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Topic: The sad fate of the more esoteric features (Read 5157 times)

  • ersi
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The sad fate of the more esoteric features
There are some features in the old Opera that none of the other major browsers had. Some of them make me nostalgic.

Unite and IRC

IRC is a chat protocol with some cool features such as CTCP and DCC - peer-to-peer stuff. Unite was also at its most exciting as a peer-to-peer interface.

I'm sure that Otter browser won't include any Yet Another Chat Client (there already is a chat client by that name for Android, IIRC), but some implementation of peer-to-peer connection would be ultra cool and make Otter browser stand out.

WML/WAP

Now this is what I still use in desktop and mobile Opera, and WML extension is one of the first things I always add to any new installation of Firefox. WML makes sense in web browsers because it's an actual internet standard, even though not too widely used, and it's doomed to shrink into oblivion eventually. But look how cleanly I can check for weather here http://www.ilm.ee/wap/nelipaeva.wml as opposed to here http://www.ilm.ee/prognoos/



Voice and Speak

This feature spoke the text on webpages out loud. Even when you are not mobility impaired, this is a nice feature to spare the eyes when you read book-length stuff on screen nearly daily. When the computer was connected to a mike, it could obey some basic spoken commands from the user in English.

Quite probably Opera rented the module that did this, but it's still a good accessibility feature that I used to use, something I had begun to take as a given until it was removed in v.12. It also counts as one of Opera's more esoteric features.

What memories from Opera and hopes for Otter do you have in this area? The out-of-the-box selection of UserCSS? True Detach™? The Flying  :angel: Bookmarks Keyword Dialogue?

  • Frenzie
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #1
Quite probably Opera rented the module that did this, but it's still a good accessibility feature that I used to use, something I had begun to take as a given until it was removed in v.12. It also counts as one of Opera's more esoteric features.

It was made by IBM iirc.

  • jax
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  • Global Moderator
Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #2
Yes. They were also slow to make it device independent, and unwilling to supply more languages than English, which made it pretty much unusable for anything but a proof of concept. That in addition to the other obvious shortcomings on both sides.

As a trivia, I was involved in this project and worked with IBM transcontinentally (IBM is scattered all over the globe, it is a collection of transglobal cooperating baronies) for a long time before I discovered that part of it was actually done in Prague, five stops on the metro from where I was working.

  • Emdek
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #3
@ersi, IRC client is planned, as module.
But that module should have own maintainer, it's not core functionality.

WML should be easy to emulate, as it is done for Gecko, using extension.

Ideally voice & speak should be handled on system level, but that should be doable too, as long as there exists good enough libraries with compatible licenses.

And Unite... That probably should be something independent from browser.
Nadszedł już czas, najwyższy czas, nienawiść zniszczyć w sobie.
The time has come, the high time, to destroy hatred in oneself.

  • jax
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #4
As one that was involved with WAP/WML, I dance on its grave.

There is one worthwhile thing from WAP that got lost because, well, it's a crowded dance floor on the WAP grave: the Pictogram spec.

Basically it is an urlification of smileys and pictograms. You had a default WAP collection of pictograms (what you got on your phone and then some), but you could extend that list freely using domain names. The format would be:

Code: [Select]
pict://domain/collection/pictogram


That would make pictograms interoperable and media independent as well. You could for instance have an audio/video version of a :beer: pictogram if you desired.

  • ersi
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #5
Question to experts:

Are peer-to-peer features (CTCP, DCC, Unite-ish stuff) any more dangerous to implement as a module in a browser application than email? Doesn't it all come down to only how carefully the developers had security in mind and how smart/stupid the user is?

  • jax
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #6
Any new feature adds risk, unless it is just an application of existing functionality. It also adds complexity (again, unless it just slots into existing functionality), and complexity adds risk. A and B may be fairly harmless, but A+B could be dangerous.

Email clients are usually quite constrained, when they are not (Microsoft Outlook springs to mind), they can be risky.

Risk can be managed, but there are plenty cases where that hasn't happened. Either due to a faulty security model, or an unclear one (one of the developers, or the user, misunderstands the consequences of their actions), or by bugs (software that doesn't do what it is supposed to).

