28. May 2013

Last month, I was all excited because both Google and Opera had announced to work together on a new fork of the Webkit engine called Blink and I assumed that a new version of the Opera browser would be just like the old ones with the rendering engines switched out. Now Opera has released Opera Next 15, which is not exactly billed as a beta nor a preview, but as a kind of development version. It is the much anticipated first version of the desktop browser with the Blink engine, but unfortunately it turns out I was wrong with my assumptions because there isn’t much left from the previous versions.

[Update 3.6.: I now think that most of the worries expressed in this post are mostly unfounded… the first impression was simply wrong and based mainly on a misunderstanding that Opera Next 15 is a finished product. It is most definitively not and Opera has said in a posting today on Google+ that they are working on re-integrating many of the popular features. They also said that simply switching from Presto to Blink was impossible, because the user interface is too tightly interwoven with the user interface. They’re actively working on building up the new browser and they are listening to their users.]

But first the very good news: the Blink and V8 rendering engines are fast as blazes even on my old work notebook. I had been using Google Chrome for Google+ and Facebook in the last months because Opera’s old Presto engine was simply slower than Webkit in these cases. Opera Next 15 is still faster and seems to consume much less memory, making it a more streamlined and not so bulky version of Chrome – working with it on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and even in WordPress is very smooth compared to Opera 12. This is the one most impressive feature of Opera’s new version and there’s absolutely nothing to complain about the speed of the browser.

The bad news is that the user interface is actually just a clone of Chrome – there is absolutely nothing left from Opera 12. This has produced a huge backlash on the social media sites like the Google+ announcement and even on their own blog posting there is a lot of understandable anger. While this version is clearly labeled as a development build, removing everything that made Opera great before – the bookmark system, the sidebars, the high customizability, the download manager and many other things – is shocking to say the least. There isn’t even a proper bookmark system, the user interface is not customizable and the preferences are only a shadow of the previous version. I really hope that this release is really meant only as a demo for the new rendering engine, otherwise Opera will become totally redundant by just becoming Chrome with an Opera logo on it.

The problem here is that Opera is not very communicative about the new version – if they would have said that it is just a test version to show the engine, it would have been okay. But this version, while impressively fast and really usable as a browser itself, completely lacks the individuality of an Opera browser. I can see the need to build up a new user interface after all that time and the first steps are okay, but if this is an indicator of a finished product, Opera has got a huge problem. I hope that the developers will come to their senses and put all the great features of the previous versions back into Opera 15 – otherwise many people will have to stay with version 12 and just use 15 or even Chrome as a secondary browser.

I have actually switched from Google Chrome to Opera Next for some resource-intensive sites, but Opera 12 stays as my main browser until I can import my bookmarks into 15 and at least the most important features of the older versions are implemented again. I’m not giving up on Opera, but I’m a bit worried about the direction this could be heading.

Kategorie: WWW
Write a Comment