Why did Opera go from Presto to Chromium?

  • Moderators: Please remove trolling posts that you find!

    So way back when Opera abandoned the Presto engine for Chromium. The way I understand it is that the engine became too unwieldy and had trouble being recognized by major websites like gmail.

    http://www.operasoftware.com/press/releases/general/opera-gears-up-at-300-million-users February 13, 2013

    It makes more sense to have our experts working with the open source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium, rather than developing our own rendering engine further. Opera will contribute to the WebKit and Chromium projects, and we have already submitted our first set of patches: to improve multi-column layout.

    What does that mean "it makes more sense"? How did it help? I imagine this was a very difficult move on Opera's part to change to a whole new engine.

    It was also recently said that Opera does not wish to recreate another Presto and make the same mistakes it made with Presto. Is this referring to something in particular?

    When I first learned and tried Opera at version 15 I was concerned that Opera's core philosophy had changed, but my fears were soon alleviated when moderators and developers reassured me that Opera values had not changed. I stayed with Opera 12.14, but finally made the change at Opera 24. I have become increasingly excited over the directions that Opera has taken with the added and improved functionality.

  • This discussion was already made about two years ago, you will probably find answers in topics from that time and also in old posts in Desktop Team blog.

    What does that mean "it makes more sense"? How did it help?

    Well, before Opera had its own developers working on its own engine and adding everything by themselves and needing to dela with lots of engine issues; Now they "share" it with Chromium developers.

    It was also recently said that Opera does not wish to recreate another Presto and make the same mistakes it made with Presto. Is this referring to something in particular?

    If you are reffering to recents comments in the blog, the mistake part was just am user's opinion.

    Imho they changed because Opera needed to set and follow a new path, so recreating Presto wouldn't make sense.

  • Yes, I was referring to the developer blog. Thank you for your thoughts. I will see what I can find in the developer blogs made around the time of Opera 15 so I can learn more about what happened within Opera around that time.

  • Opera Presto always has compatibily problems with many sites (browser.js was bigger), and it was getting harder and harder to add new features and improvements because the code was messed up with lots of features. So they decided to build a new browser from nothing using Chromium.

  • ...
    What does that mean "it makes more sense"? How did it help? I imagine this was a very difficult move on Opera's part to change to a whole new engine. ...

    At the risk of over-simplifying, a browser consists of a rendering engine and a user interface layer. The rendering engine is what talks to the websites and renders the website's code into a screen-usable collection of data bits. The user interface layer provides the settings and 'creature-comforts' that allow the user to control what he actually sees on the screen (and when, and from where). Olde Opera's rendering engine was Presto; New Opera's rendering engine is Blink. Because the rendering engines are different, Opera's user interface layer has had to be rewritten to do the things Opera wanted the browser user to be able to do. Also, because different rendering engines act differently with a site's code at times, websites may have to include special code to assure one brand of rendering engine produces a similar screen result to a different rendering engine brand.

    An open-source rendering engine like Blink has design contributors from all over, adding their efforts toward refining it and keeping it current with web protocols, practices, and trends. That relieves Opera's developers of much of that burden. Moreover, because Blink is shared and incorporated into multiple browser 'brands', web designers are more likely to make sure their sites work properly for Blink-based browsers. When Opera was Presto-based, the support burden for that rendering engine fell totally on Opera's developers, increasing costs and diluting the design effort that could be applied elsewhere in the browser. Likewise, because only Opera employed the Presto engine, site designers had little incentive to make sure their site code worked with Presto-based Opera. Hence Opera spent a lot of time tinkering with special scripts to tweak how the browser worked for specific, unfriendly sites as well as trying to 'encourage' such site designers to provide Opera compatibility. With all this in mind, Opera believes it 'makes sense' to make the transition.

  • Very helpful posts, thank you. I'm surprised that this thread is not generating more trolls. Either that or moderators are paying extra close attention to this thread.

