July 20, 2007

what i'd like to see from opera

I got blog tagged for Opera Watch's 5 things I'd like to see in Opera. Based on the title of that post, I think I'm supposed to write down 5 things that I'd like to see from Opera :-)

As many of you all know, I'm a big Opera fan and I've been contributing constructive criticism at this blog for several years. Many of my earlier suggestions are now reflected in the Opera browser, and I think that's great. In the continuing spirit of trying to improve the web experience for as many people as possible, here are 5 suggestions that I've put forward in the past but have yet to be acted upon by Opera Software.

  1. Automatic Software Update. As I said back in January, "there is no higher value we can offer to our users than to keep them safe on the web.... Opera Software should not ship another major release until they have a similar program in place." I'd be very curious to see what percentage of active Opera users are on the latest (and only secure) version. Firefox is able to update about 90% of its massive user base to the latest version in less than a week. Based on independent data, which our data corroborates, Firefox users are more up to date than users of any other web browser. The only way to achieve that kind of success is with an automatic software update system. Firefox does it. Safari does it. IE does it. There's really no excuse for Opera Software to continue to ship a browser without this important security feature.
  2. Full Disclosure of All Fixed Security Bugs. Opera Software should disclose all fixed security bugs with each release. They should inform their users with a full list of security issues, categorized and described in terms that both their users and technical experts can understand. This would give their users confidence that Opera takes security seriously and puts significant resources into finding and fixing security bugs. Not doing so, especially for public relations reasons, is completely disrespectful to users and leaves everyone wondering if Opera takes security seriously. (Is it possible that Opera heeded my earlier calls and is now doing this? The Opera 9.22 logs are the first I've seen that mention fixed security issues not crediting some third party? Does this mean they're now disclosing internally discovered and fixed flaws? If so, they are to be applauded. If anyone from Opera Software could comment as to whether all fixed flaws are now disclosed and not just the ones found by third parties who compel disclosure, that would be excellent.)
  3. A "like Gecko" User Agent. Opera spent much of the last decade pretending to be Internet Explorer and attempting to support broken and non-standard IE code. Chasing IE was a bad idea, especially when Opera is much closer to Safari and Firefox in its rendering capabilities. Today, Opera identifies as Opera, but many sites are only sniffing for IE or Firefox, leading many Opera users to be locked out of services or handed the IE code they are unable to process. A much better approach for Opera would be to follow Safari's lead and add a "like Gecko" to their user agent string. This would mean that when sites are making the decision to hand Opera the Firefox (standards) version of their page, or the IE (broken) version of their page, they'd go with the Firefox version. This would also eliminate a lot of the need for end users to understand and use Opera's user-agent spoofing features because Opera would get more correct code more of the time.
  4. Be a Team Player. Opera Software should commit publicly to not targeting Firefox users and instead spend their marketing and advertising resources going after IE users. It is in the best interests of the web that standards compliant browsers (and WHATWG participating organizations) work together to move the world away from IE 6 and the fractured web development landscape that IE 6 perpetuates. Both Opera and Safari have, in the not too distant past, made it clear that they were targeting Firefox users. Targeting Firefox users with paid advertising and other methods does not forward our shared goals and makes cooperation between us, "the good guys," more difficult than it has to be.
  5. Interface Tweaks and Feature Additions for New Users. There are a few obvious and very easy to accomplish things that Opera could do to improve the new user experience. First, Opera should move the tab strip below the address bar like all of the other browsers. In this case, consistency and comfort for the new user is more important than whether or not one considers that the "best" location. Second, most users of the mainstream browsers, IE and Firefox, are accustomed to having a status bar visible by default. In order to make new users feel comfortable, Opera should follow IE and Firefox's lead on this too. These configuration changes are no-brainers, and Opera has done quite a bit already (which I've praised them for) to make the Opera browsing experience a lot more like Firefox. Let's hope they continue. A bit more difficult, but very important, is automatic profile migration. Opera, on first run, should import all settings from the users default browser. This means bringing in favorites/bookmarks, cookies, form data, credentials, history -- everything. Users moving to Opera will experience massive frustration and return to their previous browser the first time they cannot remember some address, login or password. It's a non-trivial engineering task, but one I'm sure Opera developers could manage.

So those are 5 things I'd like to see from Opera. I think how this game of tag is supposed to work is that I pass this question to five other people. I don't know five Opera users, or even five people that would be interested (and who haven't already chimed in,) so I'll just leave it up to any of my readers who are interested to pick up the baton and run with it. If you do, please trackback this entry or leave a URL in the comments.

Posted by asa at 6:20 PM