Ex-CEO of Opera Launches Vivaldi – A Powerful Browser for Power Users

Opera Software has always had a fairly sizeable and loyal fan base. The decades old browser never quite went mainstream, at least not on the desktop, but it attracted droves of power users thanks to its innovative streak and host of unique features. However, with its switch to the Chromium engine, Opera ditched almost everything that made it unique, and in the process disappointed most of its power users. It has gone from being a cutting-edge internet suite to a light-weight Chrome shell. There are still many users who use Opera 12 – released over two years ago, as their daily driver. The good news for all of them is that Jon Von Tetzchner – Opera’s co-founder and Ex-CEO has announced his next venture, and he is not giving up on browsers.

Vivaldi Browser
Vivaldi Browser

Vivaldi is a brand new browser from the very same people who brought to you Opera. Like the current Opera browser, it will be using Google’s Blink rendering engine. However, unlike the current Opera browser, Vivaldi aims to bring back most of the good stuff from Opera 12. The user interface of Vivaldi has been built using web technologies like Node.js, and Browserify. The first technical preview was released today with five key features:

  • Quick Commands: This is similar to Launchy on Windows or Spotlight on Mac. It offers a quick and easy way to navigate through tabs, search through history, change settings, and a bunch of other stuff with just the keyboard.
  • Panels: Panels used to be one of the many unique features in Opera, and it makes a comeback in Vivaldi. Right now the Panel provides quick access to bookmarks, downloads, and notes. In the future, you will also be able to access your mail and contacts from this section. Opera’s Notes feature has been improved, and now supports webpage screenshots.
  • Tab Stacks: You can organize tabs into groups (called Stacks) by dragging a tab on top of another. This is a really neat feature, but I hope that Vivaldi also brings back and improves the automatic tab stacking feature that Opera experimented with briefly.
  • Speed Dials: Opera introduced speed dials – visual bookmarks that are quickly and easily accessible, which are now present in all major browser in some form or the other. Hence, it’s hardly a surprise that Vivaldi also has speed dials. However, unlike most other implementations, Vivaldi supports folders in Speed Dials and you can also quickly open up your browsing history and bookmarks.
  • Intuitive UI: Vivaldi is bright and colourful, yet simple. The URL bar changes its colour automatically based on the website that you are currently viewing, and hovering over a tab opens a thumbnail preview. Any tab that you close can be restored from the trash can.

Other things that Vivaldi is currently working on include online synchronization, spatial navigation, extensions, and an email client.

Vivaldi Browser Screenshot
Vivaldi Browser Screenshot

The technical preview is pretty stable, but it’s obviously not ready to be a daily driver. Simple shortcuts like Ctrl+Enter are currently missing, and I did experience some stability issues. However, it already does enough to get me excited. It’s a refreshing new alternative, which can hopefully become what Opera once was.

[ Download Vivaldi Browser ]

Save Mobile Data on Android with Opera Max

Opera web browsers have long had the ability to speed up web surfing and conserve bandwidth by compressing web traffic. Opera Mini compresses all web traffic and serves a static representation of the web page, while Opera for Desktop and Android have an ‘Off-Road’ (previously Turbo) mode that can be enabled to turn on data compression. However, Android users can enjoy the same benefits without being tied down to Opera browser thanks to Opera Max.

Opera Max acts as a VPN, which reroutes all unencrypted traffic through its servers, where the data is first compressed and then sent to your Android smartphone. Opera Max is also the first product from the Norwegian browser developer to leverage SkyFire’s Rocket Optimizer technology. Opera had acquired SkyFire Labs in early 2013 for $155 million. Rocket Optimizer can compress nearly every streaming video, including YouTube videos, to realize data savings up to 60%. Additionally, Opera Max also compresses standard web traffic including text and images.

Opera Max – Data Compression Statistics

Getting started with Opera Max is pretty simple. After you download the app, you’ll be prompted to grant it permission to act as a VPN. There’s no configuration required beyond this. Opera Max will stay in the background and compress data used by various apps. It can’t compress everything. For example, streaming music as well as encrupted traffic aren’t compressed. However, you should be able to realize about 10% data savings during normal web surfing, and a lot more during video playback. It automatically disables itself when you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. Opera Max also acts as a pretty neat bandwidth monitor that gives you daily and monthly breakdowns of network bandwidth usage. You can select a app to view its history of data usage, and even prevent that app from using mobile data.