    One reason this question is coming up now is that recently I have been seeing an upswing in people asking why (or just demanding) that Opera go back to the Presto engine which seems silly. I wanted to have a better understanding of the reasons that went behind the move so as to better answer such responses.

  • Another question that I would like to have an answer is: Why Opera chose Chromium over Gecko (Mozilla engine)? Gecko is more similar to Presto than Chromium is.

  • ... I have been seeing an upswing in people asking why (or just demanding) that Opera go back to the Presto engine which seems silly. I wanted to have a better understanding of the reasons that went behind the move so as to better answer such responses.

    A part of the explanation lies in the reality that many folks who use a browser have no accurate idea what actually goes on beneath a browser's hood - nor the tradeoffs and difficulties that lie therein when things need to be changed. Neither do they have that much of a true grasp of the economics of the modern software business sector or the 'politics' of Internet compatibility and how/where all that impacts a software business's viability. What most browser users 'know' is what they have become accustomed to in the product line they've been using. And significant changes in that realm cause them the greatest turmoil, so their questions and demands will most often naturally emanate from that viewpoint. I note this not to be derisive about such folks, but to explain the focus that often lies behind such questions or demands.

    There are indeed legitimate, reasonable questions that can be asked about certain aspects of the path Opera has followed, various choices they've made, or decisions they've taken. @sidneyto has raised a good such question about Blink vs. Gecko; and I'm certain there's an Opera response to it, whether or not it ever gets posted here (after all, Opera did chose one over the other). Likewise, I'm also certain there are those who would sincerely disagree over the technical merits of their choice. But at the end of the day, only Opera really has the whole and accurate business picture of where they are headed, how their products and prospective business lines interplay, and which choices seem best to them. Sometimes, those elements transcend the technical details or strongly influence the ultimate choices made, and only those making the evaluations are fully privy to the whole story.

  • I had a good post replying to a user about the subject of the topic but oh goodness I don't know where it went, sorry.

    Another question that I would like to have an answer is: Why Opera chose Chromium over Gecko (Mozilla engine)? Gecko is more similar to Presto than Chromium is.

    For instance, Firefox has no multiple process (I think not even the UI is/was separated from the engine) and had no form of out of process plug-ins at the time which are things Opera was aiming to pursue with Presto before the switch.

    From what I understand from the news, before the switch the Mozilla's Gecko engine lose support to be incorporated in their own what led to the death of a browser called Camino. Technically, I think it means it's much harder to separate the engine from the interface the way Opera could do with Chromium.

    Firefox for Android was also suffering a lot to get appropriate content (sites sending them the desktop version or pages full of webkit prefixes and proprietary standards in their code) so the Presto compatibility problem would not be solved (maybe using another UA-String could help to an extent but not for all cases).

    Why swap a six with a half-dozen? (I hope this expression exists in English lol).

    Blink was and is still faster than Gecko even though Gecko caught up a bunch from that time. Both in benchmarks and also in normal browsing (where a page can slow down the other tabs in Firefox it doesn't happen in Chromium because the multiprocess implementation is complete in the latter).

  • I think you are right, Rafael. Chromium is and probably will always be better than Gecko. Chrome and Opera are more powerful than Firefox.

  • "Always" is a too strong statement, but yes at the time, specially a few years ago when the decision was made, Chromium was a better fit for Opera's new engine.

    Mozilla couldn't caught up with Google yet. Google is too big in monetary resources and also have big plans for Chroimum that align with other commercial products (what they invest in Chromium benefits Chrome OS and Android browsing and WebView), like, only Microsoft doing who knows what in the transition from Internet Explorer's Trident to the Edge engine can compete (still lower in HTML5test.com though). Mozilla is "just" a FOSS non-profit so in a way they have their merit on surviving...

  • Mozilla is "just" a FOSS non-profit so in a way they have their merit on surviving...

    They could have stopped the developement of Firefox or do a Firefox based on Chromium, but they are working hard to compete with other browsers.

  • Yes, and they're good.

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