The case against Opera Mini on the iPhone

In 2002, Apple forked KDE project’s HTML layout engine KHTML and JavaScript engine KJS into WebKit which begot Safari. As usual, everyone thought Apple was either evil or ignorant for not choosing Gecko, everyone’s favorite non-IE rendering engine at the time. Apple rejected Gecko because KHTML/KJS offered less code, cleaner design, excellent standards compliance and faster speed.

Through its sustained commitment for nearly a decade not just to WebKit but also to WHATWG, HTML5 and various complementary aspects of the open web (canvas, H.264, SVG, etc.) Apple gave the open web community an increasingly credible alternative to proprietary platforms like IE, Flash and Silverlight.

Today, in the mobile business, every major platform but Microsoft’s does (or soon will) run WebKit as its primary web browser. The open source WebKit would certainly not be where it is today without Apple.

To Apple, though, WebKit is not merely a web browser. It bet its rich web-media rendering future on WebKit. Every Internet-connected Apple device, and likely Apple TV soon, runs on it. Even for the usual Apple anti-fans, WebKit, specifically its iPhone instantiation, is still considered the best browser on a modern, multi-touch mobile device.

Now comes Opera, mini Me

mini.jpg

With amateur-time spectacles in airports that would make Adobe Flash evangelists proud, Opera now is daring Apple to reject its Opera Mini browser which it hasn’t submitted yet to the App Store:

“Opera is not based upon WebKit, no” confirms [Opera co-founder] Tetzchner “but it’s the world’s most popular mobile browser. Why would Apple not want the world’s most popular browser on the iPhone?”

So what’s not to like about Opera Mini? It says “50 million rides” in the ad above, it must be “the world’s most popular mobile browser”? If that’s the case, Apple should reject Opera for not being good at math: there are already more than 50 million iPhones/iPod touches sold, everyone of which actually relies on WebKit as its sole browser. Let’s consider the serious issues:

Proxy. It’s one thing for an app on the iPhone to query the web, talk to its own or others’ servers, but something entirely different for Opera Mini to proxy the entire web through its own proprietary servers. Yes, you read it right. Opera gets in between you and every single URL out there, from your bank to your school to your doctor’s office. You never communicate with any site directly, only through Opera proxy servers that first go to that URL, get a page, recompile it into its own markup language, compress and send it back to the mobile client that alone can understand it.

Security. When visiting encrypted pages, you have to allow Opera to get in the middle to decrypt and re-encrypt (via Opera Software), breaking what’s meant to be an end-to-end security chain. You need to ask yourself if you need another potential opaque layer of insecurity between you and, say, your bank account?

Scalability. In introducing the iPhone’s Exchange facilities, Apple stressed how it was more secure and scalable for a distributed system to deliver email than to rely on a single point of failure, like RIM’s centralized NOC proxies for BlackBerry devices, which have infamously suffered multiple failures over a number of years. Now imagine Opera, a tiny outfit in comparison, having a similar fate, except taking down the entire web for its users.

JavaScript. Opera Mini 5, the version which we assume will be submitted to the App Store, is currently in preview and is not the more capable one that requires Java J2ME runtime which Apple will clearly not approve. Apple gets dinged for not delivering the full Internet by excluding Flash, and yet I bet the very same Apple anti-fans won’t say a word about Opera not even trying.

In addition to recompiling each and every web destination into its own markup language, Opera also deliberately dumbs down its JavaScript support. After Opera gets a page from the real server, its onLoad JavaScript events are fired, but all such scripts are allowed only two seconds, and, for example, all interval and setTimeout functions are disabled. So if the original page was doing something time-related or took more than two seconds, too bad, the original page is compiled, compressed and sent to the mobile device incomplete. Consequences be damned. When on the device, there are only four events allowed to trigger JavaScripts, onUnload, onSubmit, onChange, onClick. Enjoy your full Internet, the Opera way.

Opera Mini may be a huge step forward for dumb WAP phones, but for a company that bet its future on the rich interactive features of HTML5 and JavaScript in WebKit, this Operatic intrusion is clearly a giant step backwards.

Persistence. One of the key capabilities in HTML5 is local storage, which allows web sites/apps to store varying amounts of data on the client side for personalization, preferences, data, syncing and off-line capabilities. Coupled with emasculated JavaScript support, Opera is looking into the WAP past instead of the HTML5 future here.

Interface. Pictures of the proprietary Opera Mini are not being made available, but the company said that the browser does not include such fundamental UI conventions on the iPhone as pinch-zoom. Apple has bet its fortunes on establishing the world’s first pervasive multi-touch UI platform, from Mac trackpads to iPhones to iPads. As we argued here two years ago, it would have been a mistake to allow Flash on the iPhone because it had no concept of multi-touch, regardless of any other issue. Nearly 100 million iPhone/Mac users are now familiar with Apple’s multi-touch gesture library, it’d be a travesty to allow a tiny player with a marginal interest in this platform and no experience in gestural UIs to pollute it now.

Unknowns. There are many of them:

  • Will OS-wide copy and paste work as expected in Opera Mini?
  • Will it allow multiple text and graphic items to be selected and copied with formatting intact to other apps?
  • Will bookmarklets such as Instapaper or ReadItLater work as expected?
  • What will happen to Opera when more and more device-specific functionalities (like GPS, accelerometer, background notifications, etc.) are integrated into WebKit?
  • Apple’s said to receive $100 million/year for including Google Search in Safari. How does Opera interfere with that revenue?

