With the Opera web-browser free since version 8.5 and now updated to version 9, it’s about time I took a second look at it. The last time I used Opera, the only alternative was Internet Explorer.
Opera has a lot of things going for it. It has pretty much the same features as competing browsers, it’s fast (faster than IE and Firefox), and the web rendering engine seems fair enough (meaning much better than that of IE).
On the downside, Opera suffers from feature creep and has done so since I can remember. Most of these extra features (notes, widgets, style-manager, mouse gestures) would have worked great as extensions – what Firefox is doing – but they’re bundled and enabled by default.
Another mistake is that the standard Opera installation uses a custom skin by default. Skinning applications is a huge usability mistake since users will have to learn a new interface. This move is especially saddening since the optional standard UI support is actually very good.
The bottom line is that Opera 9 appeals a lot to me, mostly due to the speed with which it launches and browses. It might not be enough for me to switch, but it is closer than ever. Unfortunately, Opera 9 will fail commercially until the developers realise that the default configuration should be unskinned, simple and easy.