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Sneak Peeks at Mozilla and Opera Web Browsers - page 2

The Opening War of the Millennium?

  • January 5, 2000
  • By Kevin Reichard

Because Opera is an extreme alpha prerelease, it's hard to do a true review of its features: many important features are not yet implemented, and some of the features that are implemented don't work quite the way the designers anticipated, leading to some problems with application crashes. Don't hold this against the Opera developers: releasing alpha code is always a crapshoot, and since Opera 4.0 was rewritten from the ground up in Qt, there was no stable code base to work with.

Indeed, the list of what Opera for Linux 4.0a can't do exceeds the list of what it can do. At the present time, it can handle HTML 3.2 and 4.0 pages, execute EcmaScript 1.1 (Ecma-262 v.3), render CSS 1 and 2 extensions, handle FTP downloads, support HTTP 1.1, display JPEG and single-frame GIF files and export and import bookmarks. On the down side, Opera For Linux 4.0a can't communicate via SSL or TLS, submit forms other than through Ecma Script, display other graphics files (including animated GIFs, PNG, or TIFF files), manage cookies or properly handle fonts.

To run Opera for Linux 4.0a you'll need kernel 2.2. Although developed using Qt 2.1, you won't need it to run this alpha version.

If you decide to download Opera for Linux 4.0a, you'll get a pretty good sense of how Opera works. Opera is built around folders containing frequently visited sites, with the Opera screen looking like the Windows Explorer interface. In addition, the interface is strongly geared toward opening new Web pages in separate windows within the Opera screen (as opposed to Netscape and Mozilla, which like to open new windows for new Web pages). Finally, it will initially focus on Web browsing and not contain tools for mail or news. It's hard to say much more about Opera for Linux, as most of the features are not yet implemented.

The prediction here is that Opera for Linux won't make much of a dent in the Linux community for one simple reason: Netscape Communicator is such an entrenched force in the open-source world. As commercial software competing against software known both for its features and its commitment to the open-source ethos, Opera for Linux faces a huge uphill climb. Every major distribution is already committed to Netscape Communicator, and we don't see that commitment waning when Mozilla is finally released. Unless Opera Software decides to give away Opera for Linux or move to an open-source model, it's clear that Opera won't be much of a factor among Linux users.


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