I could name many more unknowns, but the fundamental problem with Opera Mini is this: other than a few geeks who want everything because that’s what defines them, have you ever met an iPhone user who complained about its browser? Most iPhone users I know bought an iPhone primarily because they loved the browser on it. Sure, who wouldn’t want a faster browser? If the iPhone got 3X faster this summer, will people stop wanting it to be even faster? Of course not.

I have no idea if Apple will reject Opera. But before people start jumping up and down about how evil Apple is, I hope they consider some of the issues posed by Opera, because so far the only advantage they promise, but haven’t yet publicly delivered, is speed. And speed isn’t everything, if the Wintel saga hasn’t taught us anything else.

67 thoughts on “The case against Opera Mini on the iPhone

  1. That feeling, when you read something really stupid on the web, and you really want to bash it, but its 2 years old, so…

    Its quite clear that the author just misses the point of Opera Mini, and has generally no idea what he is talking about:
    Most of the points against Mini comes from the simple fact, that they are trying to save bandwidth for you, by proxying your requests through their servers, compressing the webpage, and sending it to you. This leads to some limitations… and guess what? Thats why Opera Mobile exists.

    Oh everything is clearly stated on their website (and already was in 2010) ? Hurrdurr I dont like to read. I will just post flamebait on the interwebz. Enjoy your full Internet, the apple fanboy way.

  2. I hate to be a killjoy, but, posted in 2010[*], this opinion piece has lost some of its validity there now is an Opera Mini browser (version 7.0.2, last updated 23 May 2012) in the AppStore [http://itunes.apple.com/uk/app/opera-mini-web-browser/id363729560?mt=8]. The app could have been there for ages for all I know… as well as, internally wrapped in WebKit for compliance… a fully possible outcome, native Mini-core talking through a lightweight WebKit wrapper talking to the wwworld. So, perhaps this comment thread should by now be closed, i.e. protected from further content dilution?

    [^*] tis a pity the year item is not a part of comment visible date instances.

  3. choice can never be ‘mindless’, the ability to choose between what you want is the correct format of attending to things. The ability to choose is as good as it gets, it encourages competition and in the end benefits the end user despite what apple says. We should be able to choose what we want on what we buy, we dont need a father to ‘look’ out for us, we are old enough to make our own decisions. This is has nothing to do with apple caring or protecting any of their customers it is about protecting their business model.
    Millions of people uses operamini to access private information on other smartphones such as symbian s60, there have never been a single compliant. I do recognise the possibility of your data leaking and being stored by others, i do agree that a proxy server increases the vulnerability of your security, i agree yes. The thing is that it should be available for those willing to use it. You cant disagree that the same persons who would download and install it are the same persons who have used operamini on other phone and recognise it as a good alternative. So its not like people using iphones dont know opera already, they KNOW it and is willing to download and use it because they have used it BEFORE. Nothing on the iphone will make them more prone to risk than on other platforms because they will be using the same servers to process data.

    I guess the north koreans and cubans know how mindless choices are, then why try to change their government’s ways? :)

    • i do agree that a proxy server increases the vulnerability of your security, i agree yes.

      Thank you, that settles it then.

      Unlike North Korea, there’s an embarrassing amount of choice in the phone business. Some are better than others. You pick whatever you want. If you don’t like Apple’s policies, then you’d be free to use Android or LinMo phones.

  4. This article have in a lot of errors, same with the comments. People seem to be arguing against a CHOICE, yes a democratic choice of what you want to use. That long post above about the virtues of choice and how difficult a choice will be and how bad choice is, is purely terrible. These are the same people who criticise totallarian countries, it is SHAMEFUL! The same crazy person who wrote that lengthy piece of crap was trying to twist our minds to believe choice on computer systems are totallarian, lol.. How much did apple pay you?

    Opera mini will deliver a chance for any1 to choose what they like, choice is one of the virtues of democracy and democracy should be EVERYWHERE. Operamini will only benefit end users, fanbois are so defensive of their company that they will prefer to see a benefit go down for the sake of fanboism.

    Opera have been around for years and NOT A SINGLE complaint on privacy have been seen by any1, which proves how good they are, so why now? Operamini is even more popular than the s60 web browser which is the most widespread built in browser on earth. Operamini’s install base extends beyond smartphones and into the vast realms of feature phones, no less than 300 million phones have operamini installed and used atleast once.

    Security problem is there, but so is it on all browsers. The same people that fear using opera is the same people who use mobileME, yahoo and gmail or any other service with information of you in the cloud. You are also the same people that have no idea that all your phone calls, text and internet traffic is monitored by the government to some extent, FACT.

    So people argue on the real advantage and disadvantage of having opera, a CHOICE on your iphones and ipod touches. Stop being brainwashed into believing choice is bad, communism isnt that widespread anymore, a choice is good. Dont deny yourself the chance of using something that you want to and believing that steve jobs is protecting you, Jobs is not protecting you, he doesnt care about you, once you continues to buy his products and apps he will be happy with u, when you stop he couldn care less about you. The fact is: the man is in a business and he does everything to protect his business, what you should do is protect YOUR interest, the ability to choose, push him to change the company’s ways. Stop thinking about his interest and defending his beliefs when infact you are the one getting hurt.
    With all that said, i do believe operamini is a good choice for the phones, whoever scared of privacy just dont download it. People have been using it for YEARS without any repercussion.

