As many people know, when it comes to browsers, I have been a long and firm fan of Opera . It’s more than just fandom I have for Opera. It’s passion.
Yes, I’m using the word “passion” to describe my relationship with a web browser.
I first used Opera in its 4.x days. When Netscape and Internet Explorer were still 3.0, Opera had 4.0.
I didn’t use Opera regularly then — I was an Internet Explorer user, especially when 4.0 came out — but I kept it around. A new version would come out, I’d download it, and I’d use it every now and then, if only for a different “feel” to the World Wide Web.
By Opera 8 I was using it exclusively. By Opera 9 I was installing “pre-Alphas” and using it as my e-mail client.
I was an enthusiast. I was an evangelist. Opera!
Why, precisely, was I an Opera evangelist? Partly, as an Opera user I felt like I was part of an exclusive community. But mainly, it did a lot of things out of the box that I made use of. I used its Content Blocking feature to make ads go away. I used it as my email client and my RSS reader. I could use its custom CSS feature to make some websites (like, say, TrekBBS) look and behave the way I wanted them to. I used its developer tool, Opera Dragonfly, to help me with web coding and debugging.
I still use Opera every day.
Except the version of Opera I use is 12.17, the latest bugfix to a version of the software that was originally released, if you count the pre-Alpha, in 2011. In terms of features, this version of Opera has been fixed for over two years. The rendering engine isn’t updated. Its CSS3 implementation is incomplete. More and more websites don’t work with it.
Why have I stayed with this version of Opera? Because I don’t like the direction Opera has gone.
In February of 2013, Opera announced that they were abandoning the development of the Presto layout engine (the core of Opera 12.x and everything that came before) and would instead use WebKit, the same rendering engine used in Safari and Chrome.
I didn’t have any worry that Opera would be different with WebKit instead of Presto at its core. I trusted Opera. I knew that changing the engine at the core of the browser would be difficult, but in many cases it would be a matter of calling a WebKit function instead of a Presto function. I expected that when the WebKitted Opera came out, it would feel a little different, but it would still be Opera.
That summer, Opera 15 came out, powered by the Chrome architecture, and some very basic functions — bookmarks, e-mail and RSS client, notes, side panels, content blocking, even a dropdown address bar — were absent. Worse, the developers had no roadmap for reimplementing basic functions, such as bookmarks, and insisted that for most things Chrome extensions would suffice, completely missing the point of Opera, which was that it gave you the tools out of the box so the browser was ready to go and do powerful things, rather than make you go out and build a browser on a crippled skeleton. In short, Opera in its current iteration is Chrome with an Opera paint job.
Except for two bugfixes for security reasons, since Opera said they wouldn’t force anyone to upgrade to the 15.x branch because it was crippled in comparison to the browser users had grown to know and love, Opera 12.x is over and done. Every few weeks Opera trots out a new version of the browser, sometimes adding new features, sometimes removing features, sometimes upgrading the rendering engine to whatever version of Chromium was just released.
Jon von Tetzchner, the developer of the original Opera, who left the company he helped to found when it decided to chase the Chrome dragon, has released a tech preview of his new browser.
He called it Vivaldi.
The browser’s mission statement cheered my heart: “Fast forward to 2015, the browser we once loved has changed its direction. Sadly, it is no longer serving its community of users and contributors who helped build the browser in the first place. So we came to a natural conclusion: We must make a new browser.”
Suffice it to say, I downloaded the Vivaldi Browser tech demo, which is basically a pre-alpha.
I have been using this at home and at the office. I’ve made a blog post with it, I’ve posted to Facebook and Twitter with it, I’ve used the company’s CMS and retailer website with it. It has quirks, but that’s to be expected. It’s a tech demo.
To be frank, Vivaldi feels very old-school Opera-like. I got a visceral charge from using it. It feels like what I expected Opera 15 to be — Opera with Chrome under the hood.
I will be watching this project closely, especially once the email client is integrated. I hope it will be similar to M2, Opera’s old email client, because I really like the way that works. (It’s a unified inbox for your accounts, and you manage it through labels and filters.)
If Vivaldi pans out, I may finally be able to move on from Opera 12. 🙂