Exit Presto, stage right

Software should probably be seen as merely a collection of bits and bytes – ones or zeros, or on/off states. We use our imagination and tools to bundle these bits and bytes into executables – and then some magic occurs in human-computer interaction that lets us perceive software as an entity, name it, interact with it – even impose personality on it. A magic of the mind, perhaps. I guess the emotional, imaginative aspects of this process to some extent explains the pseudo-religious nature of some users' belief in or attachment to specific software. (Hello, Mac-vs-PC or closed-vs-open-source holy wars).

In short: We imbue software with more personality than we are really aware of.

So with today's switch to WebKit announcement it's public knowledge that Opera's current rendering engine will be phased out. Its software personality was one of surprising brilliance combined with equally surprising shortcomings. It was resourceful, forward-looking and often ahead of its time yet at other times neglectful of even long-stated needs and requirements. It had some hissy fits and temperamental interaction with other software, especially certain plug-ins. Nevertheless it carried out great work and brought the company that cared for it 300 million users, over the years being ported to an incredible number of platforms.

Today it's clear that the Presto personality is singing its final aria in this Opera, it will slowly be leaving the stage, and I'm fairly sure everyone who worked with it over the years will be a little emotional about that.

Even though we know it's just some bits and bytes.

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25 thoughts on “Exit Presto, stage right

  1. As a long-time user I have very mixed feelings about this. Indeed the internal engine shouldn't matter to a user, but it was the distinct look-and-feel and features that made Opera what it was 12 years ago when I started using it.I see opportunities and threats. Website compatibility might be a huge gain. Features will be a challenge though. I hope to see UI customizability, mouse gestures, keyboard shortcuts for all functions, and spatial navigation migrate gracefully to a Webkit base but have some worries not all of those might be given priority…And of course a big sorry for those at Opera who couldn't make this transition with you. That in itself will already mean some 'lost personality'.

  2. Originally posted by dahulevogyre:

    as if it'll have no implication

    The implications will emerge and tell their own stories eventually. Some things I don't know, some things are not even decided – and I'm not able to take part in discussions and guesswork.

  3. Originally posted by hallvors:

    and I'm not able to take part in discussions and guesswork.

    That's a pity, normally that's the road to innovation…Actually I expected more grief on this site about Carakan's death, then Presto's, and maybe I'm the only one with the impression that Carakan was the weakest link not Presto.I've used Presto since 2000. Yes, it feels like the death of a fellow that taught me, pleasantly, the ways to explore the internet. IE was a nuisance.But when you take a look at several JSPerf tests, it's clear you can't beat V8, and you can't beat a community effort. As a sentimental user I regret Opera's move, as an investor, let's look into the future.And yes, I also prefer the internet to be a collection of informational sites, not a collection of apps. Still, speed beats everything.Originally posted by BS-Harou:

    What about browser.js?

    What about userJS?

  4. OK, now that means Opera 12.14 is the last version of Opera for me. I will probably use it for next 2-3 years and then I will use Firefox.Next 2-3 years I will use Opera 12.14, since I like Opera M2. With this decision of Opera Software ASA, slowly I will start migrating from My Opera. Within the next 2 years, I will migrate to WordPress and Outlook.com. It was Opera's Web Standards Curriculum from where I learnt HTML, CSS and basic of JavaScript. It was when I used Opera M2 that I learnt about use of e-mail clients. It was from Opera that I learnt a lot – like concept of UserCSS and UserJS.Thanks to all Opera developers whose efforts are present in the current versions of Opera. I really hope they reconsider it.

  5. Originally posted by Janghou:

    I expected more grief on this site about Carakan's death, then Presto's, and maybe I'm the only one with the impression that Carakan was the weakest link not Presto

    I thought of saying Presto&Carakan in the blog post, just used "Presto" as a shorthand because using both was clunkier..Also: in site compat terms, Carakan was rarely "the weakest link".

  6. To settle the chaotic "what's happening to opera" panic, you guys should start submitting patches, huge loads of them and train yourselves (saying positively) to participate in open source.I mean irc, mail lists, responding to crazy ideas etc. Trust me when I say a lot of us supported and even bought opera because of the "little but professional, polite" nature of the company culture at opera.