    • I’m getting tired of these “Opera is secure, because…” nonsense. Opera is the only browser in question here that acts as the man in the middle by explicitly breaking the end-to-end security chain between the user and the target URL. If you couldn’t comprehend that from the above article, read it here again. If you don’t believe me, then read the Opera Mini FAQ warning itself for heaven’s sake:

      Is there any end-to-end security between my handset and — for example — paypal.com or my bank?

      No. If you need full end-to-end encryption, you should use a full Web browser such as Opera Mobile.

      Opera Mini uses a transcoder server to translate HTML/CSS/JavaScript into a more compact format. It will also shrink any images to fit the screen of your handset. This translation step makes Opera Mini fast, small, and also very cheap to use. To be able to do this translation, the Opera Mini server needs to have access to the unencrypted version of the Web page. Therefore no end-to-end encryption between the client and the remote Web server is possible.

      If you haven’t learned anything from the Google Buzz fiasco regarding security and privacy, then I don’t know what to tell you. If you want mindless choice then, obviously, iPhone or other Apple devices are not your platform. Move on.

    • You are just spreading FUD against Opera. The fact is that Opera Mini is perfectly secure for day to day browsing.

      If you don’t trust Opera, you shouldn’t use Opera Mini for sensitive transactions, of course, but considering Opera’s reputation and conduct, your data is safe with them. That is, they won’t log any data on you.

      Unlike Apple and Google.

  5. When did Opera Mobile start using proxy servers?

    No, I haven’t been living in a cave the past few years, but as far as I knew, Skyfire was the mobile web browser solution that used this method. Are we to expect a massive prior-art lawsuit in either direction, or a buyout in the near future?

    Like Opera and Skyfire, Bitstream’s Bolt uses server-side compression technology to deliver web content to handsets. Unlike Opera, Bolt is Webkit-based and it also complies to more standards. One to look out for on the iPhone, possibly?

    Interesting times ahead, that’s for sure. I for one would not use a proprietary solution for accessing the Web on my iPhone, even for the most innocuous use. That’s exactly how you get caught out.

    As for the reputation and trustworthiness or otherwise of Opera, that is a red herring for me, totally misleading.

    The Russian FSB have only recently rounded up the criminals that broke WorldPay’s encryption in 2008 and in a 12-hour period, withdrew about $9 million dollars from ATM’s in the USA. This is a company that would compare favourably in size, complexity and security capability with Opera, wouldn’t it?

    Just saying…

    • you’re making two distinct arguments: Proxying is bad, and Bolt is better because it proxies but uses webkit.

      The argument for bolt isn’t so much as an argument as much as, “but Bitbolt plays by the rules naa uhhhh.” So I’ll ignore it.

      You (and everyone else in these comments) is right that Opera proxying adds another point of failure to what is usually end to end encryption. The argument that Opera is a small company and thus makes insecure software, I don’t think is fair. Look at Microsoft circa early 2000s.

      When it comes to what Opera has in its favor: It’s been doing this on the largest scale for the longest amount of time. It’s not some fly-by-night browser company. Skyfire had it’s stable release in May. Opera had it’s first stable release in 2005.

    • airmanchairman is just spouting ignorant FUD and misinformation.

      1: Opera Mobile does not use proxy servers by default. This si about Opera Mini, which does.

      2: Opera Mini was around long before Skyfire

      3: Opera uses Presto, which is more standards compliant than WebKit, but how is that relevant here exactly?

      4: Bolt is crap. It’s a crappy clone of Opera Mini 4.

      5: The iPhone IS a proprietary solution. Safari’s UI, integration with the iPhone, etc. is all proprietary as well. Only the actual engine isn’t. Double standards, anyone?

      6: Opera Software has been around for more than a decade. They have the best security track record of any browser vendor, by far.

      Enough FUD now, OK?

  6. “So what’s not to like about Opera Mini? It says “50 million rides” in the ad above, it must be “the world’s most popular mobile browser”? If that’s the case, Apple should reject Opera for not being good at math: there are already more than 50 million iPhones/iPod touches sold, everyone of which actually relies on WebKit as its sole browser.”

    WebKit is not a browser.

    Safari is a browser.

    Opera Mini has more than 50 million users.

    But that does not take into account all the millions of preinstalled versions of Opera Mini.

    Nor does it mention Opera Mobile.

    Fail.

  7. The arguments in this blog may sound compelling on the surface, but most of them are pure fallacies. In fact, this blog post sounds more like FUD than antying else. Observe:

    1. Proxy: All your internet traffic goes through your ISP. Opera speeds up browsing by using proxy servers. Is that supposed to be a problem? It only is if Opera is not trustworthy.

    2. Security: Again, this is about trusting Opera or not.

    3. Scalability: Opera Mini has more than 50 million users. I doubt that a few million iPhone users are going to cause scalability problems. Besides, Opera has multiple redundant data centers all over the world.

    4. JavaScript: Opera Mini does support JavaScript. (Don’t mention Safari’s JavaScript failures, by all means!)

    5. Persistence: Opera Mini actually does local caching. Which allows it to navigate back instantly. Oops.

    6. Interface: Sorry, but the Opera Mini UI is available even by running the Opera Mini demo which is a Java applet on Opera’s site.

    7. Unknowns: Are these questions supposed to be an argument against Opera Mini?

    You claim there are fundamental problems with opera Mini. It turns out the fundamental problem is that your blog post is just FUD.

