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Ask Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner 254

Opera Software has gotten all kinds of media play lately, including rumors that both Google and Microsoft were buying the company. Whether you love or hate Opera, you've got to give them credit for building a decent browser and grabbing a small but noticeable market share in the face of competition from both MSIE and Firefox. Co-founder/CEO Jon von Tetzchner is obviously reponsible for at least some of this success -- and for much of the company's high press profile, due not only to the Opera Browser itself but to at least one whacky PR stunt and at least one high-profile beef with Microsoft. So who is this guy? Ask and find out. He's obviously not your typical software company CEO, so we don't expect typical CEO-type answers from him. We'll send him (direct, not through a PR person) 10 or 12 of your best questions Friday afternoon (US EST), and run his answers during the first week of 2006.
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Ask Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner

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  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) * on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:17PM (#14358929) Homepage Journal
    I can understand how a company competes against microsoft in the browser world, but how has things changed now that Mozilla and Firefox came into the picture. How do you plan on making money when a free, open source product is directly competing with you? Not only is it a complete product, but because it is open source, it has addons for just about anything available. Seems like an impossible battle to fight...
  • by WinDoze ( 52234 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:17PM (#14358930)
    As the CEO of Opera, do you have any idea how many inncent men you've put through a night of HELL as we patiently sit through the damn thing in order to get into some chick's pants? OH, sorry. Wrong Opera. (Please don't really send this to him...)
  • by robyannetta ( 820243 ) * on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:18PM (#14358932) Homepage
    I've been pimping Firefox since version 0.7 but have recently moved to Opera because Firefox doesn't natively support some things that Opera does:
    Native user agent switching
    Opera 9's upcoming Acid2 compatibilty
    Eye candy and general coolness factors

    Can you give us a taste of new, unannounced features we'll see in future versions?

    • Native user agent switching

      Sure it does. Go to about:config->general.useragent. There you can edit it to whatever you want. Sure, it's not as easy as in Opera where you can do it from the menu, but this gives you more control (you can only choose from a list in Opera, not make it whatever you want, IIRC)

    • Opera does have that significant advantage of being built using Qt instead of GTK, so that's a plus. However, unless all the sites you go to have shit-for-brains CSS that is filled with errors that not even a quirks mode could guess at, passing Acid2 is only a benchmark in how well you're supporting everything specified in the W3C Recommendations.

      Sometimes I blame the lack of some features in vanilla Firefox due to Blake Ross or similar whose goal was to rid Mozilla of all the bloated shit it had to make a
  • Monopoly end? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lifewish ( 724999 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:18PM (#14358935) Homepage Journal
    Does he think that the advent of Firefox et al signals an end to Microsoft dominance of the browser market? If so, does he think this will be good or bad for Opera as a company?
  • by brokencomputer ( 695672 ) * on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:18PM (#14358940) Homepage Journal
    What is your favorite development platform? Your most promising browser platforms seem to be mobile. What do you plan to do in the future in terms of supporting more platforms (mobile, or other)?
  • Marketgrowth? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sheridan3003 ( 165213 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:22PM (#14358973) Homepage Journal
    Do you find that the majority of Opera users are on the IT side of things, and if so how do you plan to get more users who are the "typical user", or only use their computer at work for their assigned tasks? Since IE is embedded when they get their new machine out of the box, how are you introducing Opera to users that probably have a limited understanding that they can have a different browser, or even more than one browser on their machine?

  • What do you see happening with your browser in 2006? Are there any exciting new features coming, or are you trying to get your browser bundled with any major PC company (ex: Dell with FireFox in the UK)? Give us a good reason to use Opera in the coming year.

    Thanks for your time,
  • by lilmouse ( 310335 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:25PM (#14359001)
    Recently someone suggested that MS should simply buy Opera as a web browser for Vista. What do you think of that idea? Would you sell?

