Home > Compatibility > How to convince websites to support Opera?

How to convince websites to support Opera?

June 15, 2006

At Microsoft’s TechEd conference at one of the session entitled “AJAX, ASP.Net and You: All About Microsoft Atlas”, the question of how important it is for Microsoft’s AJAX technologies (called Atlas) to be supported in browsers other than Internet Explorer (IE).

Most members in the audience said they needed to support IE and Firefox, and a large number said they also needed to be able to support the Safari and Mozilla browsers, according to eWeek.

“But only a relative few said they needed or cared about support for the Opera browser.”

One developer, who requested anonymity, told eWeek that Microsoft needs to pressure the browser makers to be more compatible. “This is the vehicle to make it happen,” he said of Atlas. “Let’s assume Opera has to adopt,” he said.

Another developer added: “If it’s important to get to Opera, you may have to do a little work for it.”

This brings up an interesting question. How far should web developers go to make sure their sites work in all browsers (in particular the smaller ones)?

Now, I’m aware that following Web Standards is the answer. But unfortunately not all browsers follow the Standards, which makes it difficult to write a fully complaint website.

Should web developers even care if their sites don’t work in the Opera browser, so long as they work in Internet Explorer and Firefox?

As Opera users of course we’d like the answer to be “yes”. But after all, how would you convince the web developer to spend the extra time on their sites to make it work in all browsers?

Not supporting the Opera browser means shutting out about 15 million users from their site.

While Opera doesn’t have a respectable share of the desktop browser market (yet), it does on mobile phones and devices. And since all of Opera’s browsers (desktop, mobile, Nintendo, and other devices) all use the same core browser components, not supporting Opera on the desktop, also means not supporting Opera on other devices, in which Opera has a commanding market share.

The web is changing in many ways. Although the desktop is still the primary method of accessing the web, mobile phones and other devices are becoming increasingly popular nowadays. Especially with Opera Mini, which allows you to access the web on mobile phones which would normally be incapable of running a browser, mobile browsing is at the fingertips of almost everyone.

It should be pointed out, however, that the issue of site-compatibility is becoming less of an problem for Opera, especially with upcoming Opera 9, but nonetheless the problem still exists.

Opera’s Hallvord Steen has written a nice piece for Opera Watch a little while ago, which examined how the Opera browser handles site compatibility issues.

What are your thoughts about this? And what arguments would you use to convince website developers to support the Opera browser too?

Categories: Compatibility
  1. June 15, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    “Coding to standards” is a naive assertion. All browsers have quirks and bugs that have nothing to do with web standards and Opera is no exception.

    But yes, I think Opera is important, how to convince other web developers – I guess start showing off some of the features of Opera like SVG, extended Canvas, HTML Audio, etc…

  2. Aussie
    June 15, 2006 at 11:54 pm

    In our business, we have a simple way of reviewing our site:
    1. IT guy uses Firefox
    2. Production guy uses Opera
    3. CEO uses Safari
    When we get feedback about problems, it’s always with IE! (And yes, we build to standards and check it with IE-even the iMac version!) It’s usually because they have something set wrong for their browser.
    As my old boss said: ‘You can’t train pelicans!!’

  3. June 16, 2006 at 12:01 am

    If you look at how any browser renders websites made in 2000, you’ll see that they all tend to work. Thats because all standards were integrated over time and tweaks shared amongst browser. When you think about new hardcore CSS or some Google’s Ajax you see that Opera doesn’t follow right away.

    I believe that over time Opera browser will get more coverage. Think about the Nintendo DS and Wii, they’ll both have the Opera browser, a smart website developper should consider this, more traffic equals more money, the extra time they spend on compatibility is little compared to the benefits.

  4. June 16, 2006 at 12:06 am

    I figure the biggest reason to support Opera—or anything else with millions of users—is that most people will not switch browsers just to visit your site. Sure, you can try to convince them that Browser X is better than Browser Y, but if you simply don’t let them in… well, there are a few zillion other pages they can go to without installing a new program on their machine (or switching back to one they stopped using on principle), and chances are one of them will offer them what they want.

