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Opera 11 will feature extensions -- a first for Opera. Extensions were the one remaining clear-cut advantage Firefox held over Opera, which beats it in speed.  (Source: ABC)

A souped up version of Opera Mobile is also headed for Android.  (Source: Opera)
Opera has delivered a bunch of exciting news for its fans and new users alike

Norwegian browser maker Opera may not be quite a (North American) household name yet, but it has had a significant influence on pushing web standards and new browser technologies (i.e. tabs), thus affecting even those using good old-fashioned Internet Explorer.

Opera's Biggest Past Obstacle -- Lack of Extensions

One perpetual criticism of Opera's browser for personal computers is its lack of extensions.  While Opera beats Mozilla in speed and offers some unique features, many consider Mozilla's extensions -- like ad blocking -- too valuable to make the switch.

This common sentiment is summed up by DailyTech commenter omnicronx, who complains, "FF was built as an extendable platform, it was designed that way. That being said, while Opera may include those features, they are definitely lacking compared to Firefox extensions."

But Opera spokesperson Thomas Ford tells us that Opera 11, the company's next upcoming major release, will fully support extensions for the first time.  Much like Chrome, which recently added extensions, this new addition will take time to mature, so don't expect a full stable of extensions like Mozilla's right out of the gate.

Why Extensions?

Many users of rival browsers often think Opera "lacks" certain features, available in Mozilla and other browsers via extensions.  Much of that lack may merely be in perception.  Opera is packed with features, but many are hidden and require you to learn and read tutorials in order to full use them (e.g. the browser has built in ad-blocking, something most don't know).  In this sense Opera hand's the user a very full box of tools, but the average users doesn't know what's in the box. 

With an extensions system the user actively picks up tools and adds them to the box.  As they're doing this, they typically learn how to use these new features.  Thus the user knows how to fully use more useful browser features -- the optimal situation.

Now Opera is finally implementing the latter approach.

Chrome and Opera share many similarities.  Both have a relatively clean interface and both commonly vie for the number one spot in speed.  Chrome's market share has almost doubled from 6.04 percent to 11.54 percent since it adopted extensions in January, according to market analytics firm StatCounter.  Of course, part of this is due to Google's distribution channels, which are second to none on the market except Microsoft's (who publishes the market share leading Internet Explorer).  Nonetheless, extensions likely played a substantial role in these gains.

However, you can probably expect the most popular extensions with Firefox -- i.e., basic script and ad-blocking extensions -- to be available when Opera 11 is officially released.  Mr. Ford tells us that, "[Opera] will actively pursue contacting the developers of popular extensions."

We spoke with Arnstein Teigene, Product Manager of Desktop Add-ons at Opera.  He adds, "Anything you could do with injected Javascript like blocking other Javascripts or blocking flash, you could do out of the box [with the new extensions system]."

Thus it is expected that many of the most popular Firefox content-blocking extensions -- NoScript, etc. will likely come in full form to Opera.  Again, many of these extensions -- script-blocking, ad-blocking echo features already built into the browser. 

Mr. Teigene had a good sense of humor about this, quipping that the Opera team could perhaps turn many of the browser's features into extensions and that users would then enjoy them more fully.  While he may have meant the comment in jest, we actually believe that this is a very good idea for Opera to consider, based on the discoverability reasons outlined above which extensions provide.

Availability

Opera 11's first alpha build will launch to the public in the next couple weeks, at the latest, said its spokesperson.  That build will show up here.

Launching alongside it, with be Opera's extensions homepage, simply dubbed "Opera Extensions".  Mr. Teigene tells us that the company will post that link when the alpha launches. 

Details for developers will pop up here when the build goes live.

Security

An important difference to note from a technical standpoint is that Google and Opera similarly mix web language -- HTML5, CSS, JavaScript -- and corresponding extensions APIs to make their extension software.  This is a different approach from Firefox, which uses XUL (pronounced "zool") for most of its extension software (Mozilla also offers Jetpack, an experimental extensions framework similar to Opera and Chrome's).

Opera believes the web language-based approach is inherently more secure than XUL.  Mr. Teigene also assures users that every extension will be tested and cleared by Opera before it is published on the Opera Extensions catalog.  This should help with security and help avoid the kinds of issues that Mozilla has encountered with malicious extensions.

Mobile Platforms -- Android Gets Opera Mobile, iPhone Gets Upgraded Mini

Opera also spoke with us about mobile platforms.  Alongside the news of extensions, the browser maker announced that it would be releasing a beta of Opera Mobile for Google's Android operating system.  Android users currently only have access to Opera Mini.

Opera Mobile is a more robust browser than Opera Mini, supporting a fuller array of web standards.  This basically means that more pages will load and work on your phone like they would on a PC.  Opera Mobile offers full Javascript support, versus partial support in Opera Mini.  Opera Mobile is currently only available on Symbian and the soon-to-be-defunct Windows Mobile platform.  A leap to Android seems a logical next step, as it's the hottest player on the market.