I don't think something Unite-ish is necessarily dangerous as such, but the consequences of a breach might be worse.

  • j7n
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #7
ׂ
  • Last Edit: 2014-04-24, 04:25:06 by j7n

  • ersi
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #8
I agree with many of your considerations, j7n. Particularly with WML :) At least I agree that everything you bring up is worth to be considered strategically from security and usability point of view.

As to email, chat, and peer-to-peer areas, I have a spooky vision in mind, as if the ghost of Steve Jobs were bothering me. Namely, I'd argue that they are a continuum. There's substantial sameness to the functions of email, chat, and peer-to-peer sharing.

People often use email in a chat-like or texting-like manner:
- ready to go?
- going where?
- to the movies tonight
- almost forgot.. down in a few

I am not one of those people. When I write emails, I tend to do long essays and treatises with proper spelling and punctuation, to make the "paper" worth it. Still, there's an obvious smooth transition to chatting, because when you press Send, the delivery is instant.

So, if email is included, it would also make sense to include some kind of chatting. Opera was an internet suite, not a mere browser. If IRC is included, which is a server-based chat protocol, then why not some peer-to-peer chatting, based on a protocol not too sensitive to interruptions? And when peer-to-peer chatting is done, why not file-sharing?

This is what email is - type text, share links and files - only it's via third-party servers. There could/should be a way to do the same peer to peer, based on some workable protocol.

As to the completely justified security concerns involved, I think that education of users at large is a good thing. Education on net security and peer-to-peer services can occur when the opportunity to use these services exists in the first place. Otter browser and the community that is building up around it can be useful tool in this education, just like Linux communities educate computer users (basically each other) on a variety of issues.

Of course, the suite should not contain any pre-configured p2p accounts or settings, just like email clients (usually) don't come with an email address pre-configured, ready to send stuff from your machine at first launch. It should let you create settings step by step, explaining the effects at every step, operating transparently, not too much behind-the-scenes automagics.

Then again, on Linux Mint you have Xchat (or Hexchat, the IRC client) pre-configured to jump into Mint help chatroom on IRC at first launch. This takes the user directly in contact with other users for mutual edification. Maybe do something like this with Otter's IRC module too?

  • jax
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #9

WML does belong to the web browser natuarally, as it is a markup language just like HTML. Since the standard only allows simple pages, they are easy to browse. I must admit that I don't know any WML sites myself anymore. [...]

Why make an exception for e-mail an integrate that into the browser? Well, e-mails are often HTML pages today, and contain hyperlinks more often than they occur on IRC.
WML belonged on the ash heap of history, where it also ended. It added nothing to the web standards, had a complex and useless syntax. It was a codification of what some early pre-Web phone browsers did support. When the surviving browsers among them supported the Web standards, more or less, that was the end of it.

WML did include yet another attempt at implementing cards. Given the regularity this idea returns, cards possibly should be supported, but given the short while it takes before it dies again, it isn't a strong case.

The mail and IRC cases are fairly similar. The transport protocol is different with each other and with HTTP, the rest is up to the use cases. The use I've seen of IRC has had a lot more links than mail has had.

  • j7n
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #10
ׂ
  • Last Edit: 2014-04-24, 04:24:22 by j7n

Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #11
I agree with j7n, about the mail client. I prefer to use my regular web browser to render HTML mail messages; why open them in another program/engine?
But I suppose composing mail messages is a whole different thing... :(

  • Belfrager
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #12
Torrents.
Opera had a torrents feature/manager/whatever that, for me, never worked.
There you have a good thing to add to your browser.
A matter of attitude.

Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #13
I prefer dedicated software for different tasks over a half-baked kitchen sink.
Besides, covenience and security/privacy never go hand in hand. One is achieved at the cost of the other.

  • ersi
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #14

I prefer dedicated software for different tasks over a half-baked kitchen sink.

Then Opera probably was not for you. It was an internet suite, not a mere browser.


Besides, covenience and security/privacy never go hand in hand. One is achieved at the cost of the other.

