Internet Explorer 11 Will Pretend to be Firefox to Avoid Non-standard CSS

Guess who is turning out to be Internet Explorer’s biggest headache. It’s none other than its own self. For years, Internet Explorer terrorized web developers, and anguished browser developers due to its lackluster implementation of web standards. Now that Microsoft is attempting to cleanup its act and move forward, the bad practices promoted by older versions of Internet Explorer is coming back to bite the software giant.

Opera, one of the earliest proponents of web standards, was forced to identify itself as Internet Explorer for a long time to get around silly browser sniffing scripts. Now, in a strange twist of fate, Microsoft might be forced to identify itself as Mozilla. Neowin has discovered that Internet Explorer 11 that is bundled with the leaked release of Windows Blue uses a userstring which includes the “like Gecko” command. Here’s what the Internet Explorer 11 userstring looks like:

Mozilla/5.0 (IE 11.0; Windows NT 6.3; Trident/7.0; .NET4.0E; .NET4.0C; rv11.0) like Gecko

Internet Explorer 11 to Appear as Firefox

The command essentially instructs websites to treat Internet Explorer like Firefox. Most websites employ Internet Explorer specific hacks and fixes to ensure compatibility with Internet Explorer 8 and older. This change will prevent Internet Explorer 11 from being served the old non-standard code designed for older versions. Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that Windows Blue is still under development, and things might change before it’s released.

Google Now Coming to Chrome Browser and OS

François Beaufort, a Google Chrome user from France, has spotted signs of impending arrival of Google Now in the Chrome browser. In the latest build of Chromium, the Google Now component extension can be enabled from chrome://flags. Before you get too excited, it’s worth pointing out that ordinary folks can’t play with it yet, since the extension requires Google Now server URL, which is yet to be uncovered.

Google Now is a personal assistant built on top of Google Search that uses natural language processing to answer questions. Additionally, it also pulls information from various Google services to highlight information it believes might be useful for the user. It was first introduced in Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), and has since then been updated several times by Google.


I am not convinced about the utility of Google Now as just a Chrome browser extension, but it does make some sense for Chrome OS, in which everything is done from the browser. In fact, it’s very much possible that Google might be planning to add new cards to Google Now to make it more appealing for desktop users. For now, it appears that Google Now will be available only on Chrome browser for Windows, and Chrome OS.

Google Chrome for Android to Get Opera Turbo Like Data Compression Abilities

Google Chrome’s rise has been nothing short of spectacular. While Google’s deep pocket and marketing muscle has undoubtedly helped, it will be unfair to deny that Chrome deserves its popularity. Right from the beginning, it was clear that the folks behind Chrome knew what they were doing. Chrome boasted of a host of innovations including a minimalistic user interface, super fast JavaScript engine, and per-tab processes. However, it was also smart enough to take inspiration from the best aspects of different browsers. It copied various features from Opera including the ability to resume previous browsing session, restoring closed tabs, and visual bookmarks on the new tab page. Staying true to its tradition, Chrome is aping another popular Opera feature, and eliminating one of biggest advantages of using Opera on mobile phones.

The new feature that Chrome has its sights on is Opera Turbo. When Opera Turbo is enabled all HTTP traffic is redirected through Opera’s servers where text and images are compressed. The browser sitting on your system downloads this compressed data, instead of loading the full page. While image compression can reduce quality and the re-routing can increase latency, on slower connections this can result in significant speed improvements. If you are on a metered connection that is billed according to the data usage, this will even save you money by reducing the amount of data downloaded. In the recently released Opera for Android, the veteran browser firm re-branded Turbo as Off-road mode and gave it a more prominent spot in the user interface. Now, Google has announced that Chrome for Android will also incorporate a similar feature in the near future.


In fact, if you are on the beta channel, you can already try out this new feature. Just open up chrome://flags in your browser and select Enable Data Compression Proxy. Google is using the open-source PageSpeed libraries, which are specifically tuned for the Chrome for Android, to perform the compression. All images will be automatically converted to Google’s WebP image format. Additionally, Google is also hoping to reduce latency by using its own SPDY protocol for communications between the proxy server and your browser. You can keep a tab on the bandwidth savings by opening the bandwidth section of chrome://net-internals.


