Quo Vadis, Opera Desktop Browser?

  • The following appeared in the opening sentence of the 24 April header for the latest Vivaldi snapshot in the Vivaldi development blog:

    "This week has been a bit emotional for some of us as we learned that the company many of us worked for before, Opera, dismantled its Oslo desktop team and fired some 70 employees around the world."

    Is this accurate, and if so, what are Opera's future plans for its desktop browser?

  • Take a look here.

    It seems that Opera will developer each product at its own location. Desktop version will be developer in Poland from now on.

  • This is accurate but pay attention to separate and read the information on the news. I'll explain...

    The desktop team in Oslo (Norway) was dismantled. It simply means that the desktop team is in another place now, for example in the Poland Opera office there's still a desktop team.

    The 70 employees around the world that are leaving the company aren't all from the desktop browser development team.

    I guess the future plan for the desktop browser remains the same or little changed at least in the near term. Look this mustn't have been a small/rushed decision, if a plan had changed we'd have seen consequences already like features in development being dropped so that they can work with less resources or something like that. That didn't happen, we saw configurable keyboard shortcuts rising in the beta versions of the browser, new mouse gestures, even a Linux 32-bit version that I personally consider almost useless, etc.

  • Thanks for the replies and information. I suppose that over time, more details and explanations about Opera's future plans will emerge in various places. The initial report, coming as it did and where it did, with no other report coverage that I could find anywhere, was almost baffling and certainly sudden. Having once worked for an organization that was radically reorganized 5 times during my several-decades tenure there, with all the ensuing staff layoffs and assignment shifts that entailed, I extend my good wishes and encouragement to the now ex-employees directly affected. And I do understand companies shifting their business operations multiple times in an attempt to find what works best for them.

  • Look this mustn't have been a small/rushed decision, if a plan had changed we'd have seen consequences already like features in development being dropped so that they can work with less resources or something like that. That didn't happen, we saw configurable keyboard shortcuts rising in the beta versions of the browser, new mouse gestures, even a Linux 32-bit version that I personally consider almost useless, etc.

    With regards to time scales, changes can happen very quickly!

    I was given quite a lot of autonomy with regards to Linux and hence it was ultimately my call to put the 32-bit builds out. I chose to do his despite the fact that the figures we have from 12.16 would suggest that almost nobody would use 32-bit Linux builds.

    I was the Linux team lead but also the primary tester. So I figured that I would shoulder the burden of extra testing. I wanted to put the builds out as I cared about the users left behind.

    However, had I known this would happen—and I didn't have the vaguest idea—I would not have put out 32-bit Linux builds. I care about the remaining Linux guys in the Opera desktop team and would not have have wished to increase their workload at a time when—due to the losses—they will already have too much work on their hands.

    All bets are now off with regards to if 32-bit Linux Opera builds will remain. Part of me would hope that they do but in reality if I could advise the team, I would suggest they try and back out of going to stable with 32-bit. The resources will be needed elsewhere. I'm now pleased I said, "I am not going to promise that we won’t drop 32-bit again.". Perhaps it gives them some wiggle room.

    The 70 employees around the world that are leaving the company aren't all from the desktop browser development team.

    True but a large percentage of them are. All that said, I wouldn't write off the remaining team quite yet. They are a smart and hard working bunch. If anyone can pull together and keep things running, it is these guys. Not only that, I consider them all friends, so I can only wish them well!

    @blackbird71 If you want more thoughts read Daniel's blog post—I'm still trying to decide if I will write anything myself.

    P.S. There was also coverage in the Norwegian media, e.g. http://www.dn.no/nyheter/finans/2015/04/20/2040/Opera-Software/opera-software-kutter-70-jobber (Google translate doesn't totally butcher it, if you can't read Norwegian)

  • ...
    @blackbird71 If you want more thoughts read Daniel's blog post—I'm still trying to decide if I will write anything myself.
    P.S. There was also coverage in the Norwegian media, e.g. http://www.dn.no/nyheter/finans/2015/04/20/2040/Opera-Software/opera-software-kutter-70-jobber (Google translate doesn't totally butcher it, if you can't read Norwegian)

    Thanks much for both the links... and best wishes.

  • Bad news:

    PS, as of tomorrow I no longer work for Opera and won't be answering
    email or forum posts anymore.

    I got in touch with Andreas (@digmed).

  • It’s time to write down how I feel about Opera these days. I already wanted to do this for quite some time, but this feels like the right moment to do it. It’s also a way to say thanks to all the devs that worked on Opera.

    I started using Opera in 2003. From day one I absolutely loved using it. Tabbed browsing and mouse gestures made browsing so much faster, using it felt amazing. Since, I think, version 9 I became even more an Opera addict. I started following the Opera Desktop Team blog, ran every latest snapshot and tried every new feature. Of course there were features I thought were useless (remember widgets?), but most of the introduced features made perfect sense. I remember Speed Dial being a controversial feature those days, but I loved it immediately. As with a lot of features in Opera, it made browsing so much faster than other browsers. I’m not just talking about performance (wich was excellent), but all those little features together (fast forward, mouse gestures, speed dial) made that you could get where you wanted extremely quick.

    Using Opera was really a lot of fun those days. I felt connected to Opera, and loved reading what the weather in Oslo was like and reading Opvard’s ‘blog from behind the trenches’.

    While the Opera team kept surprising me with great features (tab stacking was brilliant), with version 11 and 12 I started to have issues. The number of websites that just didn’t work well seemed to increase. Scrolling on websites with position:fixed elements was terrible. It bothered me. While I still loved Opera, I tried other browsers for the first time in years. It made me realise how much I was used to so many small but extremely usefull Opera features, so I didn’t switch. But I felt that the performance of my so-beloved browser needed to improve. Scrolling issues were so big Opera became almost unusable to me.

    And then Opera ditched Presto.

    It feels strange to say this, but I felt sad for a couple of days when I read this news. My browser is the software I use the most, and I spend hours a day watching my browser window. My favorite browser just died.

    Of course I did understand why Opera made the switch. My trust in the dev team was big, so I kept using Opera since version 15. Speed Dial and mouse gestures were there so it had the most fundamental features.

    I believe Chromium based Opera is an improvement on Presto based Opera in a lot of ways. It is very stable, the (now native) UI is, while less customisable, better than before and the performance is excellent. But while none of the other browsers out there do appeal to me, I can’t say I love the new Opera yet. I just like it, but I don’t love it as much as I loved Preso based Opera. However, in the latest versions the dev team really showed that they’re still into introducing great features. The extension sidebar for example felt like one of those old-time Opera innovations. Simple, but brilliant.

    And now the office in Oslo is closed.

    Does it impact me in any way? Of course it doesn’t. I’ve got no reason to believe the dev’s in Poland won’t do it well. But still something has changed. Reading blog posts without the weather in Oslo won’t feel the same. Reading comments without devs like Ruari and Daniel responding won’t feel the seem. I’m still very interested in future versions of Opera. It’s still my daily browser (the UI of Vivaldi is still too slow to use it). But it feels like an era has ended.

    To all the former devs from the Oslo office: thanks for all your work, and I wish you all the best. (And of course I wish the current Opera devs the best in developing this still great browser).

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