Archive for January, 2005

An Interview with Opera

January 30, 2005 5 comments

With the recent release of Opera 8.0 beta 1, Opera Watch had an email interview with Berit Hanson of Opera Software ASA. Since the interview covered a wide range of topics, Berit gathered the opinions from several individuals from around the company and formulated one answer.

Opera Watch: With the recent surge in Firefox some people are saying the browser wars are reemerging, do you believe it?

Opera: Yes, there has definitely been an increase in the attention given to browsers lately. Mozilla has been successful in launching Firefox and with that, more attention has been given to alternative browsers in general. In 2004 many security problems associated with using IE were revealed and as a result more and more people are aware of safer alternatives for surfing the Web.

Opera Watch: Speaking about Firefox, how does Opera feel about its recent success? And how can Opera emulate it?

Opera: In general, attention given to alternative browsers is a good thing for us. We have not experienced a decrease in downloads, quite the contrary actually. We simply want people to be aware of what a browser is and that there are options other than IE. Mozilla and Opera are both working hard to accomplish these goals.

It’s really not about which is a better product, but which is a better product for each individual user. It’s good for people to have choice. At the end of the day, we’re not fighting Mozilla – that’s important to point out. We are both offering a better experience for IE users, and it is healthy to have competition.

Comparing Opera and Firefox is like comparing apples and oranges, in a sense, as they are very different products. Let me also say that I think Firefox is a nice looking browser, and it works nicely for its use. However, it is a very browser that lets you do the most basic things without really offering new functionality. If you want more features you have to download extensions, which makes the browser anything but small, plus you really don’t know who made the extensions and if they are what they say they are.

Opera Watch: What do you make of the recent rumors about Google entering the browser market? and how would this affect Opera?

Opera: This is still only speculation…and we don’t want to further speculate and fuel the rumors.

Opera Watch: What, in your mind, makes users decide to use one browser over another? And if you were to convince someone to use Opera, what would be your argument?

Opera: Opera comes fully loaded with the widest range of handy features already integrated, and it is still less than 4MB in size thanks to our tight and efficient code. At Opera we believe that the Internet is a virtual world in which you move about and want to do certain things, like searching, browsing, e-mailing, etc. Our answer is to develop *the* application that lets you do all of these things as safe, fast, and efficiently as possible. You shouldn’t be forced to use many different applications – for example one browser, one email client, one RSS client, one chat client, and so forth – to meet your different needs while on the Internet. We think of Opera as a swiss army knife, or a leatherman multi-tool for the Web – it is light, handy, and has a wide range of tools that make your life easier. Firefox is a basic tool kit, and when you add on functionality to match the level of functions you have in Opera, you’re lugging a big, heavy, tool box around.

When downloading Opera, you can start with a basic setup to ease you into using the different tools.

Plus, an Opera user benefits from:

* Professional support, meaning actual interaction with a professional Opera support technician

* Constant innovation and development/improvement to the browser, as Opera is a business and depends on innovation and satisfying its users to stay alive. Initial success is one thing, but remaining committed to a product, establishing your product as reliable and garnering loyal users requires time as well as proven accountability and stability in the product.

It’s also interesting to note that Opera invented many of the features which other browsers are now copying, like tabbed browsing (multiple document interface), pop-up blocking, and mouse gestures.

Opera Watch: Are there plans in the future to open source either parts of or the entire codebase, of any products made by Opera Software? Would it be beneficial to the users or developers?

Opera: No current plans.

Opera Watch: What are your thoughts on the future of browsers and browser-based applications? Where do you see Opera, the Web, and the Internet 5 years from now?

Opera: The Opera browser has been in the market for 10 years. We were the first browser to offer tabbed browsing, saved sessions and pop-up blocking. In our opinion, we’ve survived as a player in the market for the past 10 years, consistently offering Internet users the best Web browser available. We are committed to constant innovation and improvement of our product and we will continue to remain one step ahead and offer users the best product available. We had more than 20 million downloads last year alone, and we have been part of that growing market for 10 years.

