The Race is On: Firefox vs Opera


It wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t get the big deal about Firefox. Eventually, I saw the light and it has been my favorite browser for many months.

So when my inclination is to dismiss Opera as a non-factor in the browser race, I have to look past it and take a closer look.

Will Langford has a great post comparing Firefox 1.5 with Opera 9. Using his post as a roadmap, let’s see what Opera might have to offer.

Here’s a sceenshot of the Opera interface. Tabs, with Google-like simplicity. OK, but I don’t buy the car for the color so let’s keep going.

Opera is easy as pie to download and install (after I shut down Zone Alarm, which frustratingly prevents the Windows installer from operating). It automatically found and added my bookmarks, but not my home page- it used an Opera page instead.

Things look the same in Opera. In fact, my personal portal looks prettier and cleaner in Opera. It took me a second to figure out where the “Home” link is- you click in the address bar and a menu pops up. This seems unnecessary to me. I like the X-delete button in the tabs. Firefox should do this, without the need for an extension.

Opera has built-in BitTorrent support. I have tried these applications before and I always end up uninstalling them. So for heavy BitTorrent users I can see how this might be a nice feature, but I don’t need or want it.

It also has built-in chat (IRC) support. I guess people still use IRC, but I haven’t for many years- ever since the infamous RanchoRoom days of the mid-nineties. So here is another feature that I don’t really want.

You can select your favorite search engine, which is nothing new, but Opera includes eBay and Download.Com. Cool. I like the way that feature works. I would love an easy way to add custom searches (IMDB, AllMusic, etc.) to this list.

There is a content blocker, but there are extensions for Firefox that do that too.

Like Will, I am impressed by the thumbnail preview that pops up when you hover over a tab. Another nice feature that is better then any Firefox extensions that I know of.

Another feature that I really like is the built-in Notes feature. It works much like the Notes feature in Outlook, but it would be more useful since it is more proximate when you need to write a note while browsing, researching, etc.

The sessions feature works a lot like Google Browser Sync, which sounds better in theory than practice. I am about ready to uninstall it from this computer.

I like the Tools>Delete Private Data function.

Will ran some numbers and concluded that Opera uses less RAM and has less memory leakage problems than Firefox. There is nothing more frustrating than writing a long blog post, only to have Firefox crash before you publish it. This is a big advantage for Opera.

I have been surfing around with Opera a little today. It seems as fast as Firefox (though I miss the status bar at the bottom of the screen that tells me if the target page is loading or stalled).


There’s not enough here for me to switch from Firefox, but Opera is definitely a player in the browser race, and that’s a good thing for consumers. Competition will make all of the browsers better.