To be fair, Opera didn’t exactly invent the data compression proxy feature. Before it embedded Turbo, it had tied up with a company called Slipstream, which provided a similar compression service. However, enabling this feature required purchasing a subscription. And, even before this, there were companies like ONSPEED providing similar services to users through third-party software. However, Opera undoubtedly made the feature mainstream. It was also the first company that I am aware of to offer it for free. Opera took the concept to the next level with Opera Mini, in which not only were the resources compressed, but the entire web page was also rendered on the remote server. A static representation (OBML) was sent back to the browser. It’s important to note that the Turbo feature in Opera Mobile and Opera Desktop, and Opera Mini are different. Remote rendering in Opera Mini allows it to run on extremely low-end phones, but also prevents it from working with modern dynamic websites. Chrome’s new compression technology will be similar to Turbo in Opera Mobile (now called Off-road) and not Opera Mini.

First Beta of Opera browser for Android with Webkit Impresses

Lately, Opera Software has been in the news a lot, but, most of it hasn’t been about new product launches. It kicked off a firestorm of debate on the interwebs with its decision to ditch its own rendering engine in favor of Chromium flavored Webkit, it raised eyebrows by acquiring Skyfire, and it continued to focus on new sources of revenue by promoting innovative initiatives like the Opera Web Pass. Today, however, it has something new for its fans.

The Norwegian browser developer has released the first beta of Opera browser for Android, which it touts as the “result of a passion for design combined with 17 years’ worth of know-how and innovation”. As you might have noticed, Opera has dropped the word ‘Mobile’ from its name. With the new name, Opera Software is following in the footsteps of Google and Mozilla, and is indicating that the mobile browser is no less competent than its desktop counterpart. It also signifies the new beginning of Opera’s efforts in the mobile landscape.

Opera browser for Android looks and feels like an entirely different beast. It bares little resemblance to Opera Mini or Mobile, having taken oodles of design cues from both iOS and Android’s Holo design conventions. The new tab page now consists of three distinct sections – History, Speed Dials, and Discover. As always, the speed dial feature shows visual bookmarks of your favorite and most accessed websites; but, now, it is also supports folders and custom titles. The discover feature showcases popular and interesting content from your selected region and topics.

Opera for Android: Off-Road Mode

Many of the existing features, including the neat download manager, find-in-page, private browsing, and user-agent changer are still present. Opera Turbo also made it through. However, it is now being called the Off-Road mode. Once you enter this mode, your webpages are routed through Opera’s servers where they are compressed to save bandwidth and also speed up surfing on slower networks. The new user interface prominently highlights the data savings that you have achieved through the Off-road mode. Another handy feature is ‘Save for Later’, which can save entire webpages so that you can continue reading long articles on flights without Wi-Fi. The biggest missing feature is Opera Link. Currently, the only way to access your saved speed dials, bookmarks, and notes is through the web interface.

Opera for Android: Redesigned Interface

I haven’t benchmarked the new browser, but it feels fast and snappy (not that Opera ever felt slow). Cold start times have noticeably improved, but Opera still seems to be taking a second or so more than Chrome. Panning and zooming is still fast and fluid, but the engine change seems to have nuked Opera’s ability to reflow text.

Opera for Android supports Gingerbread (Android 2.3) and above. As Opera Software points out, this is important as 45% of Android users are still on Gingerbread. Needless to say, this is an early build, and might be unstable or might not work at all. But, as far as first impressions go, I am impressed.

[ Download Opera for Android Beta ]

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.

Internet Explorer 10 Now Available for Windows 7

Internet-Explorer-10Internet Explorer 10 is finally ready for Windows 7. Exactly four months after IE 10 officially debuted with Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft has managed to get its browser ready for Windows 7 users. Unfortunately, if you are still on Vista or XP, you are out of luck. Microsoft is no longer interested in supporting you. Of course, there are plenty of alternatives, each of which works flawlessly even on the more than a decade old Windows XP.