As you know, we’ve recently integrated Voice technology into the newest version of the browser. That in itself might say something about Opera’s vision of the future. As the Web becomes increasingly more pervasive, the ways in which it is used may not always allow for a “hand-on” experience, so to speak. The Web may be evolving into more of a hands-free experience, allowing for Internet use from the dash on your car to the airplane seat to your TV. The possibilities are endless.

We see a future where anything that has a display should have a browser – not necessarily to browse the Web but as a presentation engine. Using Web technologies for creating menu systems for everything from copy machines to interactive TVs reduces the costs dramatically and increases the possibilities.

Opera Watch: How does Opera, a commercial product, manage to compete with multiple free alternatives? What makes Opera different from its free competitors such as Mozilla and Internet Explorer?

Opera: See answer to question #4.

Opera Watch: What kind of relationship does Opera maintain with other competitors such as Microsoft, Apple, and the Mozilla Foundation? Does Opera Software find Microsoft to be cooperative in regards to making Opera work under Windows?

Opera: We have had a satisfactory relationship with Microsoft and have been treated as any other third-party vendor on the MS platform. We work together with Apple and Mozilla Foundation at times, for instance with the new plug-in API.

Opera Watch: Have you ever been approached by Microsoft or any other major company with an offer to purchase your company or your products?

Opera: Yes, we have been approached by major companies but Opera’s CEO, Jon von Tetzchner, has always declined the offers, no matter the dollar size, and maintained his commitment to offering the best Internet experience to everyone on any device.

Opera Watch: In version 8 beta of Opera, you introduced support for the XmlHttpRequest object, made famous by Gmail. Considering that it is not part of any standard, why did Opera decide to implement it? What are your thoughts in general on features not based on public standards?

Opera: In Opera’s case the support for XMLHttpRequest was built on top of our (pioneering) support for the W3C recommendation Dom Level 3 Load and Save. XMLHttpRequest is offered for backwards compatibility with existing Web sites.

XMLHttpRequest started as a proprietary extension to MSIE, then added to Mozilla but with a slightly different initialization since Mozilla didn’t support Active-X.

Opera supports both ways of initiating the XMLHttpRequest object, but we DO NOT SUPPORT Active-X, it just looks that way for the Web application, so we can work with existing Web pages written for MSIE. Active-X is not used internally, so yo
u are not exposed to any of the typical risks with Active-X.

Opera Watch: It has been noted that the Linux and Mac versions of Opera are usually released way after the Windows one, why is it so?

Opera: This has not been the case with the 7.5 releases, where all versions have been released more or less simultaneously, although Beta versions of the other OSs sometimes come out later than on Windows. We work hard to ensure all OS versions are released simultaneously.

Opera Watch: How many people of Opera Software work on Opera’s desktop browser?

Opera: We have a total of approximately 130 developers who work on all product lines, not solely desktop.

Opera Watch: Opera plans on changing the browser name for the next version release, why? And why is Opera withholding the name until its release?

Opera: We were preparing for the 7.60 release, but as work progressed and we kept adding improvements and functionality, it became very evident that we now have a browser that is so powerful, secure, and easy to use that it exceeds the next logical version number and warrants a major release.

Some of the improvements are visible in the UI and as new features, but some of the improvements are under the hood in terms of coding, page handling and security. Calling it Opera 7.60 simply does not do it justice.

As for withholding the name, we simply thought it would be natural to announce the name of the browser once it is finished and released to the public.

Opera Watch: What are Opera’s plans for the WHAT WG? Is there any timeframe on implementation? Is Opera planning on bringing the completed product to a standards body such as the W3C?

Opera: No comment on timeframe of implementation.

Citing “Many of the members of this working group are active supporters and members of W3C and other standardization bodies. We plan to submit our work for standardization to a standards body when it has reached an appropriate level of maturity. The current focus is rapid, open development and iteration to reach that level.”

Opera Watch: Microsoft’s upcoming Longhorn OS is rumored to contain a new XML API for web-based applications. Does Opera plan on supporting this API?

Opera: No current plans to support XAML.

Opera Watch: Are there any plans to support Mozilla’s XUL API? If not, why?