The Android beta will be due out by the end of November.  Users can pick it up either on m.opera.com or the Android Market.

Another piece of good news is that Opera is going to update both its Mini and Mobile browsers to offer full pinch zoom on both the iPhone and Android.  Currently only two zoom levels are supported -- text zoom and page width zoom.  With the new option it should be easier to naturally navigate pages, much like you would with Apple and Google's respect built-in web browsers. 

But Opera's mobile browsers enjoy a distinct advantage over Google and Apple's mobile browsers in that they offer a mature compression technology that loads pages faster.  On the PC page loads have become fast enough that the average user somewhat takes them for granted, but on the smart phone load times are still a significant concern.

Opera's cross-platform support has helped it become the clear leader in mobile browser market share.  According to StatCounter Opera's browsers are by far the most used on the mobile market, accounting for almost 25 percent of the market, while Nokia, Apple, and Research in Motion (makers of the BlackBerry smart phone) are roughly tied in second place with around 17 percent market share.

Apple recently allowed Opera Mini into its "magical" kingdom, and the browser is now available on the App Store for use with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.  Opera has not announced whether it will port Opera Mobile to the iPhone, but this seems a likely possibility at some point, should Apple allow it (the Cupertino electronics firm might get spooked by the prospect of Opera's more full featured mobile browser competing with its mobile Safari browser).

Clearly Opera is doing much better in the mobile sphere than in the PC sphere, so it definitely is committed to maintaining this strong performance.

We asked Mr. Teigene if Opera extensions would be coming to Opera Mobile (as this is part of the appeal of Mozilla's Fennec browser, which is currently in beta on Android).  He said he had nothing to comment about that at present, but to watch Opera's page for future updates -- so we'll take that as "yes" Opera is going to do this, but "no" they don't want to show their hand on when.


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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

puff
By mfenn on 10/14/2010 9:34:34 PM , Rating: 1
Why does Jason always write these long ass Opera ads?




RE: puff
By Samus on 10/14/2010 10:19:01 PM , Rating: 2
lol.


RE: puff
By invidious on 10/14/2010 10:39:50 PM , Rating: 4
Because opera is good.


RE: puff
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/14/2010 11:00:39 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Opera ads


Ah, my mistake. I thought I was providing useful details on Opera's upcoming browser releases, which people would read if they were interested in them. But I now see that by not injecting a surplus of negativity into my article I was giving them free advertising.

Tell you what. Why don't you send me a quick memo reminding me to be more negative next time, so I don't forget. Email is on my user name link. :)

quote:

Why does Jason always write these long ass


My sincere apologies, that you found the article unapproachable. All that reading must have been a really miserable experience for you, eh? Next time I will endeavor to write something shorter... with smaller words... more at your speed, ya know?


RE: puff
By Anoxanmore on 10/15/2010 8:35:36 AM , Rating: 2
LOL <3


RE: puff
By Luticus on 10/15/2010 4:52:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Next time I will endeavor to write something shorter... with smaller words... more at your speed, ya know?


best... reply... ever...

Companies like this see pretty much all news media as free advertising. one of the best ways to remain successful in business is to stay in the news. i thought the article was informative and relevant and really, isn't that all that really matters?


RE: puff
By Amiga500 on 10/15/2010 2:43:39 AM , Rating: 1
Is it too long for your attention span?

OK, the whole site should start to dumb down its articles to a few lines so the lowest common denominator amongst the readers can read them from start to finish in one go.

Opera is good - as the no. 1 advocate of open standards, it deserves some article space (probably deserves a lot more than it gets to be honest).


RE: puff
By omnicronx on 10/15/2010 9:54:35 AM , Rating: 4
Is is not obvious?

Jason is taking kickbacks!

How do you think I got quoted?

P.S Jason, I hope you like your toaster!


RE: puff
By omnicronx on 10/15/2010 10:26:25 AM , Rating: 2
Really though, it was an informative article. If you want a paraphrased tech article meant for those that do not understand the underlying technology, there are plenty of sites around the net to fill your needs.

*points to cnet*

Its not like he is getting something out of it.


Ummm...
By Motoman on 10/14/2010 8:18:51 PM , Rating: 2
...how exactly is this different from Widgets, which have been around for quite a while now?

And yes...Opera has had a lot of such functionality for a long time...like ad-blocking. I find it odd that people would not bother to notice the features of the browser they're using.




RE: Ummm...
By FredEx on 10/15/2010 12:30:57 AM , Rating: 2
I have tried Opera at each new major release and always find it lacking flexibility in anything I'd like to tweak. Some things I like a lot about it, sure it has features, but they are no good to me if I can't adjust them to my liking. By going the extension route it will perhaps be possible for me to then get it tweaked how I want certain features to work...not how they think they should work.

I have no problems getting FF to do exactly what I want, through the use of extensions. Just like many others, until I can get that same flexibility in a better performing browser, I'm sticking with FF.


