

Another handy improvement is the introduction of seamless plugin installation. Unlike some of its competitors, Opera has decided against including popular plugins like Flash in the installer itself. Instead it will automatically download the required plugin in the background, when it is required.

There are numerous other minor improvements like discoverability and a power saving mode (for Windows Vista and Windows 7). Go ahead and take Opera 11.10 for a spin on your Windows, UNIX or Mac machine by downloading it from www.opera.com.

OperaMail Transitions to Fastmail, myOpera Integration Coming Soon

OperaUnknown to many, Opera Software has its own webmail offering called OperaMail (not to be confused with Opera’s inbuilt email client). Last year, Opera Software had acquired Fastmail, in an attempt to beef up its webmail offering. The newest generation of Web users will discover the Web through a mobile device. Having world-class messaging capability alongside a rich and compelling Web experience is essential. By combining forces, Opera and FastMail.fm can offer messaging on any device. This will enhance the value Opera provides to consumers, while assisting our operator partners in reducing customer churn, Rolf Assev, Opera’s Chief Strategy Officer had explained.

The integration of Fastmail with OperaMail took longer than expected (due to legal issues?), but it’s finally over. Opera Mail now uses the Fastmail backend, and all users should be able to login with their existing username and password. Existing users might notice missing emails; however, any missing mail will be forwarded to their new account soon. Unfortunately, some users were caught unawares by the switch, due to inexplicable lack of advance communication. Surely, Opera Software can be expected to be a bit more responsible, since they are dealing with something as critical as email.

Opera is also working on launching a brand new email service, which will be integrated with myOpera. “We will soon unveil a brand new webmail service where you will be using your existing My Opera username and password to log in”, teased Opera’s Haavard Moen.

Password Sync Coming to Opera, Soon

Opera With the introduction of Opera Link in 2007, Opera became one of the first browsers to support profile synchronization out of the box. Although Opera Link has received multiple enhancements since then, it still has a pretty big shortcoming. It can’t sync passwords. However, that might be about to change.

Last year Opera had explained that they wanted to support password synchronization; however, given the sensitive nature of the data, they wanted to get it absolutely right before launching it. It appears that the wait might finally be over. Favbrowser was tipped off by a reader that one of the Opera 11.10 snapshots contain a “SyncPasswordManager” setting buried inside opera:config.

Although this setting was removed in the most recent snapshot, I am fairly confident that the appearance of the setting is an indication that Opera is planning to launch this feature soon. In the meanwhile, you can install the excellent LastPass extension for Opera to be able to access your passwords from pretty much any browser and any operating system. The latest version can even import Opera Wand passwords. Roboform fans can also check out the new RoboForm Lite adapter for Opera.

Opera for Mac Now Available for Download from Apple’s App Store, If You Are Above 17 (No Kidding)

After becoming the first non-webkit based browser to be approved on the iOS App Store, Opera has also become the first non-native browser to be available on the Mac App Store. However, there is a catch. You have to be above seventeen to download it from the App Store. Opera has been categorized as an age restricted download due to “frequent/intense mature/suggestive themes”, to use Apple’s words. Of course, given that Opera is simply a web browser, it should be obvious to any sane person just how ridiculous Apple’s categorization is.

Opera-Mac-App-StoreAlthough insane, this bit of news isn’t exactly surprising. It has been Apple’s long standing policy to categorise any app that allows access to the internet as an age-restricted download, as it’s possible to browse adult themed websites with such apps. Apple had earlier classified Opera Mini for iPhone as a porn app due to the same reason. Of course, every Apple operating system ships with Safari pre-installed, and Safari can also be used to open any website on the interwebs. To be honest, the entire thing reeks of double standard, but being fair isn’t exactly Apple’s strongest suit. In fact, it’s almost unreasonable to expect that from a high-handed company like Apple.

Opera Software reacted to the classification in its characteristically funny way. Jan Standal, VP of Desktop Products for Opera Software, expressed his concern by saying that, “Seventeen is very young, and I am not sure if, at that age, people are ready to use such an application. It’s very fast, you know, and it has a lot of features. I think the download requirement should be at least 18.”

One of the reasons why Opera might not be complaining is because they might be pleased to get approved in the first place. Opera for desktop includes an inbuilt torrent downloader that makes torrent downloading so simple that even my grandma could do it. In the past, App Store reviewers haven’t been too kind to torrent clients, given that Apple views torrents as a vehicle for infringing third party rights.

If you are a Mac user under seventeen, you can always download Opera from the official website, where no one will ask you to furnish your credit card information just to download a free web browser.

Opera Gets Hardware Acceleration, Finally!

As todays browsers gear up to become the app platform of tomorrow, performance is more important than ever. We have already seen browser-makers fighting it out over JavaScript rendering performance. Whether it is Chrome with Crankshaft enabled V8, or Opera with Carakan, or Safari with Nitro, browsers of today are light-years ahead of browsers from even a couple of years back. The next big step for browsers is hardware acceleration. Chrome 9 already supports it through flags, Firefox will support it with v4, and Internet Explorer will do the same with v9. Now, Opera Software is also gearing up to join the club.

