Opera Strives for a Bigger Chuck of the American Market

By Natania Barron
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

We hear a lot about Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. And of course, there’s been recent buzz about Google’s Chrome. But few Americans outside web design and IT have ever heard about Opera, a browser that is far more popular globally than you might expect. In fact, Opera 10 released last week with over 10 million downloads.

And according to a recent BBC article, even Chrome has surpassed Opera in the US, after being on the market for little less than a year (some fun stats here). From the article:

In terms of pure numbers… Opera has 40 million users on desktops, 30 million on mobile phones and the rest on other devices like Nintendo Wii and DS gaming systems.

The article goes on to speculate that Americans, who are rather accustomed to the glitz and glamor of marketing, just haven’t gotten the message about Opera. But apparently it’s been around since 1994, which is practically ancient in internet years, and has survived where browsers like Netscape have not (or at least not directly.) I can’t recall ever seeing Opera advertised anywhere, so maybe that is part of it. Still, Firefox and Google aren’t huge direct advertisers, either.

I know I’m personally attached to Firefox, and the only time I used Opera–over a year ago–was to see if I could get it to mimic an older version of Internet Explorer to get around a particular site’s requirements (being a Mac user occasionally has its downsides… but if the downside is not being able to use IE, I’m okay with that). While I didn’t mind the browser, it certainly didn’t strike me as any more powerful or sleek as Firefox. I wasn’t blown away by it, but I wasn’t turned off either. It worked, it was pretty; still, I went back to Firefox.

But yet, clearly, millions of users around the world prefer Opera, so maybe I’m the one missing something.

Any Opera users out there who’d like to weigh in? Should I give Opera another chance?


11 Responses to Opera Strives for a Bigger Chuck of the American Market

  1. I have been using Opera since 2000 (I think it was the first browser to use tabs and mouse gestures). While I agree that it doesn't blow away any other browser, it does have its advantages. It is less glitchy than IE or FF, while still maintaining a high security threshold. It is faster to load and (using the Turbo) feature is the fastest for surfing.

    I use FF for general browsing (because of all the cool add-ons), Opera for anything secure (because I believe it to be the most secure for online business) and IE only if the site I am trying to access demands it. I never use Chrome, but have installed it on my mom's computer because of its simplicity (read – "Less things to mess around with and break.")

  2. I have been using the PalmOS microbrowser from Opera. Setup was a pain because I had to track down and locate an obsolete run-time kernel, install it on my Tungsten-C, and hope it didn't crash the entire Palm.

    However, once I got it working I found it to be the best handheld web browser I have seen (it beats the Berry browser hands-down). Performance on my Wi-Fi only device is acceptable, and even advanced pages with CSS render well.

  3. Opera Mini 5, currently in beta for modern touchscreen phones is brilliant. I have it on my Nokia N97 and it's far far superior to the built-in browser. Very quick loading desktop style pages, nice touch "finger friendly" interface. It's definitely worth a try if you've got a device it'll work on. Installation was easy from m.opera.com/next

    As for their desktop version, meh. I don't like it. Also very much a Firefox guy.

  4. I use Opera a fair amount. It doesn't get along with my adblocker, or I'd use it more. I mostly use Chrome right now. I like FF, but the add-ons to make it more functional really add to the memory usage, and on my current computer, that's a problem. Once i upgrade (a few weeks away), FF will once again become my primary browser, followed by Opera/Chrome (well, that's the plan, anyway), at least until I find an adblocker the works with Opera better.

    As for the reason Opera seems left behind in the US, my guess is that most people are familiar with IE and FF and see no reason change and take the time to learn to use a new browser as effectively as they use their current one. Almost everybody knows about IE and FF already, and there's been a lot of talk online about the fairly new Chrome, but Opera is often left out of these discussions. Many people simply don't know about it. And sadly, once they do, there's nothing really big to encourage a switch. To compare these to cars, IE would be a Ford Taurus; it's been around for a while, it gets the job done, but the only people that still use it are the ones that really know it and don't want to use something new. FF would be a Honda Civic; starts pretty boring, but you can tune it any way you want with aftermarket parts.It is, in essence a Toyota Corolla. Chrome is like a Prius; new ideas and technology, and an increasingly trendy pick for its efficiency. Opera, sadly, is any minivan; it'll get you from A to B, do it safely, reliably, and fairly efficiently, but they only time it stands out is when somebody is pointing and laughing because you didn't get something trendier or sportier.