    Also, there’s more to Opera Mini than speed: You can save money, especially when roaming. And you get a different feature set, and of course:

    CHOICE!

    • 1. Proxy: Your ISP doesn’t decrypt and re-encrypt your secure traffic. I don’t want Opera to know my banking information, credit card numbers, SSN, etc.

      2 Security: See #1. Plus, this gives hackers and thieves one more avenue of attack to get my personal information.

      4. JavaScript: It supports some javascript. Client side javascript is severely limited. Some sites might work, some might not. I don’t want to have to worry about if the site is working the way I expect it to behind the scenes.

      As for the other points, they’re less of a worry to me.

    • 1. Proxy: The point is that Opera is just routing information. They are subject to very strict privacy laws, have an excellent privacy track record, and will not store your data.

      2. Security: This actually makes your personal information safer because no code is executed on the phone. Safari is far less safe.

      4. JavaScript: It supports full JavaScript. It even supports Ajax to a certain extent.

      You already have to worry about sites not working in Safari because it fails on a lot of sites.

    • No, the point is that Opera’s servers has access to all the information I send or receive on the web, and they break end to end encryption. I don’t care what the laws might be now or how good their track record is, any company can be hacked into, and giving additional attack vectors to hackers is never a good idea.

      As for javascript, everything I’ve read except your comments says that javascript is very limited (especially on the client). If no code is executed on the phone (as you say), then there is no way that javascript is fully supported. So which is it? And if javascript is fully supported, than I would like to see some documentation from Opera.

    • Opera doesn’t “break” any encryption. It’s designed to use proxy servers to compress data.

      If you don’t trust the company despite the strict privacy laws in Norway and their excellent privacy track record, fine. But don’t start spewing FUD about it.

      If any company can be hacked into, then so can your ISP. Then so can your bank.

      Opera has been in this industry for more than a decade. They know their stuff. And it would be pointless to hack their servers because they don’t even store any data, and they have security experts monitoring everything.

      JS is fully supported. Some Ajax requires an additional round-trip to the server to fetch that data.

    • I said that is breaks “end to end” encryption, which it does. Even if my ISP is hacked, they wouldn’t be able to get any of my data from secure sites, since it’s encrypted until it reaches the end point. If my bank is hacked, they have legal obligations to notify me and reimburse me for any theft from my account.
      A proxy server provides an additional point of attack, and in the case of this system, that point of attack will be decrypting my secure traffic. That’s not FUD, that’s the truth.
      It does’t matter how long Opera has been in the industry – Microsoft has been in the industry for decades and Windows is still being hacked all the time. It’s not pointless to hack into Opera’s servers, because the information can be stolen as it flows through, regardless of whether or not Opera stores the information permanently.
      As for javascript, you’re the one spreading FUD until you can point me to documentation that specifies what javascript is supported. For javascript to be “fully” supported, it would have to execute on the client, which you say it doesn’t do (and spout it like its a security feature).

    • If Opera is hacked, nothing will happens, since no data is actually stored on their servers. And no, it will not be possible to “hack in” and eavesdrop because they will know right away that something is wrong.

    • If Opera is hacked, nothing will happen, since no data is actually stored on their servers. And no, it will not be possible to “hack in” and eavesdrop because they will know right away that something is wrong.

  8. I have come to enjoy your Blog tremendously. Every time I frequent one of the big gadget blogs I am getting a headache from the shallowness, sensationalism and shill.

    Thanks for another eye-opening article.

    • Unfortunately, this article is shallow and sensationalist in itself… See the comment below for more info.

  9. Oh, this is retarded and just an apology for apple. Just let us nerds have Opera Mini on it if we want it. We know the technology behind it, and we want it anyway. I guarantee a lot of people who like mobile safari, would also like the sheer speed of Opera mini from time to time, and the reflow capability. People just need to stop apologizing for Apple’s ways.

  10. It’s fine to be against Opera because you disagree with their methods. However, their technology is not new: it has been used and improved in Opera Mini for years and is even available in their desktop version of Opera in the form of Opera Turbo.

    It’s been mentioned here that Opera introduces a single point of failure by running everything through a proxy. I don’t see this as being any worse than the single point of failure that the iPhone is already subject to: AT&T.

    I think it’s a misdirection to suggest that the “average” user would not understand why Opera Mini breaks certain pages or be ignorant of the privacy concerns. The real truth is that the “average” user wouldn’t have Opera Mini in the first place. Perhaps the “average” users I know are a bit more average than the rest, but an “average” user to me is one who thinks that the Internet is the blue “e” on their desktop. They are the ones who bought an iPhone because they think it’s cool or because they have an iPod and want to put music on their phone. They are the people who wouldn’t know to download another browser because they don’t even know what a browser is—it’s just the Internet.

    It’s easy to live in a world where we understand certain things and expect others to understand the same things and come to the same conclusions that we do. I have a hard time listening to most technology commentators these days because they don’t seem to be able to put themselves in the “average” user’s shoes. That’s exactly what’s going on here: a small but extremely minority railing against user interface guidelines (the horror) and privacy issues (get over it) and anything else that’s fit to complain about. I realize it’s become a fad to make a living complaining about things but to me it all comes down to this: it’s just not that big of a deal.

