The developers behind the Opera Web browser are attempting to woo more users not by giving them what they want, but rather by helping them avoid what they hate: ads and slow load times. Opera Software said this week that it has updated its desktop browser to block ads without the need for an extra plug-in, something most other browsers require.
The number of people worldwide using ad blockers grew by 41 percent worldwide between 2014 and 2015, with almost all of those users on computers, according to a study done by PageFair/Adobe. That’s the market Opera is aiming to serve, and it will do so by having the ad blocker integrated into the browser.
Yet, others view this announcement as a feeble attempt by Opera to stay relevant in a market where other browsers, like Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer have all but totally eclipsed Opera in terms of popularity.
For many Website operators, journalists, and other content creators, ad blockers represent outright theft of their content, and a direct threat to their livelihood, which largely depends on Website advertising revenue.
Built into Browser App
Opera has built its ad blocker into the core of the browser application. Because it’s native, the ad blocker works more quickly and efficiently than a comparable plug-in, according to Opera. Tests performed by Opera showed that Web pages took around 45 percent longer to load in Google Chrome with the Adblock Plus extension than they did in Opera with the built-in ad blocker.
The new version of the browser could allow some Web sites to load up to 90 percent faster without ads hindering their progress, Krystian Kolondra, Opera senior vice president for engineering, said in a blog post. He added that such a native wrinkle was probably overdue considering the increasing popularity of ad-blocking software. Even Apple is now allowing ad blocking plug-ins on its platform.
Lighter and Faster
The new and improved Opera is unlikely to frighten Google or even Mozilla, which make the Chrome and Firefox browsers, respectively. According to StatCounter, Opera commands only about 2 percent of the desktop browser market. It also probably won’t bother advertisers or developers, since the ad blocker needs to be activated by users before it will work.
Once the ad blocker is activated, though, Web site operators can use the Opera browser to compare load times of sites without ads to those with ads, allowing them to weigh the cost of having ads on certain pages. Research has shown that a healthy percentage of visitors will leave Web sites if it takes more than three seconds for them to load.
To determine which ads to block, Opera will use the same blacklist employed by the popular browser extension Adblock Plus. That blacklist, EasyList, is the most popular Adblock Plus filter list, with more than 12 million subscribers as of a few years ago.
Unlike Adblock Plus, though, the new Opera browser doesn't use a whitelist of acceptable ads, instead using ads enabled for each site and allowing users to accept other ads as they see fit.
Kolondra said that users are telling brands and advertisers that if they must put up with ads, they need to be lighter and faster. However, most advertisers try to convince users to disable ad blocking software. "What if ads could be better, less intrusive and not slow down the browsing so significantly?" asked Kolondra.
Image Credit: Opera web browser and Opera logo courtesy of Opera.