Hard to believe Opera has been around for 15 years. It’s only 14 since its first release, but 15 years ago two programmers started the project that became the Opera web browser.
I’ve been using Opera off and on for about 10 years. I think it was 1999 when a classmate showed me Opera 3.6, and how fast and small it was. (This was back when the installer fit on a floppy disk — and back when that actually made a difference.) I’ve followed it as they expanded from Windows onto Mac and Linux, onto high-end cell phones with Opera Mobile, and finally onto every Java-capable phone with Opera Mini. I’ve watched as they went from trialware to ad-supported to freeware business models. And while the desktop browser is no longer the speed demon it used to be, it’s been a consistent innovator in terms of both browser features and web capabilities.
So I’d just like to say: Happy 15th birthday, Opera! Just think, in a year, you’ll be old enough to drive!*
*In California, anyway. I think in Norway the driving age is 18.
Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 yesterday, for Windows XP and Vista. So if you’re still running IE6, or someone you know is, it’s once again time to think about upgrading — or switching. (Assuming, of course, that you’re not locked in by corporate policy or another piece of software.)
- IE6 is now two versions behind the current release.
- IE6 is almost 8 years old (it was released in 2001).
- IE6 is lacking in many capabilities that all other modern web browsers have, in web technology, in security, and in features you can use.
You can read a review at Wired, a write-up from the IE team, or a summary of technical changes from WaSP.
Of course, Internet Explorer isn’t the only option out there. There’s Opera, Firefox, Chrome and a host of other alternative browsers that are worth checking out.
If you’re still running Windows 2000 or some other old version of Windows that can’t run IE7 or IE8, I’d absolutely recommend Firefox or Opera. Either will be much better than IE6, both will run on Windows 2000, and Opera will even run on Windows Me and Windows 98 (but you really ought to move to something more current than Windows Me.)
Now there’s timing: Just two days after I bought a G1, Opera has released a beta of Opera Mini for the Android platform. You can find it in the Communications section of the Android Marketplace. Amazingly enough, on its first day out, it’s already #2 by popularity.
For the most part I’m happy with the built-in browser, except as I mentioned for sites that don’t translate well to the small screen. Sometimes panning & zooming isn’t the best solution, but that’s the only solution on the default browser as near as I can tell. Opera Mini gives you the option of choosing a “Mobile view” which will reformat the page.
It’s a bit rough around the edges (but then it is still a beta). In particular, the touch screen sometimes works for following links, and sometimes I have to use the track ball. Also text entry is a bit inconsistent: when you navigate to a URL, you can finish by hitting Enter, but when you fill in a single-line form field (say, a username), Enter takes you to a new line. You have to hit the Menu button to get an OK/Cancel dialog. And passwords remain completely visible, rather than obfuscating to dots one character at a time.
Of course it’s always good to have alternatives, plus it’s got the mobile display option and it’s blazing fast. It was designed to deliver performance over slower networks, after all (by compressing the heck out of everything at a proxy), so on the 3G network it just screams.
Yes, Opera 9.5 is now available, beating Firefox 3 by just 5 days! Highlights include:
- Opera Link synchronizes your bookmarks, Speed Dial, and notes between Opera on different computers, and even links to Opera Mini on your phone!
- Enhanced address bar searches your entire browsing history, including the contents of each page.
- Security enhancements: malware protection, improved fraud protection, and support for Extended Validation SSL Certificates
- New rendering engine with improved site compatibility and performance.
- Opera Dragonfly, the long-awaited tools for web developers.
- New theme inspired by Scandinavian design.
(List re-used from my Opera Watch post on the then-imminent release.)
With the Firefox 3 release imminent, Opera Software has just announced a release candidate for Opera 9.5, “arriving very soon.”
Neither browser has announced a definite release date (though Mozilla has stated Firefox 3 will launch in “late June”), but both are in the final stages. Update: Mozilla has announced a release date of June 17.
Update 2: Opera wins with a June 12 release.