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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Opera Settles $12.75m Lawsuit, But with Whom? 357

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wouldn't-you-like-to-know dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to a press release from Opera Software ASA, they have settled legal claims with an international corporation resulting in payment to Opera of net USD 12.75 million. The interesting bit is that the international corporation is unknown. Dagbladet speculates that Microsoft is paying up. They reason it has something to do with this."
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Opera Settles $12.75m Lawsuit, But with Whom?

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  • Great (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Karamchand (607798) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:23AM (#9182532)
    ..because even if they don't get enough paying customers they have more money again to continue developing the browser with the world's best user interface!
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr&bhtooefr,org> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:25AM (#9182560) Homepage Journal
      I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or serious. It really does have a good user interface (7.50 got better - it's an acquired taste if you used 7.23, but it's easier for someone who didn't use Opera before), but paying customers do seem to be a bit rare (I tune out the Google ads, myself).
      • Re:Great (Score:2, Interesting)

        by acidvoid (603114)
        Yep, it is great.
        good software deserves to be rewarded, I have a Windows licence and a Linux licence. Will probably soon add a Mac licence also.
        It's quick, has lots of good features, and the interface (in 7.5) has finaly been cleaned up.
        The email (which I don't use anymore) was a little strange in the past, but clever: you have a database of emails with a bunch of views on this database -> instead of a bunch of folders with emails in them.

        GO OPERA!

    • Re:Great (Score:2, Interesting)

      by barzok (26681)
      I've tried Opera on a few occasions. Tried being the operative word. I just could not get past the UI. It was crazy. Too many things going on, too many menu items, things placed in completely non-obvious locations. I wanted to like Opera, I even switched to it for a couple months while I waited for Mozilla to stabilize in the pre-0.9 days, but the UI and some of the other features were deal breakers for me.

      Asa [mozillazine.org] summed up a lot of the feelings I had in a couple of his blog posts. Granted, he's likely t

      • Actually, on most of today's faster machines, I prefer Mozilla 1.6 (and newer) because it properly renders web pages correctly in the vast majority of cases. I've had some trouble with Opera being unable to render some web pages correctly, especially complicated ones like ESPN.com.
        • Re:Great (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          ESPN.com redirects to: http://msn.espn.go.com/

          Gee, MSN again. Wonder what's up there?
        • by Compact Dick (518888) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:40AM (#9183393) Homepage

          In 2003, ESPN.com was redesigned to be web standards-compliant [netscape.com]. It rendered perfectly on browsers other than IE. Now they've ditched clean code and returned to the stone age.

          I remember a friend complaining that he was forced to rewrite his company's website in non-compliant MSHTML after Microsoft acquired a sizeable stake in his firm. The end result was a crappy, non-scaling site that would break browsers other than IE. Wonder if Microsoft had something to do with ESPN's downfall? [note how espn.com [espn.com] redirects to msn.espn.go.com [go.com]].
        • Checked it in 7.23 and 7.5. It had problems in version 6. Given that the CTO of Opera Software invented CSS [w3.org] during his previous job at W3C [w3.org] it is also eminently possible that ESPN is not valid HTML/CSS. Opera been making more efforts with non-compliant pages recently and even support *both* the aberrations that are BLINK and MARQUEE. [blooberry.com]
      • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Liselle (684663) * <slashdotNO@SPAMliselle.net> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:55AM (#9182878) Journal
        An interesting read, but not exactly an objective review. He's whinging about something trivial that's part of getting accustomed to a new browser. The browser takes getting used to, and it not for everyone, but it's very customizable.

        On the blog post you linked to, there's a comment about 1/3 of the way down by someone named "sas", doing a possible "review" of Firefox in the same manner that Opera was treated. I thought it was pretty on-target (and funny), especially the parts about the extentions. ;)
        • Re:Great (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bigtrouble77 (715075) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:19AM (#9183166)
          I use Opera at home and installed firefox on all 50+ of the work machines I administer (because it's free).

          I find opera, by far, to be the superior browser for these reasons:

          1. It's faster
          2. It has a much better UI out-of-the-box
          (I mean features, not visuals)
          3. It has a hugely useful hotlist menu
          (file transfers, personal notes, dictionary,
          and finally links to newest slashdot articles)
          4. Tabbed browsing is 10x better
          5. User Profiles are organized better
          6. Ultra customizable

          I don't find the UI confusing at all. Albeit, I do adjust it to look nothing like the default settings. Version 7.5 is very stable, unlike some of the earlier builds and site compatibility is as good as firefox.

          Bottom line is, you start depending on the features unique to opera and you WILL become dependant on the browser.
          • Re:Great (Score:4, Informative)

            by LaCosaNostradamus (630659) <LaCosaNostradamus&mail,com> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:14PM (#9184465) Journal
            Frustrated by endless MSIE crashes on a Win95 machine with cramped RAM and HDD, I finally gave up in disgust a year ago and installed Opera.

            It was like night and day ... even though it still crashes about 10% as often as MSIE did. Opera struck me as so well constructed, and so responsive to user methods, that I am still thinking of buying it to reward the company that made such a gem. As you said, tabs can make browsing much better.