    Because the minorities are vocal on both sides and the EU is in antitrust mode these days (and seems to love Opera, if their history with Microsoft offers any indication), I honestly believe it would be political suicide for Apple to reject Opera Mini. Forget the ideological issues, interface guidelines, and SDK violations. If they can force Microsoft to put a browser ballot on Windows (where IE comes by default but any other browser can be freely installed), why not for the iPhone (where the only choice to view the web is WebKit)? It’s not that Apple is using its monopoly to drive out other browser choices. Instead, it has forbid them. I don’t think this is a path that Apple will want to follow. Best to give in now rather than to be forced later on.

    • Microsoft is a convicted monopoly, and therefore plays by different rules. Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on the smartphone market, there are more choices today than ever. They are allowed to limit what runs on their platform.

    • Monopolies are not inherently bad. It is abuse of monopoly power to limit competition that is bad.

  11. Here are reasons why I’m drooling for Opera Mini on iPhone:

    * Safari has limit of 8 tabs, sometimes starts dropping and reloading pages even before that. Opera Mini won’t have that problem (it’s designed to work on devices with kilobytes of RAM, and gets megs on iPhone).

    * When network drops to Edge or worse – GPRS, Safari becomes annoyingly slow. Those fancy JS frameworks are pain when you have 10KB/s connection. Opera Mini doesn’t have to download that.

    * Safari can’t always enlarge fonts enough for pages to be readable (without horizontal scrolling). I have to use bookmarklet that enlarges font size more often than I’d like, and it doesn’t always work. Opera Mini mercilessly wraps text to width of the screen.

    I won’t do internet banking on Mini. If it supports double-tap well, I might forgive it lack of pinch to zoom. But I’ll be enjoying faster page downloads.

    Remember Opera doesn’t replace Safari, so you don’t have to lament lack of CSS3 animations or local storage which will remain in Safari.

    I guess Opera Mini could get compatibility with very interactive pages by offering “WebKit Tab”, similar to “IE Tab” Firefox extension.

    • If you really wanted more than 8 tabs, there are numerous browsers (interfaces over WebKit) in the app store that allow that. iCab is one of them, and it does not send all your personal web data through a company’s servers as a proxy.

      I use Mobile Safari over EDGE, and it is not annoyingly slow. It’s a much better experience than the one I had with Opera Mini on a Blackberry Curve, also over EDGE on the same carrier.

      Just because you won’t do Internet banking on Opera Mini, doesn’t mean others won’t. There are a lot of users out there who will download Opera Mini out of curiosity, unaware of this huge security risk, and perform banking on the browser.

    • One of the pleasures of writing for this site is the insightful readers explaining stuff so I don’t have to. :)

    • Wow, so you can download some Safari skin and get more than 8 tabs?

      …and you fail to address his other points…

      Opera Mini is not a security risk. Opera has an excellent privacy track record. And Norway has some of the world’s strictest privacy laws.

  12. I pity that the discussion here tends to be whether Apple should or should not include Opera Mini in its App Store. Although that’s mentioned by Kontra, the real and alarming point is that:

    - Opera released a browser that lets every single byte through a proxy controlled by Opera, even with https connections, decrypting and encrypting again on-the-fly. So everything I do and see on the internet will be tracked by Opera, including my bank account information, medical insurance data, etc. If Google would do that, the whole world would cry (remember the privacy issues with Chrome, apart from the unique client ID which every download has).

    - Opera deliberately breaks Javascript, meaning several sites dependent on it won’t work. A regular user won’t even know this and just blames the iPhone or the site itself.

    - Opera doesn’t offer a UI with multi-touch events, breaking users’ expectations.

    The first point alone is a deal-breaker for me, I won’t use Opera Mini ever. I can’t say anything about Safari on iPhones, as I do not owe one, but replacing something bad by something insecure will make things worse for me.

    I don’t care whether Apple should include Opera Mini in its App Store or not. The only drawback of doing so is that users unaware of the implications will silently be exposed to a privacy threat.

    • Opera doesn’t track what you do online. Opera is based in Norway, which has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world. Even if you do use your bank, Opera does not track your account information. They are not allowed, and Opera has an excellent privacy track record.

      Safari has more broken JS than Opera.

      Even if you don’t want to use Opera Mini doesn’t mean that everyone else is as paranoid-delusional.

    • If you have so much to fear then please take your foil hat, your Kalashnikov and your child pornography and get the hell out of my country.

  13. Generally speaking, the T&Cs and UI guidelines should be the criteria. However, one must note that the T&Cs didn’t and couldn’t have foreseen every situation that might arise, especially since the App Store was novel for Apple, and particularly in the case where Apple asserted retail-store-like control over its virtual shelves.

    Apple has repeatedly made it clear to developers that it will do whatever it can to ensure a high quality user experience for its users on its iPhone/iPod/iPad products. If you are not interested in that, then Apple’s products are not for you. There are lots of other choices out there.

  14. 50K devices!

    “50 million iPhones/iPod touches sold, everyone of which actually relies on WebKit as its sole browser”

    Sold does not mean used, does it? It doesn’t.

    What you are basically implying with all those negative colouring is that: “If an app is broken/not superior/awesome/ etc etc.. don’t allow it into the market”

    That is especially true when Apple has a competing product which is not capable of standing for itself, but surprisingly, has the ability to get sympathizers like the author to colour potential rivals in shades of black and suspicion.

  15. Not that I don’t agree with most of this post, but everyone loves Safari on the iPhone? This is simple not true.

    Safari was until 2.* totally unusable. And even now it crashes every now and then.