  • Feature thieves! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tehshen ( 794722 ) <> on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:26PM (#14359005)
    Opera has been an innovative browser for some time; it was one of the first to offer popup blocking, tabs (or MDI of some description), sessions, mouse gestures, and so on. However, since then, other browsers have implemented them as well; Firefox has extensions offering mouse gestures and sessions, and popup blocking and tabs are now commonplace.

    After offering so many features, would you prefer browsers such as Firefox and IE to come up with their own ideas instead of taking them from other browsers, or prefer the sharing of ideas so the web is better off overall?
    • I think Opera's corporate vision [] statement answers this pretty well, particularly:

      We believe in a patent-free Web. Opera Software does not believe innovation in the software industry is protected or encouraged by software patents. In particular, we believe interoperability on the Internet should be encouraged, and we actively work to ensure that software patents do not stand in the way of interoperability.

      • How does a web browser not having mouse gestures, for example, affect interoperability? I don't think it does at all. That's one thing they could have patented and licensed out to other companies without affecting internet standards.
        • They don't believe in patents at all - they especially disagree with anything that affect interoperability, but not only with what affects interoperability.

          I think they always said that they weren't so much competing on features but on the integration of all those features in a complete package. Even though others have copied mouse gestures (a feature Opera was first to put in a web browser, but the idea of which they got from another piece of software), no other browser I've tried offered mouse gestures t

  • AdBlock (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EverStoned ( 620906 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:28PM (#14359026) Homepage
    I'm one of the few people who switched from Opera to Firefox. The reason was AdBlock. Why doesn't Opera have a rightclick-blockad feature? Is this simply just a case of the absence of a feature, or rather an expression of your company's policy on internet advertising?
  • Ad block? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skyshock21 ( 764958 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:28PM (#14359029)
    I've read that the position of Opera was that since it was a commercial browser you guys didn't want to include any adblocking functionality. This is the ONE AND ONLY aspect of Opera that's keeping me from using it as my main browser. Seeing the popularity of Firefox's Ad-Block extension, and now that you're releaseing Opera as a free download, do you plan on incorporating any sort of ad (or other nuisance) blocking module natively into the browser in subsequent releases?
    • Because if this was implemented as part of the browser, many websites would block Opera outright, and with good reason.

      It is possible to do AdBlocking in Opera using URL filtering. See Opera equivalents to Firefox extensions []. There's also a second part []. HTH.

      • All the methods to block ads under Opera using methods like css file etc are all fudges at best.

        They need some kind of plugin/extension system akin to Firefox's Extension system and (to a much lesser extent) IE's ActiveX.
      • And then Opera would have to lie to those sites about what browser it is...functionality which it already has, IIRC, for "IE-only" sites.

        I don't see this as a big stumbling block.

        Now, Opera may not want to piss off various other companies by doing something like this, but that's a different issue entirely.
      • But they couldn't! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by billybob ( 18401 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:17PM (#14359884)
        many websites would block Opera outright

        Ah, but you see, that is nearly impossible! Why? Because! Opera had the brilliant idea that by default, it would identify itself as Internet Explorer, so that sites trying to lock out non-IE browsers would be fooled. I can understand the reasoning here, but as a web developer, it is actually really frustrating. Opera can do most everything IE can, as far as I can tell, but some of its CSS is a bit wacky. Not as wacky as IE, but certainly wacky in other ways. But because of the faked User Agent by default, I can't detect Opera and include changes to CSS to make it behave properly.

        But, anyways, from the comments already, it seems built-in AdBlock is in high demand. I'd have to agree with this sentiment. If I had to choose only one extension that I couldn't live without, it would be AdBlock. Whenever I use a computer without it, I am appalled by how annoying the internet trully is.
        • Actually, Opera even when identifying itself as internet explorer still has "Opera" in the UA string.

          And no web browser blocks ads out of the box, as far as I can tell. I don't think any ever will, either - it would be tempting for a lot of large ad-supported content providers to block a browser that will never give them ad views anyway. I mean, you're running a website, and you know that anyone using Opera is sucking your bandwidth and not helping you pay for it. Why would you let them on?