Opera Software has just released a Labs build with full hardware acceleration support. This has been in the cards for a long time. Opera had released an experimental build with 3D canvas as far back as in 2007. In 2008, it had published a video demonstrating Opera with hardware acceleration. Then in 2010, it released Opera 10.5, which featured a highly optimized Vega graphics render. We had mentioned in our original coverage that the new optimized software renderer meant that Opera Software was preparing to add hardware acceleration. Opera Software stated as much in its Up North Web event. Unfortunately, they could not get hardware acceleration ready in time for Opera 11.

Opera’s hardware acceleration feature is superior to what is present in Firefox and Internet Explorer. Opera Software’s Tim Johansson explained:

Like IE9 and Firefox 4, we do full hardware acceleration of all draw operations – but unlike those browsers, who only offer this acceleration on Windows Vista and Windows 7, our implementation will run on any OS with sufficient hardware support. This means we can have full hardware acceleration on Windows XP, Linux, Mac OS X and OpenGL ES 2 capable devices such as recent smart-phones and web-enabled TVs.

Opera-Hardware-Acceleration

Currently only OpenGL backend is supported; however, Direct3D support is planned for future builds. If you wish to try out Opera with hardware acceleration, head over to the Core Concerns blog. To confirm that hardware acceleration is indeed working, open “opera:about” page. If it mentions Vega backend as OpenGL, you are good to go. Otherwise, you will have to download the latest drivers for your graphics adapter. However, keep in mind that this is a lab release, and might be even more unstable than standard snapshot releases. Opera has stated that they don’t plan on including hardware acceleration in 11.10, and given their track record, I don’t expect to see this feature graduating from labs to regular builds within the next couple of months.

New Snapshot of Opera 11.10 Released: Makes Speed Dial Fluid

Speed Dial is undoubtedly one of the most loved features in Opera. It’s also probably the most emulated. Opera first added speed dial back in 2007, to provide a convenient and quick way to access the most frequently visited websites. Since then we have seen Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and others implement variants of this feature.

In the meanwhile, Opera worked on improving speed dial by adding support for background images, customization options, and wide-screen resolution support. Now, the veteran browser maker says that it is ready to take speed dial to the next level. “We are going to make Speed Dial more fluid, dynamic and easier to use”, Cezary KuÅ‚akowski from Opera Software wrote on the Desktop Team blog.

The just released snapshot of Barracuda (Opera 11.10) provides a first look at the planned changes by introducing the new “flow layout”. To be honest, as of now, the new flow layout doesn’t do anything earth-shattering. It just makes the speed dial behave a lot more like a webpage. If the browser window is resized, then instead of your speed dials being shrunk, a scrollbar will appear. Also the cap on number of speed dials is gone. Now, it seems that you can have as many visual shortcuts as you want.

Opera-Fluid-Speed-Dial

The new snapshot also introduces a new “Discoverability” feature that will subtly encourage users to try new features. If done right, this can turn out to be a really smart move, as Opera has scores of awesome features, that even many old-timers aren’t aware of. Opera promises that discoverability will not be annoying or frustrating. However, I couldn’t check it out as till now I haven’t managed to figure out the three features that were added to discoverability. Let me know if you guys fare better.

The snapshot is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. However, don’t forget that this is an early preview build, and is likely to have stability and performance issues.

[ Download Opera 11.10 Barracuda Snapshot ]

Update: I spotted one of the “discoverability” tips. It was simply a tip regarding using “+g” for performing a Google Search using the URL bar. I must say that the tip was extremely well integrated into the interface, and wasn’t awkward or annoying in anyway.

Opera Software’s Revenues Surge On the Back of Operator Tie-ups

Earlier in the week, Opera Software released its quarterly financial report. The final quarter of 2010 saw Opera increase its user base to 170 million, out of which 53 million belonged to Opera for desktop. The past year also witnessed Opera Software going from being the the red to recording record revenues. One of the most significant contributors to its turnaround was operator tie-ups, which Opera had been focusing on during the past few quarters. Opera’s partners include several big names like Vodafone and MTS. While mobile service providers benefit from the partnership by being able to provide its users a customised version of Opera Mini, which reduces bandwidth costs, highlights their web-properties (through speed-dial), and encourages mobile surfing, Opera Software profits from the licensing fee. The number of operator-branded Opera Mini users jumped from 2.1 million in Jan 2010 to 11.5 million in Jan 2011. Other than that there were approximately 90 million Opera Mini users last month.

Opera-Key-Performance-Indicators

Although partnerships with operators helped Opera generate a significant amount of revenue, the Norwegian browser maker credits stronger than expected desktop and device revenues (chiefly gaming consoles and connected TV) for the higher than expected total revenue. AdMarvel also made a significant positive contribution.

Opera-Operator-Tieups

As expected Opera’s profits also saw a sharp increase. However, one-off expenses like closing of Czech offices, and shifting of Opera’s server park from Norway to Iceland pulled down the profit percentage. In the near future, Opera aims to refresh its mail offering by leveraging the previously acquired Fastmail, develop Open Mobile Ad Exchange to generate revenue from mobile browsers, popularize Opera Mobile Store, and aggressively monetize Opera for desktop (see screenshot embedded below).

Opera-Desktop-Monetization