Opera Max – Prevent an App From Using Mobile Data

Opera Max is free to use, but it also has a Recharge tab. There isn’t much you can do other there, other than tapping a button to recharge Opera Max for free every seven days. Presumably, the recharge tab is there because Opera intends to switch to a freemium model later on.

Most people with smartphones are tied down by meagre data packs that are often not bigger than 1 GB. Even if Opera Max manages to save only a hundred megabytes per month, that will enable users to get several extra days’ worth of usage from their data packs. How useful Opera Max proves to be will depend on your internet usage habits. People who mainly use mobile data for streaming music on the go, won’t be able to realize significant benefits. However, if you watch a lot of videos or surf a lot, you might end up with significant savings. Over the past week, I’ve consumed 450 MB of data, out of which, more than 300 MB was file downloads and Spotify streaming that Opera can’t compress. For the remaining 150 MB of bandwidth usage, Opera managed to save 19 MB of data usage.

[ Download Opera Max ]

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.

Chromium Flavored Opera for Android Released

After spending a little over two months in the beta-zone, Opera for Android is now ready for prime time. The Norwegian browser maker has published the first stable version of Opera with Chromium rendering engine to the Play store.

Opera for Android is a major revamp for the popular mobile browser. Under the hood, it ditches Opera’s Presto engine in favor of Google’s Chromium rendering engine, which itself is based on WebKit. The biggest advantage of Opera for Android is that it supports Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and up. Chrome for Android on the other hand requires at least Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). This is crucial as almost 40% of Android users are still on Gingerbread. Opera also mentioned that it intends to “stay closely in sync with the Chromium development cycle, doing frequent updates”. This might indicate that Opera intends to move away from feature driven release cycles to schedule driven rapid release cycles like that of Chrome and Firefox. Google has already announced that it will be forking WebKit to create its own rendering engine called Blink, which Opera will also be adopting.

In addition to everything that Chromium 26 supports, Opera for Android also features some additional ‘standardsy goodness’ like WebGL 3D context and CSS3 @supports. Another new feature is background playback support for native HTML5 audio. You can start playing a song on Soundcloud, switch to a different tab or even a different app, and the audio will continue playing. You will be able to control the playback from the notification area.


Opera for Android also features a complete revamp of the user interface, which is now more in line with Android design guidelines. It adds a new speed dial with folder support, a discover feature with latest news and updates, a combined search and address bar, and an off road mode. Off road mode is the new name for Opera Turbo, which compresses web pages to save bandwidth and improve browsing speed on slower networks. Some of the major features that didn’t make it to this release include Opera Link (sync) integration, custom search provider support, and access to about://flags. Support for tablets like the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10 is also missing.

[ Download Opera for Android ]

Opera: Facebook Most Popular Website, Samsung Most Popular Smartphone Manufacturer in India [Infographic]

The latest edition of Opera’s State of the Mobile Web report is out, and this time the focus is squarely on India — Android users in India to be more specific. Android is making its presence felt in India thanks to the multitude of affordable Android smartphones, some of which available for less than $70. The availability of cheap smartphones, combined with the dearth of cheap and fast internet connection makes Indians the ideal demographic for Opera Mini, which reduces page load times as well as bandwidth consumption thanks to its compression technology. Unsurprisingly, India is home to the largest number of Opera Mini users in the world. Over the last year, Opera Mini users on smartphones in India increased by 136.6%, constituting 19% of the total Opera Mini users in India.

The most popular categories of websites in India are social networks, search, and cricket. About 21.7% of the data used by Opera Mini’s Android users in India is for Facebook, while Google used up about 5.8%, and ESPNCricinfo about 1.7%. However, Google remained the most popular website in India. Besides using Opera Mini for social networking, Indians were also searching for news and information, doing price comparison, and shopping online. Almost 50% of the top hundred domains visited by Opera Mini’s Android users belonged to these categories. The top ten websites were Google, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Cricbuzz, Indiatimes, Ask, Vuclip, and In.com.

When it comes to devices, the top ten list is dominated by budget handsets, with the record breaking Samsung Galaxy S III featuring as low as the 19th spot. All of the top nine handsets used by Opera Mini users were priced under Rs. 10,000 (about $186), with the Samsung Galaxy S II grabbing the tenth spot. The most popular Android smartphone among Opera Mini users were the Samsung Galaxy Y and the Samsung Galaxy U Duos. Samsung has clearly managed to corner the high volume low-end Android smartphone market. The only non-Samsung device to feature in the top ten is the HTC Explorer A310e, which is present at #8 in the list.

If the overdose of stats is putting you to sleep, here’s a neat infographic highlighting the key aspects of Opera’s report.


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.

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.