Opera Software hosted their very first global press event at the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture in Oslo, Norway on the 14th October to talk about their latest web innovations for the Opera family of browsers as well as the developments in HTML5 and CSS3.
A quick history lesson. The Opera browser - first released to public in 1996 - has been one of the most advanced and innovative web browsers around, as well as one of the strongest advocates of web standards support. In the 15 years since its inception, Opera has introduced many of the features we now take for granted today in every other major browser used; features such as tabbed browsing, sessions, user CSS, speed dials, and even features such as page zooming, and native SVG support were first made available in the Opera browser.
When Firefox made popular customizable extensions to expand the functionalities of its core experience, Opera fans weren't all the convinced. And with good reason too. Many of the first extensions were to implement features that were already natively available in the Opera browser. By 2004, when Firefox 1.0 was released, Opera already featured a fully functional e-mail client, IRC client, and News client. It had built-in pop-up blocking and voice support. By 2006, Opera featured a functional BitTorent client and phishing/fraud protection. And in 2009, Opera version 10 introduced a server-side compression technology called Opera Turbo and Opera Unite, a home application server that basically ran off your browser itself.
With all these features, there wasn't any reason to introduce the concept of extensions. And while Opera did introduce Widget support in Opera 9, Widgets were really just smaller web applications launched through the browser rather than functional extensions. But as the web evolved, it was evident that the Opera developers wouldn't be able to give everyone what they wanted forever. Customization has also been one of the key features behind the Opera browser, so it has been a long time coming, but Opera has finally announced that the next version of the desktop browser, Opera 11, will feature extensions.
We were able to play with an unreleased Alpha build of Opera 11 with a handful of third-party extensions installed, and we were quite impressed with the speed and responsiveness of the browser. When asked, Opera's Chief Development officer, Christen Krogh, mentioned that Opera's extension technology is a lot more lightweight, and Opera will at least be able to run as many extensions as the competition without slowdowns.
Of course, once Opera opens its doors to user extensions, there are bound to be badly coded ones that may bring the browser to its knees, but we were assured that unless someone purposely wanted to build such and extension, it was pretty hard to achieve.