Should we Support the Opera Browser

Of course, the simple answer to this problem is ‘yes’. But when things are not simple, that is, extra time needs to be spent to support Opera, then what should the answer be? Recently was refurbished, which is all well and good, but on my first visit I spent about 5 minutes (which felt like […]

Of course, the simple answer to this problem is ‘yes’. But when things are not simple, that is, extra time needs to be spent to support Opera, then what should the answer be?

Recently was refurbished, which is all well and good, but on my first visit I spent about 5 minutes (which felt like hours) trying to figure out how to do a simple search. As it turns out, I am not completely inept – I was using Opera and the site did not display properly. Unfortunately, it didn’t even detect that my browser may not be compatible and notify me (as does nicely), so I let them know (through an online form that also didn’t support Opera…). I was told that they only make the site compatible with browsers that 1% or more of their users use.

I did some research before replying to this. As it turns out, there are a number of interesting angles to this, and it is actually quite hard to find reliable numbers on this topic, so I thought I would post my reply here:

Thanks for your reply. It occurs to me that there is a bit of a ‘chicken and the egg’ flaw in your logic – how do you expect even 1% of people to use your site with a browser that can’t use your site?! At a very conservative estimate, I tried using your site once with Opera, failed, and then used Firefox for at least another 10 page views. So already you will be innacurately thinking Opera is 10x less popular to me than it is, and this number will just keep getting worse the longer you leave your website broken.

There is something else you should realise. Opera spoofs IE as its ‘user agent’ – when web servers ask it what it is, so your web logs are very likely wrong. Responsible/knowledgeable weblogs state their stats as “MSIE 6.x/AOL & opera = XX%”.

There are 2 very good reasons they spoof. Opera is very dedicated to being very standards compliant, which actually causes them trouble. As IE is not completely standards compliant, many web developers have had to modify their sites to work for IE, which sadly, can cause problems for Opera. Also, there are documented situations where Microsoft-owned websites actively look for the browser type, and if it is Opera, they actively corrupt the page info sent out, so that Opera can’t display it properly. So Opera has to spoof IE in order to give its customers a good experience. See here for more info.

Therefore, estimating the true number of Opera users is quite difficult, and unfortunately Opera does not often release this kind of information. However, is well respected, and lists Opera as over 1% for the last 5 years (and this is still subject to the spoofing problem). In some areas, usage is higher – some German sites said Opera was as high as 15%. Maybe the most relevant stats – says over 10,000,000 downloads of Opera 9 in less than 3 months, which does not include all the previous versions of Opera (there were 10,000,000 downloads back in 2003 when it was still a paid product), or downloads since then. It also states more than 40 million phones were distributed with the opera Mobile browser. The only other data I could find is comparing the number of downloads at – Opera 9.21 has 6,800,000, IE7 has 9,100,000, Firefox 2 has 10,500,000. Obviously this has many areas of uncertainty, but it does strongly suggest that Opera interests more than 1% of users.

I am not an Opera evangelist, but I have to say I find Opera the best browser by far, and it is now free. It is the only browser created by dedicated, paid, professionals and it shows. Firefox has stability issues and is memory hungry, IE is simply behind the times – even version 7 lacks many common features. Opera is fast, efficient and easy to use with a highly customisable interface and has a track record of introducing innovations that others copy (tabbed browsing, sessions, trash bin etc). About the only problem I have with Opera is that it has problems with a few interactive sites that are not standards compliant, which is unfortunate. Hopefully your site will not be one of those for much longer.

Many thanks,


Author: EricWoods

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5 comments until now

  • Eric,

    I just checked that site in Opera 9.5 (which is still under development), and it seems that the search problem was fixed. Though I’m not sure whether it was a bug in Opera or with them.

    The contact pages also worked in Opera 9.5.

    As I’ve mentioned in my blog before, Opera 9.5 will include literally thousands of bug fixes. It will be an important upgrade to Opera 9.

    Opera Software

    By Daniel Goldman 3 July, 2007 @ 3:02 pm
  • Ok, nice. I just went there with Opera 9.22 and it was still a problem. So I guess Opera 9.5 helped.

    By EricWoods 14 August, 2007 @ 2:32 pm
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