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Meet Opera Neon, Opera's radical vision for the future of web browsers

Mark Hachman | Jan. 13, 2017
Don't expect Opera Neon to replace the main Opera browser, though.

Hardware vendors sometimes publicize their visions of the future. So do automakers. Now Opera Software is getting into the game with Neon, the company’s first concept browser.

Opera’s new Neon browser for Macs and Windows PCs isn’t game-changing—in fact, rather than a “concept,” it feels more like applying a fresh coat of paint. But Opera also succeeds in paring down the browsing experience to a few select tasks. It’s a refreshingly attractive design, as Neon’s background blends into your desktop, and circular tabs consciously contradict the sea of rectangles that rival browsers employ.

opera neon tabs

Tabs cluster to the right-hand rail, adjusting their placement depending on their usage.

With that said, Opera Neon won’t replace the existing Opera browser. In fact, Neon is arguably less full-featured than Opera’s existing browser, which includes native capabilities like ad blocking. Opera did say, however, that it plans to migrate some of Neon’s new features to its mainstream browser sometime this spring.

Why this matters: In its current form, Opera Neon is little more than a curiosity. But it’s an important vehicle for showing what the Web could evolve into. Personalization options like Opera’s own themes and Firefox’s comprehensive ”complete themes” only go so far. Microsoft had a chance to demonstrate the future of the Web with Edge, and companies like Brave are working behind the scenes to bring their visions to market. Neon is Opera’s chance to do the same thing.

opera neon split view  

Opera Neon offers its own native split-screen view for viewing more than one tab at the same time.

A fresh, clean look and feel

Opera Neon opens with an arty “homepage,” listing your most frequently accessed pages—or, upon first launching it, the pages Opera thinks you might like to view. Rather than use a custom background, Neon simply uses your existing desktop background to appear less obtrusive.

Instead of squares or rectangles, icons are circular, often highlighting either the Web page’s logo—or in the case of a specific article, the primary piece of art the page is built upon. If you do have a article open, however, the “favicon”—the small icon that a brand is based upon, like the Twitter bluebird—hovers off to one side. There’s also a slightly tweaked “omnibox,” Opera’s search box.

opera neon video player 2  

Videos can be broken out from their main page and “stored” under the video tab.

Although the traditional orientation is to keep adding tabs across the top of the browser window, Neon adds them in a vertical column to the right of the browser window. Opera says that the tabs will operate as if affected by gravity, with frequently-used tabs rising to the top, while little-used tabs sink like a stone.

 

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