Opera's Sebastian Baberowski reports that Opera 15 for the desktop (PC, Mac) is now available to download and install, the first stable release based on the Blink web browser engine developed by Opera and Google as part of the Chromium project.
That said, Opera 15 is not the browser of yesterday, but a new web surfing experience built from the ground up. The launch also introduces a new rapid-release cycle which means the company will produce a new Stable version every couple of weeks. That's certainly good news for long-time users who are currently firing back at Opera over missing features.
Like Google's Chrome browser, Opera has introduced two new release streams for the adventurous in addition to the Stable channel: Opera Next and Opera Developer. The former build is updated more frequently than Stable, and is the feature-complete candidate for the Stable channel. It's ready for daily use, but could still feature a few bugs. Meanwhile, the Developer version is "bleeding edge" full of "fancy stuff" and a bowl full of possible bugs. This is where all the new features are tested and ironed out.
"When you install Opera from a particular stream, your installation will stick to it, so Opera Stable will be always updated to Opera Stable, Opera Next to Opera Next and so on," Baberowski said. "You can choose for yourself which stream is the best for you. You can even follow a couple of them at the same time!"
The "stable" Opera 15 browser contains a refreshed Speed Dial to allow users to group entries into folders and filter them easily, and a new Discover feature which brings new content with just a simple click. Users can also add pages to their Stash and create a visual list of any web content for comparisons or to revisit later on. The UI is even completely new, built from the ground up and "deeply integrated with the platform".
Unfortunately, its arrival has generated complaints from long-time Opera users who say Opera 15 can't do everything that Opera 12 could: it's a shadow of its former self. Opera Link synchronization support currently isn't in the new browser, and the Opera Mail client has been ripped out and set aside as a separate download. Opera 15 is also not as customizable as the former versions: users can no longer personalize toolbar buttons, the bar can't be widened to show page thumbnails, bookmarks are missing and more. Themes can't even be installed from the Chrome Web Store because Opera 15 currently isn't recognized as a supported browser.
After the browser went live, the Opera team reportedly spent part of the day fielding complaints regarding missing features. According to Andreas Bovens, extensions product manager and developer relations lead at Opera, the team decided to start with a basic layout and planned to re-add features through its rapid-release scheme.
"You'd be surprised how much work goes into making a browser. We've built the UI with native code for instance, so we had to re-implement a whole bunch of things," Bovens wrote. "That's why we're starting with a basic feature set on day one, that's why not all extensions APIs are supported yet, etc."
As Baberowski noted in his blog, the team is currently focusing on synchronization (AKA Opera Link), enhanced tab management (visual tabs and so on) and support for themes – just a few items users can expect to see reappear in the next several releases.