        • I would think that there would be some fairly easy way to detect Opera through client-side javascript.
        • But because of the faked User Agent by default, I can't detect Opera and include changes to CSS to make it behave properly.

          Hmm... But Opera shows it's Opera even when set to identify as IE.

          Opera 8.50 as IE on XP:
          Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; en) Opera 8.50

          Opera 9.0 Preview 1 as Opera on Windows 2000:
          Opera/9.0 (Windows NT 5.0; U; en)

          Opera 8.50 as Mozilla on XP:
          Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1; U; en) Opera 8.50

          You simply need to scan the entire user string for the "Opera" substring and you
    • Just get Proxomitron []. Works on all browsers - ad blocking in Opera, FF, IE, even "links".
    • Google for "opera adblock" and click I'm feeling lucky.
  • I'm just curious to what you think would happen to your comany if you were to merge with Google. I'm guessing with Google's corporate culture, you willl still be able to innovate browser technology like you have been in the past. But the Google tag with your browser will help gain more market share, and promote people coding web pages with W3C compatibility. For the good of all concerened, Opera and Firefox need to be the dominant web browsers in the market. What do you think?
  • by furnk ( 935156 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:29PM (#14359040)
    Can you offer more information on the terms of the recently announced agreement with Google? ?type=technology&storyID=nL29549259 [] What exactly is a "major presence"?

    Was Google just the obvious choice because of its scope, or is there some flirting going on in the hopes of a more lasting relationship?

  • by JaguarSavages ( 558510 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:30PM (#14359041)
    Better extensions/plugins. Firefox has earned great acclaim for its dynamic extension support. Extensions such as Fasterfox, Adblock, Web Developer, and many others are the sole reason people use Firefox over Opera (or any other browser). I know Opera is working to help unify the Netscape plugin API, but the upcoming version 9 doesn't appear to have anything that can match Firefox's extension capabilities. When will we see Opera support plugin/extensions as powerful as Firefox's?
    • I really think that there are an equal number of people who use Opera precicely because there aren't extensions, and who don't want to deal with the issues with those.

      As to the IE marketshare, I would argue there are also an equal number of people who wouldn't know an extension if it bit them in the @ss, so it's not a feature for them either.

      I personally think that there are more than enough users who either actively don't want extensions, or who are ambivilent regarding them that Opera can have a viable ma
  • by PenguinBoyDave ( 806137 ) <<gro.reyemdivad> <ta> <divad>> on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:33PM (#14359064)
    I like fact, I have stopped using Firefox in favor of Opera for reasons mentioned in someone elses question. Would you ever consider going back to charging for the browser, yet making it Open Source, and offering support for the paid version?
    • Would you ever consider going back to charging for the browser, yet making it Open Source, and offering support for the paid version?

      What would be the point would be of that? I don't think I've ever had a need for a support incident for a web browser. Have you?
      • No...I have not. But I make a nice side living taking care of problems for people (parents included). From time to time, the browser, one of its setting, etc. have been the problem. That is the point. They need to make money somehow. Now that they are giving the browser away, where is the income?
        • Actually, they currently do offer support contracts for $29 a year IIRC. I don't think they want to go OSS, but they say they will make the money off of partners and support.

          I'm also not sure that Opera Software feels they'd gain anything from going OSS that they didn't already get from going free as in beer. And I think they may really want to keep their code secret so they don't give away how they do the mobile aspect where much of their money comes from.
  • I'm a bit of a Firefox evangelist, and one of the huge problems I've had is that a vast number of non-technical types don't even understand what a "web browser" is. "Firefox? Uhm, no, I already installed the Internet on my Windows."

    The problem is that these people form a large chunk of users, necessary for gaining large market share, but they don't even know that Internet Explorer is different from the Internet. What is Opera doing to get installed on the computers of people with "technology IQs" lower tha

  • Firefox vs Opera (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yuretz ( 934955 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:41PM (#14359130)
    I'm a happy user of Mozilla Firefox browser on both Linux and Windows. As Opera CEO, can you give me some possible reasons why should I switch to Opera? What advantages or outstanding featues it has, compared to Firefox?
    • As Opera CEO, can you give me some possible reasons why should I switch to Opera?