    And while every browser has its own quirks, and supports a slightly different subset of the specs, Gecko, KHTML and Merlin (is that still the code name for the Opera 9 engine?) support a very similar subset. It’s not that hard to write something that will work in Firefox and Opera and Safari and IE7 unless you’re really going cutting edge (which, to be fair, is true of some of the really AJAX-intense web apps).

    On a related note, something I read a lot is that Opera (or Firefox, or Safari, or yada yada yada) “should be more tolerant of bad code.” The problem is, being “tolerant” of bad code isn’t enough. “Bad code” doesn’t just mean the author was lazy, it often means the author didn’t give you all the information, so you have to guess what he meant. Worse, you have to make the same guess as whatever browser the author used to test it. So Opera not only has to guess what the author meant, it has to guess whether the author tested in IE6, IE7, Firefox, Opera, or something else entirely—and it has to know what guess that browser would make under the same circumstances. It’s much simpler if the author is just clear about it in the first place, i.e. writes unambiguous code.

  5. Sam
    June 16, 2006 at 12:49 am

    if its supported in IE and Firefox (two totally different browsers), Opera developers should be the ones making the moves to support the unsupported websites, when changing user agents fail.

    Its not the case of websites supporting Opera, its for Opera supporting technologies used by the website.

  6. June 16, 2006 at 1:02 am

    Being web designer I usually start testing CSS or JavaScript with Opera because this browser usually more strict to standards…
    But generally I test my web pages simultaneously and continuously:
    – last versions of Opera, Firefox, Safari, iCab, IE
    – then previous versions of Opera, Firefox, Safari, IE
    After that kind of testing I aware almost about every kind of problem, so I fix the problem, and than continue coding.
    Also I catching many specific browser bugs while testing. 😉

    So, generally 2 rules:
    – Test your page in different browsers continuously and immediately fix problems.
    – Start testing and fixing from most standard compliant and strict browsers to less standard.

  7. Joel
    June 16, 2006 at 1:16 am

    Sam: maybe Opera should work to merge with other browsers on the bug-handling side where possible. Indeed, they spend a lot of time doing exactly that. But what needs to be done by developers is at least treat Opera like, say, Firefox, and not just block it from their services by default. Then, if testing fails, it can either be fixed or Opera could be blocked, but the first stage is to let Opera in!

    And Kelson, Merlin was never the name for the rendering engine- it was the code name for browser 9. The rendering engine we are using is still Presto.

  8. June 16, 2006 at 5:09 am

    It’s not so much convincing websites to support Opera, it’s convincing web developers to develop cross-browser sites.

    For example, the Atlas guys say that cross-browser support is important. Their actual code says differently. Specifically, Opera has problems because it doesn’t support the idea of property getters/setters. You see, there’s no standard defined for them, no documentation on how they should work. More importantly, you can do what programmers in C/C++ and Java do – define getter/setter methods (functions).

    IOW, there was no need for the Atlas guys to use property getters/setters. They could have used regular functions for that – a technique that would work in every JavaScript capable browser in existence.

    Personally, I can’t wait for the release of Opera 9. From 8 to 9 is as big a jump as from 6 to 7 was, in terms of web technology support. XSLT, the best DOM support, best CSS support, designMode/contentEditable support, and numerous annoyances fixed (iframe z-index, opacity). Sadly, other features like Webforms2, SVG, canvas won’t be important until MS supports them in IE (yes, I know there’s an SVG plugin).

    However, none of that helps while web developers insist on using cool, but browser specific techniques, instead of less exciting, but reliable cross-browser ones.

    We should also encourage web developers to raise their concerns on the Opera web forums. I’ve lost count of the number of sites with issues that could be resolved by changing literally one line of code. There are plenty of smart Opera folks there who can help them figure things out.

  9. June 16, 2006 at 5:16 am

    And if that wasn’t a long enough comment, here’s some more.

    The most important contributor to web site compatibility is not the browser – it’s the developer. The reason just about every web site works in IE is due to the hours and hours developers spend testing and fixing IE issues. They also spend a significant amount of time testing and fixing Mozilla/Firefox issues. Few spend any time testing with Opera, with the inevitable result of things breaking in Opera.