  5. I just switched to Opera on the Mac recently, just shortly after Opera 10 launched. I've been a great fan of Firefox's add-ons but not a great fan of it's memory usage. Opera on the other hand doesn't have the same extensibility as Firefox does, but manages to have a lot of features that I use over at firefox. Among the things available at Opera 10 that I like the most are:

    DragonFly – counterpart to Firefox's Firebug. It's built in nicely into Opera 10

    Remappable shortcut keys – you can download a scheme that maps Opera shortcuts so that it's similar to emacs

    Good download manager – from time to time, I even use it to download torrents

    What I miss from using firefox:

    Delicious plug-in – In opera, you can add a button/shortcut to access your delicious bookmarks, but it doesn't feel as 'native' as delicious over at firefox

    Rendering – Forms, etc doesn't always mix with the Mac's L&F

    Adblock Plus – There's a simple pop-up blocker. I've read it can block some ads as well, though never really gotten to make work as good as adblock plus.

    Usability wise, I still prefer Firefox. If only it weren't such a memory hog. Awaiting Google Chrome (final) on the Mac.

  6. I use Opera for more than 5 years now and cannot think of using any other browser.

    Contra Opera I hear from friends:

    No Adblock plus (yet blocking of contents and personal CSS-files which of course can block contents),

    Closed Source,

    no proper proxy-handling,

    bad add-on-functions. But who needs add ons:


    needs less ram than ff or ie,

    mouse gestures (you can surf completely without clicking buttons),

    easy to use and customizable search function ("g geeks" looks at google for geeks, w geek at wikipedia. and because it's easy customizable "ga geeks" looks for geeks at google but excludes all advertisement-pages, l geek looks at a dictionary for geeks…),

    customizable gui (you can put everything everywhere and even create own buttons),

    great full-screen usability (yes, you can make it better than just showing a page full screen…

    limit sites to screen width,

    included notepad, irc-, bt-, rss- and mail-client,

    fast access to bookmarks (cx loads the page of my local cinema),

    instead of a starting page you can install a speed dial page with your preferred pages (thumbnails updated periodically or static, easy to access while surfing with strg+1-9),

    spell checking while writing messages…..

    An optional proxy that delivers the images of sites compressed (for slow internet connections)

    … (there in fact is more)

    Opera is just great. Just give Opera one or two weeks and you'll love it.

  7. I'm a Firefox guy and I have a friend who uses Opera and we sometimes have debates as to which one is better.

    Like a lot of people pointed out, Opera is great for Mobile devices. It's also full of features. Some(me) would say a little too many things get packaged in there.

    For me, FF just represents the open source movement and it really is a good browser. That's why I use it.

    I'm not an annoying anti-Microsoft guy but IE6 was a really bad browser. Now that they catched up, it's decent but I still prefer others.

    Chrome just got in the spotlight because its made by Google. If Google made a toothpaste, it would give Colgate a run for their money ;-)

  8. I've used portable Opera for USB on and off for the last year, and really appreciate how quickly it loads Google Maps versus Firefox (which lags and frequently doesn't load all of the map) and that it doesn't seem to take as much memory.

    My wife has tried it, but it seems to have issues with attachments for Yahoo mail.

    Unfortunately, we get stuck in a Firefox and Google rut, and forget all of the browsers and search engines available.

  9. in addition to the above comments, Mouse gestures are brilliant and intuitive (now can't use IE or FF anymore, I'm so used to them)


    the mail client is pretty awesome in the way mails are indexed and searchable.

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