One of the things that kept Microsoft busy while making Internet Explorer 10 compatible with Windows 7 was touch API support. In fact, ArsTechnica is reporting that installing Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7 requires the installation of a platform update that brings Windows 7’s version of these APIs in line with Windows 8. Hardware acceleration using Direct2D and DirectWrite is also in. Other features Microsoft is touting include 60% increase in supported modern web standards, 20% improvement in rendering speed, and improved security, privacy and reliability.

If you installed the preview release, Internet Explorer 10 will be marked as an important update for you, otherwise it will be an optional update. However, Microsoft will be marking Internet Explorer 10 as an important update in more and more regions over the coming months. As per the default Windows Update settings, important updates are automatically downloaded, while optional updates aren’t.

[ Download Internet Explorer 10 ]

Opera Ties Up with Airtel to Enable Instant Internet Activation in India Through Web Pass

Just a few days back, Opera had revealed that its Web Pass initiative had gotten off to an impressive start in Malaysia. Now, it is hoping to replicate the same success story in India. The Norwegian browser maker, which itself has its roots in a telecom company, has tied up with Airtel to introduce its innovative Web Pass feature to India. “Access to the web is a universal right. Partnering with market leaders such as Airtel has offered us the opportunity to help lower the barriers to access the mobile web and empower more Indian users to get online,” said Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera Software.


Opera Web Pass offers mobile users pay-as-you-go connections that can be activated instantly from the browser itself. It offers a cheap, on-demand, and instant connection to the World Wide Web to a wide section of the populace. For many of Opera’s users, the only way to go online is through their mobile phones. You can read more about how Opera Web Pass helped increase data usage on DiGi Telecommunications networks in Malaysia in my previous article.

Some of the plans that Airtel will be offering are:
i) An hour of Facebook for Rs. 10
ii) An hour of Twitter for Rs. 10
iii) An hour of internet usage for Rs. 20
iv) 24 hour unlimited internet subscription for Rs. 60

Additionally, a weekend surfing plan will also be available for unknown amount. An Opera spokesperson was unable to confirm if the plans were for 2G or 3G or both. All of these plans are billed by the duration of validity, instead of metrics like bandwidth and speed, which will make it simpler for the novice user to understand. Topping up doesn’t require any online payment system, and all purchases made are added to the user’s mobile bill.

Opera Mini and Mobile Continue Growing, Web Pass Gets off to a Good Start

OperaOpera Software has often highlighted Opera Mini as a browser that ‘connects the unconnected’. What they mean is that Opera Mini on mobile phones is often the only way a significant chunk of its users access the World Wide Web. Opera Mini is extremely popular in nations like India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Malaysia, and Kenya, where PC penetration is low, but mobile phone penetration is extremely high. The reasons for this are obvious. Opera Mini works even on low-end phones, and is capable of rendering web pages that these phones would otherwise be unable to render. It also compresses web pages during the data transfer, thus increasing speed and reducing bandwidth consumption.

Putting two and two together, towards the end of 2012, Opera Software introduced a service called Web Pass. Web Pass offered mobile web surfers pay-as-you-go internet connections. Realizing that most people in developing nations don’t have means of online payment like Credit Cards, Opera tied up with mobile service providers to enable instant purchase that would be billed to the user’s mobile connection. Malaysia’s DiGi Telecommunications became Opera’s first partner, which allowed users to instantly purchase data packages. Pay as you go plans included cheap options like Facebook hourly pass (0.15 USD), as well as more full fledged data options like 24 hour internet packs (0.65 USD).

In this month’s State of the Mobile Web report, Opera Software zeroed in on its new Web Pass, and apprently it’s doing quite well. Some of the stats that Opera shared are:

  • Up to 52% of all Opera Web Passes in any given month were bought by returning customers.
  • By incentivizing use through a free Facebook hourly web pass for the entire month of January DiGi managed to increase the uptake of paid web passes significantly. This resulted in an average revenue increase of 56%, and a 65% increase of the average number of transactions per day, compared to the revenues before the promotion drive.
  • There has been a very low checkout-abandonment rate and an overall checkout success of more than 77% among users with sufficient funds.
    The most popular web pass is one that provides customers with time-based, unlimited access to Facebook.

