Just .69 Percent of Americans Use Opera, Which Is a Bummer Because it's Like Chrome But Better
Opera is built on the same engine as Chrome but is optimized to use less memory, which has made life much less frustrating for tab-obsessed users.
Image: Jason Koebler
Last year, I very publicly broke up with Google Chrome, a memory-hogging browser that everyone still uses today because Internet Explorer sucked in 2008 and at the time everything Google was considered infallible.
Chrome had served me well for a long time, but my habit of hoarding dozens of tabs for weeks at a time led me to seek other options that ran better on my computer. Safari and Firefox weren’t quite right, and neither were upstart browsers. My problem with Chrome wasn’t with how it loaded web pages, it was that it chewed up my system resources to the point where I couldn’t operate without dragging my computer to a crawl. Crashes were common, as were spinning beachballs. Basically, I wanted Chrome, but faster.
Ultimately, I settled on Opera, a browser that is very old but feels very new because it relaunched on the Blink engine, which is the same as Chrome. Opera says it's essentially running an "optimized" version of Chrome that is designed for people without powerhouse computers. In practice, this means it generally works in the same way that Chrome does, but in my experience uses much less system memory. When it does crash, it has the good sense to crash and relaunch very quickly, which ultimately results in less downtime and less me-wanting-to-throw-my-computer-out-the-window time.
After I wrote my original article about Opera, I have been periodically asked questions by friends/family/concerned bystanders about whether I am still using it and whether I still prefer it over Chrome. The answer is yes, and when I am forced to use Chrome, it remains a frustrating experience. For example, the Google Hangouts desktop app works only through Chrome, which often feels sluggish. I also use Chrome sometimes to natively translate foreign-language websites into English. This, too, seems to overtax my computer in a way that Opera doesn’t. Basically, I do open Chrome sometimes but I immediately close it and Force Quit any possible remnants of it after I do.
My computing life since switching to Opera has been generally much better, which is why it is very concerning to see that my original article did not seem to inspire a large-scale switch to the browser; according to StatCounter.com, just .69 percent of American internet users use Opera as their main browsers; in the last year, Chrome’s market dominance has increased from 51.53 percent to 65 percent. Meanwhile, 9.37 percent of people are still using Internet Explorer (more than Edge, which is a decent browser!) If you know one of these people, please stage an intervention.
Worldwide, the numbers aren't that much better, with 57 percent of internet users using Chrome and 3.7 percent of people using Opera (the discrepancy here is largely at the expense of Internet Explorer, which has just a 3.05 percent market share worldwide.)
Look, the choice of what browser to use is generally a highly personal decision based on whether sites you regularly use happen to load in a timely fashion, or whether you're able to customize the browser to your liking, or whether they happen to work with whatever plugins you need to do some webinar that one time. I understand this—it is possible that if I switched back, I would like Chrome. But clicking Chrome's multicolored ball icon still inspires dread, and I have no plans to switch back in the near future.