    The thing about browsing on the iPhone isn’t Safari, it is the iPhone itself. The iPhone is the device that made it possible to surf the web on a mobile device. Safari is just a tool and a rather crappy one at that.

    • “The iPhone is the device that made it possible to surf the web on a mobile device.”

      With Safari.

      The very first “actually usable” web browser on a phone.

      As to whether Opera Mini is a better web browser than Safari on the iPhone, you’ll have to actually read the piece above.

    • Did you ever posess an original iPhone?

      Safari was a desaster. Simple as that.

      It was usable because the input method wasn’t screwed up. Every browser to that point had used a mouse pointer for input. Which just wasn’t fun to navigate on websites. And it crashed about every 20 minutes.

      Why was it so good? 2 things: you could zoom by double tapping and you could click links without going crazy.

      Nothing else was there. Everyone I know that owned an original iPhone cursed Safari every now and then.

      It got better over time, but the fact is: the iPhone was a success because of the interface. Every other Browser with this 2 features: auto zoom by double tapping and clicking links with your finger – would have been equal good.

      Safari is one of the worst application on the iPhone. Simple as that. I really don’t understand your praise of it…

      Safari as is, on a desktop, is a pretty weak browser. More browser variety would actually increase iPhone security ;) But this is another topic. (Safari is, I believe the easiest to exploit browser on the market).

    • I find that I agree with Nix. I have an iPhone 3G and there is no application I dread using more than Safari. Pages load slow, I can’t have more than a few pages open at a time, and most of the time Safari balks at the vaunted “pinch to zoom” feature and just crashes outright. I’m not saying that Opera Mini is the answer (the last phone I used it on was an old Sony Ericsson flip phone) but all of this Safari love is just a bit misguided.

    • @Kontra, give me a break.

      Safari the first usable browser?

      LOL.

      Opera had been doing proper mobile browsers for years before Safari arrives. Safari ripped off Opera’s panning and zooming techniques FFS!

    • The issue is not Safari vs Opera browsing at all. The issue here is Web rendering: WebKit vs Opera Mini. We’re talking about something that is a level below the browser.

      It sounds like what you want is Opera for iPhone, so you can get the iPhone browsing experience without Safari. However, Opera Mini is not that. Opera Mini is a feature phone version of Opera, it completely lacks the iPhone browsing experience. It replaces the iPhone multitouch, privacy, and standardized rendering with no multitouch, no privacy, and broken rendering. It doesn’t turn your iPhone into a Safari-less iPhone, it turns your iPhone into a feature phone.

      > The thing about browsing on the iPhone isn’t
      > Safari, it is the iPhone itself. The iPhone
      > is the device that made it possible to surf
      > the web on a mobile device.

      Where you say iPhone here, I assume you mean “WebKit”. That is the part of OS X which creates the Web views on iPhone.

      So your position is fundamentally a pro-WebKit and anti- Opera Mini position. You are in 100% agreement with this article.

    • @Hamranhansenhansen

      More FUD.

      Opera Mini is MORE secure than Safari because nothing is executed on the phone.

      Safari has more broken rendering than Opera.

  16. I could go through each of your arguments, some of which I think are valid, others far-fetched. But your entire line of reasoning seems to boil down to one thing: Opera Mini is a bad product.

    How is that a case for Apple not to approve it? (as long as it doesn’t brake any of the T&C’s or UI guidelines.) If it really is that bad, let it be approved and then fail on it’s own merits.

    The issue is not whether or not Apple will reject the app to protect the users, but whether or not Apple will reject it in order to protect Apple. At the expense of the users.

    To quote Wired, “Today I tried out Opera Mini running on the iPhone, and it kicks Safari’s butt”.

    • Should Apple not approve apps that proxy the entire web from a single, proprietary point of failure, break iPhone-wide UI gesture conventions, break JavaScript heavy websites silently, among other things I mentioned above? Hell, yes.

      If you don’t like the fact that Apple has taste, curates the App Store and, generally, does look after the competitive nature of its businesses, then you shouldn’t be in the Apple ecosystem.

    • Apple’s tastes should boil down to its terms and conditions. If an app obeys it, then let it through.

      http://www.opera.com/mini/help/faq/#privacy [Opera Mini FAQ]

      The question is not about the app will work or not, let the free market decide if it is better than Safari. If Apple rejects it, it means Apple is outright fearful about the potential of Opera. That is it

      There should be clear cut rules. Apple shouldn’t be allowed to act on its whims and fancies.

    • “If you don’t like the fact that Apple has taste, curates the App Store and, generally, does look after the competitive nature of its businesses, then you shouldn’t be in the Apple ecosystem.”

      Since when does apple have “Taste”. The signal to noise ratio is amazingly low on the app store — in fact, the app store is one of the worst online marketplaces I’ve ever seen.

      For every great app on the app store, there are ten or more times as many bad apps. And that’s the way it has to be for the good apps to be released. No company would commit serious money to app development if they didn’t know if at the end of the tunnel they would have the opportunity to sell.

      I agree that apple should actually use its T&C’s and UI guidelines up to a point. What point? Upto the point that makes apple act anticompetitively and monopolistically. Not allowing devs to reproduce functionality, and forcing devs to pay $100 to publish apps is not fair when you’re the only gatekeeper. Do they have the right? Sure they can profit off of their own product, but they’re going to shoot themselves in the foot in the long run. Reinforcing monopolistic behavior also removes Apple’s incentive to make a better product.