Opera Software also revealed that it gained 8 million active mobile users in the month of January. The total user count of Opera’s various mobile offerings currently stands at 237 million. Opera is also doing fairly well in the smartphone segment, with a 32% of the total users of Opera Mini and Opera Mobile using smartphones to browse the web. These users constituted 32% of the new installs witnessed last month.

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.

Opera-Presto 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.”

Opera Ditches Presto, Will Begin Using Chrome’s Engine

Opera Software has never had it easy. Opera has always been the browser that is ignored by most, and loved zealously by a few. Yet, not only has it managed to survive for almost two decades, but has also grown into a profitable publicly traded company employing almost a thousand people across the globe. Today, the Norwegian browser firm announced that it has reached the milestone of 300 million users.

Three hundred million is a major landmark for Opera, which had reached the hundred million mark less than three years ago. However, Opera Software can hardly afford to sit back and relish its achievement. It’s desktop market share has practically stagnated, and its head-start in the mobile segment has been practically nullified by the rise of Android and iOS. Realizing the difficult situation it is in, Opera has done what very few fans and followers could have even imagined. It has decided to completely ditch Presto.


Presto is Opera’s layout engine, and one of its prized creations. It has served Opera well. It allowed Opera to promote web standards, push for a faster surfing experience, innovate with advanced developer features, and earn additional revenue through licensing deals. However, it was also turning out to be Opera’s biggest drawback. Developing and maintaining a rendering engine is an extremely complex task. The fact that there are only four modern rendering engines – Trident (Internet Explorer), Gecko (Firefox), Webkit (Safari), and Presto (Opera) — exemplifies this. The fact that Presto had the least market share often meant that developers didn’t test their websites on Presto. The end result was annoying compatibility issues in Opera. Opera Software tried long and hard to tackle the compatibility issue. It created dedicated positions called “Web Opener” to promote cross-browser development practices, and in extreme cases, even fixed website bugs on its own through browserjs. However, with Webkit becoming a de-facto standard in the mobile space, and gaining momentum rapidly in the desktop market, Opera was fighting a losing cause.

This is not the first time Opera is making a big, bold move that few could have predicted. Back in 2005, Opera went from being a shareware to a freeware on the back of a search deal with Google. The move allowed Opera to break out of its niche, and increase its user base from hundreds of thousands to millions. Now, Opera is taking another bold step. Will it work? Or is it too little too late for the browser that seems destined to be forever the little guy.

I believe that Webkit offers Opera a way out that didn’t exist earlier. It’s a shared code base that is being used and improved by multiple entities. Switching to Webkit will free up valuable resources for Opera, as it will finally be able to stop worrying about website compatibility. It will also save Opera the effort of duplicating cutting edge standards that other browsers have already implemented. Yet, I can not help but wonder, how things would have turned out if Opera had open sourced Presto earlier.

Through this year, Opera will be transitioning to the the Chromium rendering engine, and V8 JavaScript engine. We have already seen an experimental browser called Opera Ice, which utilizes Webkit. At this year’s MWC, Opera will be exhibiting another new Webkit based Android product.

While the move to Webkit is undoubtedly the right one for both Opera Software and its users, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of sadness to see Presto go. When it was released, it was the fastest and the most standards compliant engine in the market. It did a lot of good things, for Opera as well as the web. Hallvord Steen fittingly paid homage to the mere bits and bytes that was Presto.

Its software personality was one of surprising brilliance combined with equally surprising shortcomings. It was resourceful, forward-looking and often ahead of its time yet at other times neglectful of even long-stated needs and requirements. It had some hissy fits and temperamental interaction with other software, especially certain plug-ins. Nevertheless it carried out great work and brought the company that cared for it 300 million users, over the years being ported to an incredible number of platforms.