      Why should a CEO convince you of what features are compelling for you? Read the Opera feature set, learn what other people have written, and come to your own conclusion. Odds are if you expect the CEO to have to convince you, you're probably very young/naive or you're just not the target market.
    • The main reason for me (though not the only one) is speed. Firefox feels like driving a tractor trailer through a slalom after using Opera. The memory footprint in Firefox doesn't help its case either.

  • by TheJavaGuy ( 725547 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:43PM (#14359148) Homepage
    In your mind, why have most of the people, who switched to alternative browsers, chosen Firefox over other ones such as Opera.
  • Will Opera continue to expand the inclusion of XML standards such as SVG? Will we see namespace support, SVG full, MathML, XLink, XPath, XSL -FO & T etc.?

    Of course, OpenSourcing the beast would be a dream-come-true, since I'm one of those people who prefer compiling their software themselves :-)
  • Personal favourite ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rfinnvik ( 16122 ) * on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:51PM (#14359206)
    So, theoretically.... Would you prefer Google or Microsoft ? :)
  • by bushboy ( 112290 ) <> on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:51PM (#14359211) Homepage
    I've worked in a few high profile companies in the UK who are all very serious about adhering to web standards, checking all designs in internet explorer, firefox and safari, but I've yet to encounter a company who will ensure that Opera renders page layouts correctly.

    What level of market share would you say is required by Opera for web developers to ensure their layouts render correctly ?
  • Are there any plans to provide a XUL compatibility layer so Opera can make use of Firefox extensions, XUL applications, etc?
  • I am an avid fan of Opera and it's sucked the soul out of my other browsers and even my email/news/IRC/RSS clients to the point where I use nothing else.

    However, I still have to have a seperate piece of software for IM (Trillian on Windows, GAIM on Linux). Any plans to extend the IRC support to support major IM protocols and put Trillian out of business?

  • I have seen a PCWorld article,aid,123615,p g,4,00.asp [] claiming Opera 9 will support widgets, however I am unclear on what the magazine means by this. Will they be on the desktop or will they be somewhat like Firefox's extensions? Also, to all of those claiming Opera does not have Adblocking features, try going to this page: [] I suggest using OperaAdFilter ( []) for the most integration with the br
  • by simetra ( 155655 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @01:59PM (#14359287) Homepage Journal
    I love Opera and bought it... several years ago, then a recent upgrade. THEN, you made it free!!!

    So, that makes me think, maybe you made the PC version free, and are going to concentrate on the mobile versions, which you probably really make money on. Does this mean that the free PC version will stagnate? Or will future versions be built, with fun new features?

    Also... how about a new logo? Or maybe a cross-marketing deal with Oprah?


  • Two questions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Psx29 ( 538840 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @02:06PM (#14359344)
    Which web browser(s) do you use and why? and Are there any plans to release the sourcecode now that it's gone 100% free?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Dear Sir,

    I work in a college library. Libraries have a lot of 'online databases' they subscribe to now days; typically several dozen. One week I got bored and tested various browsers against all of our databases that we pay for, and a few that are free.

    Opera was not working very well with some of them. And there are certain ones, such as Ebrary's collection of e-books, which use Active-X plugin thingies, that wouldn't work at all.

    Thus, we cannot use Opera in the library. It is not that it is a bad browser,
  • What else in addition to your current mobile browser platform do you believe has to be in place before web browsing on mobile devices can become commonplace?

    How do you think each of what you listed is going to unfold?

