Google said to introduce Opera Mini and Amazon Silk like features in Chrome

by: ŠtefanMarch 3, 2013

My entire career as a journalist covering the mobile technology industry can be traced back to one application: Opera Mini. When it came out in 2005, I installed it on my phone just to see what it was all about, and I was totally blown away at how well it worked.

The basic principle is this: You want to visit a web site, so you type the URL into Opera Mini’s address bar. Mini sends that URL to a server in some far away country, which then renders the page, strips out all the garbage, compresses the hell out of it, and then spits it back down to your phone.

Mini made surfing the internet on GPRS easy, and it made me want to buy a smartphone, not for the 3G, but for the larger screen! I started blogging about my new phone (Nokia E61) as a hobby, and here I am now.

This is 2013, and people living in Western countries don’t really need Opera Mini thanks to high speed wireless networks and subsidized phones that have no problem rendering heavy websites. But there’s still a sizable amount of population living in countries where EDGE is considered blistering fast.

Which finally brings us to today’s news: A developer by the name of François Beaufort noticed that the latest nightly build of Chromium includes support for a compression service. Here’s Google’s description of the feature, straight from the source code:

“Reduce data consumption by loading web pages via Google proxy servers.”

That’s an incredibly easy statement to interpret, Google is basically going to copy Opera Mini. Why is this feature showing up in Chromium first is something I don’t quite understand, but at the same time I acknowledge that I know absolutely nothing about how Google works internally.

When will this feature get formally announced? I’m hoping Google I/O, but that’s just a guess.

  • Chris

    Opera just gave up on their own browser and are now contributing to Chromium, so maybe these changes are from Opera’s contributions.

    • APai

      it’s a shame that opera has given up on their own for whatever reasons. I hope the company survives – they have been very consistent with top notch quality for a very long time. been using opera browser for ages.

      • dextersgenius

        Um, Opera hasn’t given up on anything – although it is always a sad thing to see a browser engine die, this is for the greater good. As a long time user of Opera since Windows 3.11 days, I believe this is a good thing as everyone – including Opera – will benefit from it. Watching Firefox grow exponentially from v0.2, I always felt that Opera should have been made open source, so that it’s progress can be accelerated, while benefiting others as well. Now instead of duplicating efforts and re-inventing the wheel, they can now work in tandem with the Webkit team. We can already see the improvements in Webkit coming thru. This is awesome both from the viewpoint as a developer and an end user – more uniformity in rendering means lesser incompatibilities, lesser testing needed and faster development times of both browsers and websites.

        As for the company itself, they don’t have to dedicate so much resources on the engine anymore, and can focus in other areas where Opera has been lacking. The Skyfire merger shows that if anything, Opera is in a strong financial position. I for one, am quite excited to see what comes out of it – a hybrid Opera Mini with support for video/audio sounds like every mobile user’s dream come true. :)

        Chrome wants to go for compression as well? I say bring it on. These are exciting times in browser history.

        • APai

          yeah – good times for browsers and users as well. we’ll see some healthy action in our favor!

          about the giving up part – I was referring about them giving up on their presto engine in favor of the chromium/ webkit engine

    • Stefan Constantinescu

      No. Opera runs their own compression servers. The code references Google’s proxy servers. At the end of the day, it comes down to Google wanting to know about everything you do on the internet.

  • Roberto Tomás

    I wonder did opera trade some IP to webkit team in good faith for their picking up webkit for themselves?

    • dextersgenius

      No, but they submitted a bunch of patches already.

  • Steve Anthony Herrera

    How does this differ from what Amazon does with Silk? Reading this description I’m surprised I didn’t see any opera mini comparisons when Silk was announced.

  • Don Guy

    all im interested in is word wrap. opera seems to be the only mobile browser that has it. I don’t understand why the others don’t.

  • anon

    really got the scope on that story

  • asskick

    “blazing fast internet in western countries” not Australia even those kiwis have better internet then us

  • goovich

    that would be nice