Opera - Better Than Firefox?

Opera was formerly adware and has just been released as freeware. Is it worth it to make the switch?

Firefox is a runaway success. With over a gazillion downloads (a gazillion and fifty-four, to be exact), it's the most popular consumer open source application of all time.

Opera is the older sister that doesn't get as much attention because she's, you know, older. She's not as much of a party animal. Until very recently, it cost you to take her out. Or at least, God forbid, listen to her advertisements. That's changed, though. She's not just cheap now. She's free. Just like her younger sister, Firefox.

There are many good things about Firefox, but it's growing popularity is most likely attributable to these four main things.

1. Tabbed browsing.

2. Popup blocking

3. Netscape legacy

4. Extensibility

Anyone that has used tabbed browsing (and my server logs tell me that you probably have) immediately understands the usefulness of this feature. Likewise, automatic popup blocking is something that once experienced, is not easily relinquished.

Hmm, wait a minute. Opera has had tabbed browsing and popup blocking years before Firefox.

The importance of the Netscape legacy should not be understated. Firefox's ancestor is Netscape (which derived from Mosaic), at one time the only real web browser, and for years, the most popular one. For many years, many thought of Netscape as being synonymous with the internet. From Mosaic to Netscape to Mozilla to Firefox, it never left the geeks' eyes. As it developed, so did it's popularity.

The ability to extend and customize Firefox through extensions makes it a real geek's toy. Techies like to tinker and play with things. There is no one, killer extension that pushes Firefox over the top, but the ability to customize your browser to your preferences ensures that tech-happy surfers, the early adopters, will have a happy and productive playground, giving greater buzz to the Firefox phenom.

Oh, Opera also supports customization, but not nearly to the extent that Firefox does.

So here's the question. Which is better? Or, which is better for me?

Straight out of the box, Opera kicks Firefox in the grill and makes her look like a wannabe poser.

Here's just a few things that recommend Opera.

  1. Opera's smaller and faster. It loads and renders pages quick. When you hit the back button, you go back to the page in your cache. It doesn't reload the page from the site.
  2. It's tabbed windows are really windows. You can tile them, cascade them, move them around. You know, like real windows.
  3. It can resume interrupted downloads.
  4. Built-in IRC client.
  5. Built-in email client.
  6. Built-in news reader.
  7. Mouse gestures.
  8. Toggle images on, off, or from local cache. (Great for slow connections)
  9. Customizable style sheets to change the display with all the useful ones built-in. Can't read that site with the ping background and yellow letters? Make it black and white like God intended.
  10. On the fly user agent switching. This means you can probably use Opera on that bank site that says "Internet Explorer 5.0 or above necessary to use this site."
  11. Mouse gestures, love 'em or hate 'em.
  12. Built-in note taker.

There's a bunch more, but you get the idea.

The thing is, though, that Firefox has a lot of this stuff available through extensions. They're not installed by default. And hey, a lot of people don't want to use their browser as an email client. And are you really going to use Opera for IRC? I mean, get real.

With a plug-in, Opera can even be controlled by voice and read web pages to you. No question, that's very, very cool, but I just don't need it.

I like Opera a lot. I used her when she fit on a floppy and before Firefox was a gleam in Mozilla's eye. I love being able to toggle images on and off. She's fast and free.

But her sister's cuter.

I like customizing my applications, particularly something I use as much as a web browser. I can make Firefox act the way I want her to act. I love the Adblock extension and the Scrapbook extension. I love her being open source.

For me, it's the extensions that make all the difference. If you're reading this, you probably like to tinker with your applications too.

What about Joe User? The guy that doesn't visit free software sites? Your grandma? Truth is, it probably makes no difference. When Internet Explorer 7 comes out, it will have tabs and a pop-up blocker. They won't care.

So, until then, get them on Firefox. It's open source, more secure than IE, and looks and acts just the way they would expect a browser to act.





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