  • by Belisarivs ( 526071 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @02:32PM (#14359551)
    Currently, common wisdom says that Opera is being kept profitable by it's market-share in the mobile market. It's probably safe to say, however, that in the future other browsers will try to eat into that market share. Are you planning on trying to stay ahead of the curve and depend on the mobile market for profits, or do you have other markets your trying to make profits in?
  • by smurfsurf ( 892933 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @02:34PM (#14359568)
    1. Opera Bug Tracking System

    My experience with Opera's bug tracking system are rather frustrating. I can not check if some bug is already known ( describing a bug and creating a test case is time consuming). Also, I reported some things and never ever got any feedback besides an automatic email. I do not know if Opera considers it a bug, if it is not a bug but an error on my side, if someone works on it, if it was fixed, simply nothing comes back. The Opera BTS is a black hole, and since some time now, I do not feel like making the effort to report bugs.

    Do you plan to open up the BTS or at least allow the submitter to view the ticket? Or enhance the feedback?

    2. Developer Tools

    How about a DOM Inspector (and a Javascript Debugger)? Firefox's DOM Inspector and XMLHttpRequest Monitor are dearly missing in Opera.

    3. HTML/CSS/JS

    Any word on opacity support? On a Richtext Editing component?

  • Is Opera (the company) planning to diversify into other products, or the Opera browser will continue to be your only one? Opera is a terrific browser, don't get me wrong, but the browser market is very hard to break even in.
  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:10PM (#14359838)
    Opera bills itself as The most full-featured Internet power tool on the market [], yet the cookie management ability of Opera is rather simplistic when compared to other modern browsers.

    Does Opera have any plans to improve the cookie managing ability of its browser?

  • I recently discovered Opera Mini [], and now routinely browse the web not on my notebook, but on my cell phone, a Sony Ericsson K750i.

    (For those of you who haven't yet tried Opera Mini, it's a Java-based web browser for cell phones, using Opera's Small Screen Rendering. The pages themselves are rendered on Opera's server, and are then transmitted to the cell phone in a highly efficient, binary format.)

    Opera Mini is obviously revolutionary, in that it allows cell phone users to have a full web experience, w

  • by The Lynxpro ( 657990 ) < minus caffeine> on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:46PM (#14360073)

    Dear Mr. von Tetzchner:

    With all the rumors as-of-late about Opera being acquired by Google or Microsoft, I'd like to ask you the question of what you would consider a realistic price tag for Opera would be?

    Many of us non-IE web browsing enthusiasts would like to see the best features and code of both Opera and Firefox put together into a single open source offering. A sale to Google could make this a possibility, depending upon how restrictive the pre-existing licensing agreements your company has with various mobile phone manufacturers (which you probably cannot discuss legally).

    So, with that having been said, what's your price and would you remain aboard such a project post-sale if given such room in a contract?

    • How would you expect to realistically merge two extremely different codebases? I can't see it happening in any meaningful way. Plus, why would anyone want to reduce the number of competitors in the browser market? One browser, whoever it is, is bad for the market.

      And with there really being only 4 core rendering technologies, do we want to take that down to 3?
  • by HonkyLips ( 654494 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @04:19PM (#14360267)
    From previous Opera related posts on Slashdot, it has come to my attention that you have some real babes working for you in Norway.
    Are any of them single and if so, would they be interested in dating a guy who reads slashdot? BTW I use Safari but I can be persuaded to switch...
  • Why is NTLM not supported in Opera, even though IE and Firefox support it out of the box? It's a feature many Opera users have requested for several versions now, especially in corporate environments. I know about the NTLM Authorization Proxy Server, but that's an inconvenient workaround. Is NTLM support something we can look forward to in the future?
  • Mac Market? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JoshWurzel ( 320371 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @05:58PM (#14360889) Homepage
    Most browsers on the mac fall into one of two categories: supported by a mega-corp (Safari, Internet Explorer) or backed by the Mozilla engine (Mozilla, Camino, Firefox). What is Opera's market share when considering only the mac platform? What advantages do you think your product offers over Omniweb, for example, which is another browser that does not fall into either of the two categories mentioned? Do you have significant development effort put into your mac product to help meet or beat the market share of one of the dominant mac browsers? Or are you mostly "maintenance" on that platform?
    • Opera uses the same core code on all platforms since Opera 7 IIRC, so my guess is that Opera for mac is largely the same as for Linux and Windows. Plus, with IE no longer on the MAC, the choices have shrunk, I would guess that there is some small hope some of the IE users will try Opera and like it - though I expect with Microsoft suggesting Safari as a replacement for MAC IE, less that Opera ASA may like.
  • by Illissius ( 694708 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @06:37PM (#14361098)
    One of Opera's many strengths is it's excellent rendering engine, Presto, which is light, fast, and standards compliant. To this point, is has held an edge over the competition -- over just about everything in terms of speed, over IE in standards compliance, and over Gecko in a clean and agile codebase (admittedly I haven't seen either, but judging from results and what I've heard).

