Opera doesn’t even come close to the likes of Google Chrome, IE and Mozilla in the popularity stakes, but nevertheless the plucky software company from Norway has built up a dedicated following of some 300 million users that swear by its alternative web browser. So it’ll be interesting to watch how they react to the news that Opera is planning to dump its own technology and basically become a clone of Google Chrome.
In what appears to be a strategic move by Opera, one that will allow it to focus its resources on marketing its technology and ad platforms, the company has announced that it plans to make a gradual transition this year away from its own browser engine to one based on WebKit, used by the open-source Chromium browser, which provides the foundation for Google’s Chrome.
In other words, the Opera browser as we know it is dead.
We might see one or two more bug-fixing updates for its current software, but going from the finality of CTO Håkon Wium Li’s statement, it’s likely that the company’s developers are already working on a rebranding of Chromium as we speak.
“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,” said Wium Li.
“Opera will contribute to the WebKit and Chromium projects, and we have already submitted our first set of patches: to improve multi-column layout.”
Chromium is basically Google Chrome, albeit with one or two less features that are specific to Google’s dominant version of the browser such as built-in flash. An open-source project that’s largely funded by Google anyway, it’s been used as the basis for several other independent browsers, such as Iron, Comodo Dragon and Yandex.Browser, which all have varying degrees of modifications built into them.
Opera was tight-lipped as to when we might expect to see its revamped browser, but given that all they need to do is take the source code, add a few Opera-like features and redecorate a little, it probably won’t be too long till we see the first release.
The company hasn’t mentioned anything specific regarding the features its new browser will incorporate, but its fans will be desperately searching for any news. After all, unless Opera makes some significant changes, there will be little point in using what would essentially just be another Google Chrome clone.