    It’s always the last browser tested that gets the bad rap. I was amused to read an email on a web design mailing list who tests in Firefox last, and was complaining about all the bugs and hassles Firefox give him!

  10. M
    June 16, 2006 at 6:11 am

    From my experience, if you write for Opera and test in Opera only, the end result will work 99% correctly in Gecko and KHTML-based browsers.

    But if you write for Gecko and don’t check with Opera and KHTML until it’s done, the bar will be ar 90%.

    Of course, IE will always be around the 30% mark 😉

    Opera is the most standards-compliant and least-forgiving of all browsers/rendering engines. I’m not sure if that’s a curse or a blessing.

    But there’s another thing: Opera is missing a true web developer toolbar (yes, I know about that one) and a real JS debugger. You can’t expect people to test in your browser if you fail to provide meaningful tools. The time they spent on crappy widgets, which almost nobody will use, could have been better spent on adding rudimentary extension support.

    Opera is also losing the battle (no pun intended) in online browser-based games, most of which allow people to apply their own skin packs. Impossible in Opera, because it restricts access to local images from UserCSS. Why?!

    Heard of Hattrick? It’s an online football manager game with roughly 800.000 users. I bet at least 100.000, if not more, have switched to Firefox from other browsers (including Opera) just because of a very neat and powerful 3rd-party extension.

    So there you have it Opera – you could have had tens of thousands more users with extension support instead of crappy and useless widgets.

  11. kL
    June 16, 2006 at 8:41 am

    First convince them not to do stupid things like blocking unsupported browsers. If site doesn’t work because of Opera’s bug, chances are that this bug will be fixed in next version.

    In countries where Opera has 0.1% market share it’s really hard to convince anyone to practicularily support Opera… :/
    I’d rather explain that they should code properly and avoid outdated/broken methods and properties – this doesn’t only decrease chances of breaking site in Opera, but usually also makes code more future-compatible, clean and reliable.

  12. kL
    June 16, 2006 at 8:43 am

    “You can’t expect people to test in your browser if you fail to provide meaningful tools.”

    Oh, that’s so true. Current error console is awkward and annoying. You can’t even customize/hack it anymore.

  13. EC
    June 16, 2006 at 9:33 am

    And since all of Opera’s browsers (desktop, mobile, Nintendo, and other devices) all use the same core browser components, not supporting Opera on the desktop, also means not supporting Opera on other devices, in which Opera has a commanding market share.

    Saying that Opera dominates the mobile etc market is an understatement – but that does not necessarily mean anything to your common developer.

    Generally speaking, the mobile site will look different than one’s regular web site. For starters, the screen is much smaller. A site might specify a different css stylesheet altogether for a mobile phone to render, rather than the default stylesheet.

    So, just because a site doesn’t work on the desktop doesn’t mean that its not committed to working on the mobile phone or any other portable device.

  14. Remmers
    June 16, 2006 at 10:38 am

    “Its not the case of websites supporting Opera, its for Opera supporting technologies used by the website.”

    That’s a silly thing to say. Both sites and browsers shuld follow the standards. It is not up to the browser to adapt to sites.

    Of course, browsers do have to adapt today because the web is full of incompetent fools making sites, but that’s besides the point. This situation is far from ideal.

  15. Søren Løvborg
    June 16, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    Web-designers need to learn that less is more.

    If whatever feature is difficult to implement in a browser-independent manner, don’t use it.

    If your application absolutely requires AJAX and DHTML, you’re working with the wrong medium. Do it in Java instead.

    It’ll save you both the time and money that’d otherwise be spent debugging obscure problems, recovering from XSS attacks and closing those security holes that seem to pop up everytime someone tries to make HTML do stuff it wasn’t designed for.

    In other words, KISS.

  16. June 16, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    It is not just an issue of web designers and developers supporting Opera, which used to include Firefox and Safari, but part of a larger issue in thinking and training. Theory is not emphasis as expect since web designing and developing borrow from graphic design, computer science, philosophy, psychology, and so on. Look at the books for Javascript, do they talk about what exactly a prototype language is? Is there a conversation about evolution, past and future, of the web?