  7. As an Opera user since Windows 3.1(1) days I am unsure of how to feel about this.One of the reasons I became interested in Opera was that it was not really mainstream. Then I found they (you) have a really great product and have used Opera as my primary browser since then.You did it your own way, and I admired that. Now you are going to do another way and I respect your choice.You have cultivated a culture of innovation which has had mainstream browsers chasing after you for years.I just hope this change will not diminish this.I also hope that I can look forward to more of the same.

  8. Originally posted by hallvors:

    Also: in site compat terms, Carakan was rarely "the weakest link".

    I mean more that I was afraid that Opera couldn't win anything with JS development going that fast, (Harmony, all new api's and node.js etc), while it had to deliver an enormous amount of simply keeping up the pace.BTW @hallvors are you a RUSH fan?You made a nice subtle hint to two great rock-albums:Presto and Exit…Stage LeftActually I'm listening to the last one, and I'm a bit ashamed to say:it's better than Presto, and it's live

  9. Originally posted by Janghou:

    You made a nice subtle hint to two great rock-albums

    Pure coincidence, though maybe I should check out RUSH? ;)Originally posted by Janghou:

    I mean more that I was afraid that Opera couldn't win anything with JS development going that fast

    Jim Ley once was ranting about HTML5 and WHATWG generally, saying that the fast pace of innovation would create higher barriers to entry and thus less competition in the browser market. I guess Opera's move proves his point. It's exciting to see web innovation – at the same time it is a good question how important all the new stuff is. Maybe we were in too much of a RUSH (pun intended) trying to fix all problems at once and thus wasted developer man years on not-really-all-that-important technology?Only the future knows ..

  10. Originally posted by hallvors:

    saying that the fast pace of innovation would create higher barriers to entry

    I agree with that, but high barriers and open source don't match.Originally posted by hallvors:

    Only the future knows ..

    what history means: The fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. The Rat Race can't be won, you can only die during the game.And it's like professional cycling if one starts using EPO, the rest will follow. I'm not saying Google is using moneydoping, but they make it like water.On the other hand let's benefit of a joint effort: a good browser is more then a fine rendering engine and look at Linux, is that monoculture, it has a huge diversity IMHO.And yeah, check out RUSH, I would say Moving Pictures or Permanent Waves

  11. I'm holding out hope for Jake Archibald's hope that some of Opera's "attitude" in standards adherence will come to influence the Chromium/WebKit projects, but overall I'm feeling much more in line with the spirit of @chaals' and jax's posts.While I've never had the honour of working at Opera, nor the opportunity to gain a sense of affection for the code behind Presto, I can certainly appreciate the emotional attachment many at Opera may have. However, at least for us "outsiders", I think it is much more the practical implications for development communities and the future of web standards that are of much more concern than any sense of a binary personality.The fear-mongering cry of "ooh monoculture" may be a bit of a broken record at this stage, but it's a very difficult feeling to shake. I would be particularly sad to see Mozilla decline as a contributor to the web – they'll now have to contend with the extra might of Opera working together with the existing WebKit contributors.For me personally, as a web developer, Presto has a been a defacto reference implementation. Yes, it's got gazillions of bugs, like anything else, many of them with standards compliance, but my own anecdotal experience is very much in line with Jake Archibald's – if it's not working in Presto, assume you're doing it wrong. We've lost that reference.

  12. Originally posted by Janghou:

    Actually I expected more grief on this site about Carakan's death, then Presto's, and maybe I'm the only one with the impression that Carakan was the weakest link not Presto.

    I mourn Carakan almost more than Presto. I have written several patches if people had problems with websites or wanted additional stuff and the Carakan/Presto specific things like beforeFoo and afterFoo and the variable and function overrides were really handy for that. Despite people say that -webkit- and V8 is sooo advanced (which is not really true, they are only quite fast nowadays and it is easy for them to run with webpages that are made especially for that combination …), I miss that in Chromium a lot. Originally posted by hallvors:

    Also: in site compat terms, Carakan was rarely "the weakest link".

    … especially when I think about the browser.js that "saved the a**e" of Presto many times when someone coded the -webkit- way, meaning: I don't care for others, it works in -webkit- and that is all I want (slightly exaggerated).btw: Thanks for all the browser.js and happy sitepatching!There will be site problems with -webkit- and V8 too 😉

  13. … especially when I think about the browser.js that "saved the a**e" of Presto many times when someone coded the -webkit- way

    Well, to be honest, quite a few (don't know if actually most) of the browser.js hacks were also necessary to work around bugs/shortcomings of Presto…(judging from the changelog entries)

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