    However, it now has some significant competition from KHTML/WebCore, which enjoys both corporate backing from Apple (and to a lesser degree Nokia), and the support of the open source community. It too has a clean and flexible codebase (this was the reason Apple chose it for Safari instead of Gecko, in the first place), it has a degree of standards compliance comparable to Opera's, and with Safari 2, it's also the only browser to seriously challenge Opera in terms of speed []. There has also been movement (by Nokia) to adapt it to the mobile market, which is, if memory serves, Opera's main source of income currently.

    What do you think of KHTML/WebCore? Do you see it as a threat to Opera's position in the desktop and/or mobile markets? If so, how do you plan to stay ahead of it?
  • by Coppit ( 2441 )
    Given what Microsoft did to Netscape, what made you guys decide to enter the browser market? What made you think that you could succeed? And do you worry about the day when Opera gets enough market share to make Microsoft respond?
  • Two browsers that have been (in my mind) at the forefront of offering accessibility features are iCab and Opera. However, nearly every screen reader works with Internet Explorer. Is there some future hope of seeing screen reader technology in a future version of Opera?
    • Opera's voice component already will read web page text on windows. I hope they are working on getting IBM (the developer of the voice technology) to port to the other platforms Opera supports.
  • Opera offers so-called "native" skins for Windows and Mac OS X, where certain controls of the UI are drawn not by Opera's theming engine, but by that of the operating system. (I can't say for OS X, but in Windows XP this adapts to which Windows theme you use, even non-Microsoft sanctioned ones with a modified uxtheme.dll, so I am quite certain it is actually native, and not just Opera drawing them to merely look the same as the default). I don't know how this is done, but knowing that Opera makes use of Qt,
  • I have read somewhere that of Opera's income from the desktop market, roughly a third was from the ad supported versions, a third was from people buying, and a third from partnering deals with search engines and so, for searches generated from Opera's searchbar. I have further read that Opera's plan with making the browser completely free of charge and ads was to increase marketshare to the point where the increase in revenue from search engines would be sufficient to offset the loss of the other two. How s
  • Will you please see to it that this bug [] is fixed promptly? Or, more accurately, that the fix is released promptly? This is the sole reason that I dislike using Opera.
  • In my opinion, Opera is the best browser out there, it's all I use. However, compared to other browsers (particularly IE) the rendering "feels" less shiny. The controls look oldfashioned (IE's are rounded), the font is rather blocky and the general feel is oldish. How do you plan to update the UI (the rendering UI, the rest is flawless IMO) to make it more modern?
  • Web browsing on the PSP currently leaves a lot to be desired. Are there any plans to port Opera to the PSP? Yes, I know, you've previously said that such a port could easily been done if there was enough demand for it. This was a long time ago, however, and I'm wondering if there have been any recent developments in providing such a port?
  • by Hobart ( 32767 ) on Thursday December 29, 2005 @11:31PM (#14362434) Homepage Journal
    It's been mentioned in the Opera forums [] that if there were sufficient interest, Opera might look into doing a browser for the PSP. I would be delighted to plunk down $30 for an Opera + OpenSSH for the PSP on UMD that would play on older PSP firmware. How many users will make it worth your while?

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun