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Why Are Users Not Switching to Opera?

Published on August 2, 2006 in Browsers, Firefox

There is a nice discussion going on now over at Opera Watch about why more people do not switch over and use Opera as their main desktop browser of choice. As a current Mozilla Firefox user, who has used IE, Firefox, and Opera in the past, I believe there are several reasons that Opera has not developed a large following.

One of the most important reasons that people have not switched to Opera is a lack of a clearly defined reason to make the switch. A key to marketing is to market a solution not the product. For the average user, what compelling reason is there to switch to Opera? Or put another way, what does Opera add to my browsing experience? Mozilla, with Firefox, pointed to issues such as tabbed browsing, extensions, and most importantly security, which people could easily understand and relate to. With Opera the solution is missing, Opera’s innovation and advanced features do not matter to the average user.

A second reason people avoid switching to Opera is that too many web sites fail to function properly in Opera. Whether it be with Google or other sites, Opera has failed to work on too many times. Users are not going to understand that it may be the web site’s fault, not Opera’s, that the page does not render correctly. Since it works fine in their current browser, they will blame it on Opera and go back to the browser they were using before.

Finally, the look and feel (UI) of the Opera browser is different than Internet Explorer or even Firefox. It is not as smooth as a transition from IE to Opera, as it was from IE to Firefox. Opera is not always easy to use, has a very busy interface, and is missing buttons, like the stop button, on the toolbar. This only adds to the confusion. First impressions are very important. The average user will only quickly give Opera a try. To them the UI is a hurdle to continued usage of the product.

Opera Firefox and IE UI

One way for Opera to grow their desktop browser market share is to use their name recognition and leading status in the mobile browser market to encourage and push people to using Opera on the desktop as well. As mobile browsers become more and more sophisticated and people learn to trust Opera on their phone or PDA this may become an easier and easier thing to do. Ultimately, though, Opera needs to find an answer to the question of ‘What compelling reason is there for me to switch to Opera?’. In many ways, like the new Flock browser Opera seems to be a solution without a problem.

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  1. Antoine of MMM, August 4, 2006:

    As a website designer this has been something I have wondered for a while, but I think that you hit the nail right on the head. Opera is indeed a great browser, but even when the best written sites fail in it, one does get fustrated and go back to the more comfortable browser.

    I think though, with the intro of FF2 and IE7 that there will be enough that developers have to do to correct their writing/design that all that will be left is for Opera to do some advertising. And I think that for them doing it on the side of mobile phones will work best. If people have a pleasurable experience on their phones and then know the same ease of use in on their desktop, it can be a viable jump for a good deal of folks.

    Great article Leslie.

  2. May C, August 5, 2006:

    I’ve recently upgraded to Opera 9 but has found that it’s a major memory hog. Even when exiting out of the application, it still hogs the memory and I end up having to go into Task Manager and end process to completely get it out. I’m now wondering if I should go back to Opera 8, although 9 seems to offer a lot of features, at a cost of RAM.

  3. Leslie Franke, August 5, 2006:


    Interesting point about the new releases of Firefox and IE. The more that standards are followed the better chance Opera probably has to work across all sites. It will also be interesting to see what developer tools are added to Opera 10 and what effect this has on site creators.

  4. Eve15, August 24, 2006:

    So true! I gave Opera 9 a try but Firefox is much easier to control, customize, use, and understand. And Firefox just keeps getting better!

  5. ChrisA, August 28, 2006:

    I tried Opera a while back (ver 6 & 7) and became completely
    frustrated with several items.

    1. When it would hang up or abend you had a heck of a time
    resetting your preferences & links/bookmarks.

    2. Pages did not often display correctly. But the BIG annoyance
    was the handling of media files (it required way too much work
    to install/configure plugins to play media files correctly.

    3. Too much work managing my bookmarks. . . I had a LOT.

    After firefox came out I switched over even though I had a paid
    version of Opera. . . not going back anytime soon.

  6. Chase-san, September 3, 2006:

    I use opera 9 now, and personally I love it, I have used it since version 8, I tried firefox for awhile but the first yime I popped open Opera 8 it felt alot lighter, alot faster and alot less time consuming to use.
    I liked the fact it had a built in web mail client. That was so perfect I instantly kicked Microsoft Outlook and didn’t even consider looking into thunderbird.

    After a little looking I found that though Opera had a few quirks (trust me I can name thousands on firefox and billions more on IE), it like all the other browsers have its ups and downs. It was much better then IE for reasons I won’t bring up (though i’m sure most firefox/opera users know of).

    Opera 9 is well, its fast, and it supports most things that firefox does and many things that it doesn’t (and visa versa), opera is working to helping disabled people use the internet (sounds stupid? I hope not) and instead of pumping up piles of rendering css put more work into verbal and sound css.

    However everyone says Opera 9 passes the ACID 2 test, and the only people I hear saying said test doesn’t matter is people using browsers that do not conform to the test.

    All in all I support opera, its easy to customize, use and understand if you give it more the a passing glance.

    (The features that opera comes stock with beats the pants off all the others, though after a few extra hours of searching for and downloading extensions, firefox catches up rather well)

  7. Andrew, August 20, 2007:

    I started with opera and have not used Firefox very much so it hsn’t been much of an issue of comparison for me. The things about Opera that work so well is the long side bar going across the whole length of the left edge which open up bookmarks and other features. There is no need to pinpoint the mouse on any icon, one just needs to pull the mouse as far left as possible and click.

    The mouse gestures are also great. Some of the very usefull ones do not require any use of the keyboard.

    There certainly is room for improvement though. I’d like to see an easy setup utitlty to set up multiple accounts of Opera. That way if I start a research project I can create a new account, and customize Opera just for that project.

  8. Andrew, August 20, 2007:

    A few more things, I’m not sure if Firefox has this, but the content blocker has come in very usefull in Opera. Sometimes when a webpages has a flashy advertisement going off making the reading of the actual content of the webpage …well it’s like someone waving their hands in front of you while you try to read a book, the content blocker can wipe that out of the page most of the time.

  9. TheSaint, September 4, 2007:

    No offense people but you are all thinking from an experienced computer users point of view, In reality the issue is one of branding – most computers these days are sold with windows installed and with windows comes explorer. The average home user will not be aware that thier are alternative browsers worth the effort as most are really only apparent if you start looking for them. in order to become more prominent in the market browsers such as opera and firefox need to raise awareness of their product through market advertising and word of mouth.
    I speak from experience having recently switched from ie to opera 9 after hearing someone mention it at a party – prior to that I wouldnt have bothered switching as I could see nothing wrong with ie
    The Saint

  10. enigma, April 10, 2008:

    I suggest people look for enigma browser and download it from http://store.democratz.org

    You can find the link just above the products and you can download it for free.

    Engima runs faster than Firefox and you can easily run 32 tabs and not slow down the machine.

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Leslie Franke:[les-lee fran-key]; 1. Husband and proud dogowner; 2. Seventh-day Adventist; 3. Web Designer; 4. Atlanta Braves Fan; 5. Northeast Ohio Native; 6. Bottle Caps Lover; 7. Certified 'Freakonomic';