RE: Ummm...
By Motoman on 10/15/2010 9:40:04 AM , Rating: 2
Like what? I've never had the desire, ever, to "tweak" anything.


RE: Ummm...
By Zoomer on 10/15/2010 12:42:56 PM , Rating: 2
Many things can be changed in opera, down to context menu items. However, one major peeve I have is that its title and menu bars are a little too rigid.

Might this extensions crap is probably a disguised way to keep up with the speed race. By not having all these features in by default, it'll probably be a little bit faster. Of course, non-native support probably means it'll run a bit slower for real use.

IMO, firefox is not even a real competitor. It's better now, but still feels slow. And the n00b features are annoying. Chrome is good, but it makes too many assumptions instead of leaving them as OPTIONS for the user.


RE: Ummm...
By daydr3am3r on 10/15/2010 9:15:45 AM , Rating: 3
From the Opera website:

Widgets are Web applications running on your desktop. They are implemented using client-side Web technologies, and creating one is very much like creating a Web page, except that it is run in a slightly different context.

Extensions are usually enhancements to the core browser functionality.

E.g. :
A clock would be a widget
A tab colorizer would be an extension


Ummm...
By Motoman on 10/14/2010 8:18:55 PM , Rating: 2
...how exactly is this different from Widgets, which have been around for quite a while now?

And yes...Opera has had a lot of such functionality for a long time...like ad-blocking. I find it odd that people would not bother to notice the features of the browser they're using.




RE: Ummm...
By Fritzr on 10/15/2010 5:26:19 AM , Rating: 2
One of the reasons that I have stuck with Opera ever since I dropped Netscape has been the built in feature set. FireFox may be improving, but I have to locate and install apps which in turn are security risks in order to gain just the functions included in the base version of Opera.

I see no reason to give up a browser I've been using since the days FireFox was called Netscape's Mozilla Project in order to use a browser that requires me to go out and search for extensions to add the functions I use such as AdBlock.

I always grin when I see someone saying FF is better because AdBlock is not included in the browser. They are so proud that they need to go find and install an additional extension to use that feature :P


Opera has been good.
By ICBM on 10/14/2010 9:40:44 PM , Rating: 3
I have been using Opera for a number of years now, and I have never found a need for any extensions. I originally chose it because it seemed more lightweight than Firefox or IE. Release after release has been getting consistently better, and it is still incredibly light on the resources compared to the competition(not sure about Chrome). I hope they don't sacrifice that advantage for extensions.




What's up with all the negativity?
By bug77 on 10/15/2010 6:25:18 AM , Rating: 2
A good browser is about to get better. Why complain?




Opera
By mgilbert on 10/15/2010 8:13:44 AM , Rating: 2
I've tried Opera repeatedly over the years, and within a few minutes, I've always run across something on a website somewhere that didn't work as it should. And ad blocking is clumsy at best. I hope they get it right this time.




Finally.
By daydr3am3r on 10/15/2010 9:08:20 AM , Rating: 2
This is indeed exciting news and long overdue.

I really hate trying giving gravity to my personal opinion by saying how long I've been using Opera, FF and IE (and even elinks and lynx), but Opera is my choice for 80% of the web content.

With the exception of maybe Chrome (which however is slower from what I know compared to Opera, in synthetic benchmarks), Opera feels more responsive and snappy compared to either FF or IE, besides being a very fast renderer.

This is very important (at least for me), and it may not seem so, but when you work for 12+ hours a day connected to the Internet, productivity is lost, and frustration is building up when your browser of choice is not responding as fast as you want it to, not only loading pages but in its UI as well.

Only thing that kept me going back to FF was some of its great extensions, things that either were implemented clumsily (through javascript) or not at all in Opera.

Let's just hope though that the extensibility won't come at a cost of performance in Opera.




By smegz on 10/15/2010 1:03:24 PM , Rating: 2
Don't get me wrong, I love Opera. Loved it since it saved my web experience on WinMo phones. But the desktop version has never played nice with Comcast's mail system. The page just refuses to load regardless of what PC I am on (2 at home and 1 at work.) Fix this, and I will definitely give it another go...otherwise I'll stick with Firefox.




Opera Turbo
By Ptosio on 10/15/2010 3:04:09 PM , Rating: 2
"But Opera's mobile browsers enjoy a distinct advantage over Google and Apple's mobile browsers in that they offer a mature compression technology that loads pages faster. On the PC page loads have become fast enough that the average user somewhat takes them for granted, but on the smart phone load times are still a significant concern."

It hardly makes pages load faster (at least on Symbian) unless you're on the very shitty connection. It serves more as a trick to mninimise your bandwidth use and thus the bills. It also seems to make pages take up less space in the phones memory, allowing you to have more tabs open.

It's surely an usefull feature, but when you're on solid 3G or Wi_fi, pages actually tend to load faster with Turbo turned off.




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