True, if convenience means pre-doing everything in a one-size-fits-all manner, hiding configuration options and removing control from the user. But it's entirely different when the program is pre-configured sufficiently for a good first startup while leaving lots of tweaking and fine-tuning options within reach for the user. Opera did this well. It's as secure as you make it.

This applies even when you make a multiple-use kind of software. Convenience does not necessarily meddle with security and privacy. Security and privacy are threatened when developers forget the principle that all settings should be within the reach of the user, particularly privacy and security options. Swiss knife will be alright when done right.

  • string
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #15
On the Mail issue.

A major reason that I chose Opera initially was because it incorporated the Mail function.

My normal use of the mail was to filter out the extraneous stuff on the web (using Opera Browser) and then download the stuff I wanted to keep into the Opera system.

For outgoing mail of any import I preferred to work on it off line and then click the send button.

I don't pretend to have any definite rationale, but am just balancing the like/dislike viewpoints.

  • Frenzie
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #16
Then Opera probably was not for you. It was an internet suite, not a mere browser.

It's easy to ignore those parts you don't use. For example, I've successfully ignored the built-in torrenting capability for years. ;)

  • 1
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #17
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  • Last Edit: 2014-04-24, 03:56:44 by 1

  • Frenzie
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #18
Bittorrent is even less workable in a web browser, at least for the use cases that I can think of, due to it needing 24/7 availability to for ratio building and allowing time for connections to pick up. But then again Opera was always forbidden on any self-respecting trackers.

Depends on your connection speed. Back when I had 100 Mbit, I often already had a ratio of over 3 by the time e.g. my Ubuntu download finished.

Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #19


I prefer dedicated software for different tasks over a half-baked kitchen sink.

Then Opera probably was not for you. It was an internet suite, not a mere browser.

You're quick at drawing conclusions so they can fit your personal perspective. It seems to be your trademark :D

Lemme tell you that I started using Opera at v5. It became my default browser at v6 despite of its lousy EcmaScript engine.
Opera v12 is still my main browser but I'm using now Firefox more and more.
As Frenzie mentioned it's easy to ignore the half-baked pieces of the suite you have no use for. Furthermore you have settings to switch them off complete.
Regarding security, Jax already made some points on added features and security. It's futile trying to convince you, so why to bother? :)

  • jax
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Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #20
The Bittorrent client was the one component I didn't use, because it was underpowered by design. The underlying assumption was that Bittorrent was akin to FTP downloads, that there would be no need for user interaction beyond showing when the download was done. A nice thought. I don't see the 24/7 as a strong argument. If there is any program I have up close to always, that would be the web browser.

I wouldn't say that a multi-component program like Opera is inherently more insecure that single-task programs. It could be, but generally the walls between the components were thick enough. I could argue the opposite, that a program like Opera would be more secure because it is a question of the security models and their complexity.

To Opera the Web was HTML over HTTP(S), email was HTML over POP/IMAP/SMTP, IRC was HTML over the IRC protocol. The HTML has varying qualities of brain damage, e.g. JS was disabled in email, but it all used the same security model.

If the alternative used a single security model and HTML renderer they would be in the same position, but often the IRC would use some components, the browser some other, and email a third. While they would not be interacting much, there are still more components, with more risk of one having a serious security issue.

This with some caveats. One is that they have different uses. Say that Opera got a critical security issue. To exploit for a browser that a black hat would have to craft a web page taking advantage of that and then trick the user into going there. That is possible, but not so easy. With an email client all it takes is to send the victim a letter of death. But that goes for any email client, not just those integrated with a browser.

Re: The sad fate of the more esoteric features
Reply #21
I loved the "suite" features of Opera. I didn't use email because I have always been a webmail user, but I did use the IRC and torrent features.

I've always had mIRC and uTorrent installed, but sometimes I just needed a quick chat, or I clicked in a torrent link to download something one-off for a public tracker, and the Opera features were much more convenient than launching the full-blown client, even though I used these for more serious use (e.g. private trackers, seeding torrents for a long time, etc.)

The RSS support was also great, another feature lost with Chropera.