Opera: No current plans to support XUL. Opera for desktop is built on top of our own cross-platform “Quick” GUI tool kit , where Mozilla/Firefox uses their XUL.

Opera Watch: The Opera Mobile browser provides support for a wide variety of devices and operating systems. However, one noticeable absent operating system is Palm OS. Has Opera Software considered or plan on porting the browser to the Palm OS platform including the very popular Treo series made by Palm One? Are there any specific reasons as to why Opera will or will not port to Palm OS?

Opera: Opera Software continuously considers new platforms based on market demand. There are no specific reasons why we shouldn’t be able to port to Palm OS if there was sufficient demand – typically from a device vendor.

[Yakov, thanks for your input.]

Categories: Uncategorized

More Google Browser Speculation

January 26, 2005 4 comments

A second key Mozilla developer, Darin Fisher, has joined Google Inc; further igniting rumors about Google’s entrance into the browser market.

This follows the announcement of just a few days ago by Firefox’s lead engineer, Ben Goodger, of his hiring by Google.

Rumors have it that Google will join forces with Mozilla. The Mozilla Community will develop the core functionality of the browser while Google will develop its interface to make it more user friendly. Google would be able to integrate Gmail and Google Desktop as well as their other products and services in such a browser.

On a side note, the Mozilla Developer Day 2004 was held at a Google campus.

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Wired: Opera, the Forgotten Browser

January 26, 2005 2 comments

Wired has an article entitled Opera, the Forgotten Browser. Focusing on Opera’s place in the browser market with the recent Firefox craze.

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MSN targeting Opera again

January 19, 2005 4 comments

In the latest feud between Microsoft and Opera, it seems that Microsoft is now targeting Opera users on its MSN Personals site, by distorting the page content.

This only occurs when the Opera browser identifies itself as Opera, however, when identifying as Internet Explorer, it works fine, of course. (To change the identity (User Agent) of the browser, press {F12} and click on “Identify as …”.) It works fine in Mozilla and firefox.

MSN, apparently, looks for the word “Opera” in the User-Agent and purposely sends it a style sheet which distorts the pages.

The conflict between Opera and MSN dates back to 2001, when Microsoft rewrote MSN in such a way that Opera could not access the site.

Opera responded with a tweak on its Opera 7 browser that turns Microsoft’s MSN Web site into gibberish that was inspired by the Swedish Chef from “The Muppet Show” (Screenshot).

Categories: Uncategorized

Education community embraces Opera's free site license: More Than 500 Schools Respond

January 18, 2005 2 comments

Within hours of announcing the free Opera site license for higher education institutions, hundreds of schools responded. Though only a few days have passed since the announcement, more than 500 universities and colleges are on the way to deploying the Opera browser on school-owned computers.

Opera has offered free site licenses to primary and secondary schools, Web design schools and organizations for the physically disabled since 2002. Until now, higher education schools were subject to fees for an ad-free version of the browser. Now all schools receive the ad-free version free of charge on any school-owned machine.

Schools that have opted for the free license include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, Oxford University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Duke University.

The Opera browser is fully customizable depending on each school’s particular needs. For example, a university can use its school colors and mascot in the design of the browser’s buttons, backgrounds and borders comprising the user interface. The Opera browser also features a communication banner where the school can insert news or other announcements for its students. This feature can be used as a line of communication between the school and its students.

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New Opera Watch Feed – Update Your Subscription

January 17, 2005 Comments off

The feed URL for this blog has recently been changed. Please update your newsreaders/aggregators to use the new feed URL.

The new feed URL is:

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Opera 7.54u1 "data:" URI Handler Spoofing Vulnerability

January 14, 2005 Comments off

A flaw has been discovered in Opera 7.54u1, which can be exploited by malicious people to trick users into executing malicious files.

The vulnerability is caused by an error in the way that Opera processes “data:” URIs, and can allow incorrect information to appear in a download dialogue, thus tricking a user into downloading something that appears to be harmless.

The vulnerability has been confirmed on version 7.54u1 for Windows. Other versions may also be affected.

Secunia is advising for the time being that users do not open files from sources they do not trust.

There is no word from Opera as to when a fix may be available.

(via IT VIBE)

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