    Maybe if the developers were aware of theoretically ideals, although unreachable with any browser, they would develop for capable and widely used browsers alike. If they know the workings of Opera, Firefox, Safari, IE, KHTML, then statements of Opera should be hounded to work like IE might be replaced with: “Firefox does a better job than Opera for the ideal A but Opera is much better at the ideal B.”

  17. Stahn
    June 16, 2006 at 9:22 pm

    IMHO, Opera ASA needs to start an extremely aggresive marketing campaign.
    It’s the only way, sadly…

  18. Stahn
    June 16, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    If your application absolutely requires AJAX and DHTML, you’re working with the wrong medium. Do it in Java instead.

    LOL. Just LOL.
    I don’t have Java, I won’t download it for just using a site.

  19. Søren Løvborg
    June 17, 2006 at 7:43 am

    Allow me clarify:

    My point was that if you really think you can’t get it to work using simple, standardized and widely supported web technologies, either think again, or don’t make it a web application at all.

    With “Do it in Java”, I meant a standalone Java application, not an applet. Feel free to replace “Java” with your platform-independent language of choice.

  20. sc
    June 18, 2006 at 6:22 am

    “We should also encourage web developers to raise their concerns on the Opera web forums. I’ve lost count of the number of sites with issues that could be resolved by changing literally one line of code. There are plenty of smart Opera folks there who can help them figure things out.”

    I found that one of the approaches that work best is to find the error, get the solution, and then contact the web developer to show him how a little change can dramatically improve the web experience for quite a few users.

  21. Grah
    June 25, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    Actually, convincing them to be standards compliant is the right thing imho. If there are issues in the browsers, try to find a clean solution that won’t break any other browser. That’s only ‘normal’ sites though.

    Regarding AJAX (the new buzzword, in the past it was DHTML) I think java applets aren’t the worst thing to do. After all, java applets are ‘cool’, just like Internet Explorer seems to be ‘cool’. And imho it’s much cleaner than tinkling around with some crap of markup or script.

    Generally speaking, if people use javascript object detection and only apply standards compliant markup and stylesheets, it should work in any browser. Regarding style&markup there’s nearly always a standards-compliant solution. And in javascript there are almost always alternatives for every browser.

    The work on a website can be decreased simply by coding in standards in the first place, testing in Opera and using the error console. As mentioned before by others, in most (99%) cases this will work in all other browsers (except IE, surprise). There are some things that need to be cured (default browser stylesheets that need to be overruled; e.g. border=”1″ on img elements in FF and IE), but once you’ve done that a few times it’s routine. You can even include a special stylesheet only serving the purpose of overruling some rules which you can spread across websites.
    Creating a seperate stylesheet for IE for websites seems to be the most sensible thing for me atm.

    [you see the acronym above mis-rendered in uppercase (I think) in Opera 9? That’s no error, it’s simply a design decission becoming manifest in the default browser stylesheet]

    I don’t know what to do against ignorant minds that should not be called ‘web devs’. I’ve even encountered some idiot webmaster that was too lazy to fix a bug where he forgot to note down several table start-tags. First he said “he doesn’t have time”; when I sent him cleaned-up code he replied “he will do it sometime” and till now he hasn’t fixet it. There are idiots out there harming our dear pet web. Go figure.

    I believe the only thing end-users can do about it is advocating for alternative browsers. Web developers can help by doing cross-browser standards-compliant sites. Browser vendors should help by spreading their browsers and making them consequently more strict (I especially want Firefox to go this route … once it is stricter in handling websites, websites will more likely work in other browsers).
    That means: An advertising campaign for Opera is highly necessary. And Mozilla people should start doing original work instead of just copying IE.
    I know they can do it; they just have objections I can’t really understand or support. This should change.

  22. sridevi
    November 21, 2006 at 4:23 am

    I have developed a web application in java and it’s working fine in IE and the webpage is not properly displaying in Mozilla Firefox?

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