      On the flip side google has two great policies. With their phone: They let people do whatever they want, but once they root their phone, it becomes out of warranty. They get the kiddy playpen that apple gets but still allow the slightly more intelligent users to do whatever they want.

      The other thing that they do is the Data Liberation Front, which makes it easier for google services users to leave and swap to competitors products. The ability to easily leave google forces google to develop the best product. (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/03/why-google-makes-it-easy-to-leave-google.ars)

      The resulting question is: What is Apple going to do? Regardless of their T&C (which Opera violates) I think rejecting Opera would cause too much political fallout in the EU. I predict that Opera will be stuck in limbo (as far as the application process goes) for a long spell and at some point when antitrusters from Europe come knocking, will be released (if only to that market).

    • “Should Apple not approve apps that proxy the entire web from a single, proprietary point of failure,”

      Opera has multiple redundant data centers. Also, it doesn’t set itself as default apparently. So there is no single point of failure because you will always be able to use Safari.

      Argument fail.

      “break iPhone-wide UI gesture conventions”

      Not all apps use those gestures.

      Argument fail.

      “break JavaScript heavy websites silently”

      As Safari does then?

      Argument fail.

    • UI alone is reason to reject it.

      3.3.5 Applications must comply with the Human Interface Guidelines and other Documentation provided by Apple.

      Or even worse, it could run afoul of privacy laws:

      3.3.6 Any form of user or device data collection, … , and any form of user data, content or information processing, maintenance, uploading, syncing, or transmission performed by the Application (collectively “Transmissions”) must comply with all applicable privacy laws and regulations as well as any Apple program requirements related to such aspects, including but not limited to any notice or consent requirements.

      Something as blurry line as Opera Mini would probably be kicked over to Apple Legal to review. And that’s when the app review goes from days or weeks to months before even a rejection.

    • Opera has made adaptions to fit the Apple guidelines.

      Opera does not breach any privacy laws. Norway, where Opera is based, has some of the world’s strictes privacy laws anyway.

      Both of your arguments are bogus.

    • > Opera Mini is a bad product.
      > How is that a case for Apple not to approve it?

      That’s the very best reason for not approving it.

      Apple’s position with regards to their customers is as an IT consultant, not a tech market vendor like Microsoft or Dell. Apple is not participating in a market for IT consultants to choose products for their clients; Apple is doing the choosing directly on behalf of Apple customers so that Apple customers don’t need IT consultants, because we don’t want them.

      The nerd police who are currently losing their minds over Apple’s policies would not complain if an IT consultant did the same thing when acting as middleman. If Opera Mini ships for Android or PC and you don’t use it because your IT consultant tells you “it’s bad for your privacy, and you already have a better browser than that” then no problem with the nerd police. If you are a technical person and act as your own IT consultant (like acting as your own lawyer) and you decide not to run Opera Mini because “it’s bad for my privacy, and I already have a better browser than that” then no problem with the nerd police. But if Apple says “it’s bad for your privacy, and you already have a better browser than that” on behalf of their customers — who do not have IT consultants and don’t want them, and specifically do not want to act as their own IT consultants — then the nerd police lose their minds. That is hypocrisy on the part of the nerd police. It’s totalitarianism that says all computers must be IT consultant friendly, must be designed for a middleman.

      Not only is it not Apple’s responsibility to make every tech choice available to their customers, it’s specifically their responsibility to do the opposite of that. We don’t want 100 IT choices, we want 1 solution that just works.

      > The issue is not whether or not Apple will
      > reject the app to protect the users, but whether
      > or not Apple will reject it in order to protect
      > Apple. At the expense of the users.

      I know you’re sincere, but you’re completely wrong-headed. Where you say “users” you mean “IT consultants” or “nerds.” Those are the only people who want every single available choice no matter how much it sucks, no matter how much trouble the average user can get into with it.

      Apple will not approve Opera Mini. It won’t be for the same reason as Microsoft would do it (anti-competitiveness) but rather it will be for the same reason an IT consultant may not approve Opera Mini for their clients: to relieve the customer of an IT burden, to maintain the customer’s privacy and trust, to get repeat business from the customer. Apple is competing at another level entirely from where Opera and Microsoft and most tech companies compete.

      To Apple users, Apple is not Best Buy, Apple is the nerd friend regular people ask to come along to Best Buy to help them not get shafted with some bad gear. You specifically shop at the Apple Store instead of Best Buy so you don’t have to take a nerd friend with you to keep from getting shafted.

      What you’re saying is that not offering Opera Mini on iPhone is a bug. What I’m saying is that not offering Opera Mini on iPhone is a feature. These are 2 different alternatives, both exist if you have the PC industry way and the Apple way. The nerd police who want everything the PC industry way are by definition totalitarians. As yourself why we should all have to do things your way?

      > To quote Wired, “Today I tried out Opera Mini
      > running on the iPhone, and it kicks Safari’s butt”.

      First, offering Wired up as a straight-faced IT recommendation engine is farcical.

      Second, that is classic PC industry myopia. It demos faster, therefore ignore that you have no privacy, ignore that your rendering is now non-standard, ignore that much of the Web no longer works on your phone. It’s a race to the bottom. Apple specifically is offering users an alternative to that. The sheer crapulence of the PC industry is why Apple bills themselves now as a mobile company, why they removed computer from their name. They would rather be the iPod/iPhone company that also sells PC’s because the PC industry is a totalitarian disaster. Most products don’t even work. The market is a minefield that you need professional help or have to spend hours reading tech guides to be able to navigate successfully. The Apple platforms are not some kind of World of IT Warcraft that you spend time playing, they are solutions to non-IT problems like recording a music album or editing a movie or running a photography business.

      Users who do not understand proxy servers and privacy and Web rendering should not be sold Opera Mini “because it’s faster than Safari” and then over the next few months find again and again that the Web is broken. They should not have to finally understand 3 months later that every Web page they have looked at for the past 3 months was also read by Opera when they thought they had privacy. This is the kind of thing that turns people off technology altogether.

    • Absolutely, bravo. User choice is meaningless if users don’t understand the difference between the options.

      And we’re not being patronising to iPhone users here – I’m a web developer and I’ve been using Opera Mini for over a year with no idea that these issues existed. There was no warning or agreement that I had to read. Some pages rendered differently, but I thought the site had detected my browser. I’ve been giving Opera my complete browsing history and access to unencrypted data. I can’t tell you how angry I am. Apple would be failing its customers completely if it allowed this in the app store.

    • All of this is just blatant FUD.

      Opera actively brags about using proxy servers for compression.

      There’s nothing hidden about it.

      It’s insane for Apple fanboys to attack Opera over something that is a non-issue.

  17. I’m soo looking forward to Opera Mini on iPhone. It was suffering to use Safari – it’s the worse browser on desktop and mobile phones. (ok IE is worse, but it’s not already a browser to me)

    • And what’s so bad about Safari? I have some experience with it on Windows XP and I think they did quite a nice job.

  18. For a long time I’ve liked and used Opera more than Firefox on the desktop. Way before Chrome, Opera pioneered some of the common nice features on most browsers today, and it was fast. Now FF is more bloated than ever, and Opera still has trouble rendering some basic CSS correctly. But the problem here goes deeper than just App Store rules or fair competition. At stake is the drive to be this ever-subtle One Portal To Supplant Them All mentality exhibited by all major tech companies, as witnessed by the common thread in most of your recent posts. I’ve said before Google wants to be your Matrix, your eyes and ears and fingers, INTERPRETING the world through It; so does Bing. Flex/AIR would love to replace your browser or your entire desktop to one proprietary platform. Now Opera wants you to see the Web through It. People complain how closed Mac systems are, but at least with Apple products, you know what you get (because you pay for it). You are informed of what you are missing and the limitations. And everybody benefits from the WebKit project that pushes for a truly open standards, even Adobe. But as you’ve pointed out, how “open” is Buzz, or Silverlight, or whatever WAC can come up with? Consumers in general may be deceived into thinking many app efforts are “free” and “open” (until you try to develop for them or break out of them), but never fully realized the loss of experience. Today what is good is called “closed”, what is open is called “niche”, and what is locked-in is called “popular” and “free”.

  19. Opera Mini is not a web-browser as we know it, but primarily a client of its backend server, that happens to act as were it web-browser. I used it ifor a while on a Palm LifeDrive with 320x448px screen, nearly the same as iPhone (OM 2.0 running on top of IBMs WebSphere J2ME enviro), mostly for comparison with the built-in Blazer browser [User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows 98; PalmSource/Palm-TunX;
    Blazer/4.3) 16;320x448].

    I did not like the Mini at all. Alone among my other Palm programs, it had no Copy/Paste, nor did it offer much in terms of bookmarking. Bookmarks could be saved, but not edited, renamed or rearranged; i.e. of very limited utility (copied? fuggetaboutit). Overall speed over WiFi was acceptable, but graphic rendering was subpar in comparison with Mozilla-offspring 4-proportional-plain/bold-fonts-only default browser. In limited space conditions it was much more wasteful of screen real estate than Blazer. If the OM version submitted to AppStore will be of similar barebones quality, then I don’t see what advantage it could offer to anyone there considering it.

    # Blazer 4.3 Browser (User-Agent):
    # Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows 98; PalmSource/Palm-TunX;
    Blazer/4.3) 16;320×448

    • You used Opera Mini 4. Opera Mini 5 is a completely different beast. A new generation. Why don’t you look it up before making assumptions? Did you watch the iPhone video for Opera Mini 5?

      That said, you can edit and save bookmarks in version 4 as well.

  20. What worries me about this whole thing is that to the average consumer, none of what you are laying out so clearly here is apparent. It’s a geek battle of specs that mean nothing at all to most users.

    I almost think that the Opera mini browser should not be called a browser for that reason. All the average person will see is “faster browser” and flock to it, not realising that it’s a significantly different product.

    Opera is purposely muddying the waters here (to their own financial and strategic advantage), but spreading confusion is never a good thing in the long run. I predict disappointment all round whether they are accepted or not.

    • And that’s exactly the problem. When, not if, JavaScript-oriented pages don’t work properly, when Opera proxies are down, when basic UI gestures that work everywhere else on the device don’t respond similarly, when there are security problems, etc, for the non-geeky user, the quick and common perception will be: somethings wrong with my iPhone, not Opera. And the iPhone maker will have no control over the situation.

    • @Kontra

      - Opera Mini does support JS
      - Opera has redundant data centers all over the world. If one server goes down, hundreds of others are there to take over
      - Security problems are less likely because no code is executed on the phone

    • @Gazoobee

      Opera is not at all muddying the waters. They are bragging loudly and publicly about their server compression which compresses pages up to 90%.

      Why the FUD?

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