            Of course, Opera's example is what we should have always had. It's only MSIE's dominance that led us to accept particularly bad software.
          • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

            by NanoGator (522640) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:34PM (#9184720) Homepage Journal
            "Bottom line is, you start depending on the features unique to opera and you WILL become dependant on the browser. "

            Agreed. It's a pity they don't show the cartoons in the advertising bar anymore. I actually switched back to the ad supported version hoping to encourage them to keep plopping them in there. Wouldn't it be cool if they took comics like Dilbert or Get Fuzzy and had them appear regularly there? Certainly made me more attentive to the ads. Small price to pay for some entertainment.
      • Re:Great (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Crizp (216129)
        Opera had one thing I liked: the mouse movement based back/left and other actions... press the left key, move the mouse up and then to the left and the browser hits 'back'. It's great, at least when you're mousing around the page anyways. We all know keyboard shortcuts are best, right?
      • Re:Great (Score:4, Informative)

        by Tiram (650450) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:10AM (#9183049) Homepage Journal
        If you find the Opera UI cluttered, simply remove those elements you don't need. My Opera UI has four buttons and a status field, and shows the time and my browser ID -- that's it. Practically anything can be removed simply by right-clicking and choosing "Remove from toolbar", or by choosing "Customize toolbars". Even my mother can do it. If you still think it's cluttered, hit "F11" and surf with keyboard shortcuts in full-screen mode. Let's see anything Gecko-based do that!
        • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

          by barzok (26681) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:16AM (#9183129)
          Opera is the first browser I've used where the default toolbar/menu configuration was cumbersome. That's a sign. I shouldn't have to customize the hell out of it upon install just to make it usable.
          If you still think it's cluttered, hit "F11" and surf with keyboard shortcuts in full-screen mode. Let's see anything Gecko-based do that!
          Firefox seems to be doing it just fine right now. Mozilla seems to be doing it too.
      • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jugalator (259273) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:10AM (#9183053) Journal
        I don't use the mail or IRC client so I disabled them in the Preferences. I use Opera 7.50.

        Too many things going on

        It has just one more menu than Firefox (the standard Windows menu), the average menu size is maybe 3-4 items larger than Firefox's, and I have only 5 buttons in the toolbar (back, forward, refresh/stop [in same button], home, wand). 1 search field, 1 address field.

        Can't say anything is in non-obvious places either. I mean, how hard can it be to find the proper menu option when you only have 3 non-standard menus at an average length of maybe 12 items? (I consider File, Edit, Window, Bookmark, Help to all be very standardized or straight forward with the regular options).
        • Re:Great (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by bahamat (187909)
          I'ts the animated giggly ads that piss me off, not the extra buttons on the toolbar. I don't need a 480x60 block chopped out of my toolbar and getting in my way just so Opera can make $.01 per view, especially when the Mozillas are free.

          I use Firefox because it has awesome ad blocking capabilities. And if its built in ad blocking isn't enough for you there's the AdBlock extension which gives the user maximum control over ads. I can't remember the last time I saw one (yes, I steal web pages).

          Opera can'
      • by hkmwbz (531650) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:33AM (#9183326) Journal
        "Opera sucks because it isn't Firefox."

        While that might reflect his personal opinion as a member of Mozilla.org, it certainly doesn't mean that he is right in his bias against Opera. After all, Opera offers a heck of a lot more useful stuff when installed than Firefox.

        Just because it doesn't behave exactly like your favorite program, doesn't mean that it sucks! He might have something useful to say, but when he gives the impression that unless Opera is exactly like Firefox, it will always suck,

        Oh, and the screenshot is totally wrong. That's not what Opera 7.5 [opera.com] looks like by default at all.

        And finally, read this comment: "Posted by: sas on May 13, 2004 02:54 AM". It takes the piss, but it's rather spot on and proves a point. Anyone can make anything look bad by posting biased reviews like that.

    • Re:Great (Score:5, Funny)

      by Sheepdot (211478) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:44AM (#9182780) Journal
      ..as opposed to the browser (internet explorer) with no paying customers but a streamlined interface.

      So streamlined and easy to use that it installs all sorts of fun tools without any of those silly, annoying, installation confirmation steps.
    • Nonono, by keeping the payer's identity secret, *cough*, Microsoft doesn't have to live up to their past claims of needing to pass the cost onto consumers.
  • by dominick (550229)
    I believe it's a settlement with the three tenors. Hardy har har!
  • Microsoft? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Liselle (684663) * <slashdotNO@SPAMliselle.net> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:24AM (#9182549) Journal
    I'm an Opera zealot if there ever was one. The issue with MSN was absolutely infuriating. For those who didn't RTFA: MSN.com sent a different style sheet to any browser that specifically identified itself as Opera. The style sheet had less content, and broke the layout of the page. It was one of the most asinine things I've ever seen, because it could only have been done intentionally.

    I am also suspicious of Microsoft, but I doubt it has anything to do with the MSN debacle. All they did was just send a poorly-rendered page. It's underhanded, but most websites don't comply with W3C spec anyway. I suppose it's possible that Microsoft paid Opera to make it go away, but there's little proof.
    • a different style sheet to any browser that specifically identified itself as Opera. The style sheet had less content, and broke the layout of the page

      I guess they wanted to know how it feels to be forced into writing a different stylesheet like we all have to do to bypass the numerous layout bugs in MSIE. They didn't even do it right. Try with a clean W3-compliant source to begin with, next time, boys!

    • Re:Microsoft? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dave420 (699308)
      It could have been an honest mistake, as anyone who works with CSS and various browsers on a daily basis would tell you. It's certainly not uncommon for different CSS files to be sent to different browsers, and it's not uncommon for certain style sheets to break their intended browsers.

      I understand why people jump at microsoft every chance they get, but to pull accusations out of thin air is pretty mad :)

      • Re:Microsoft? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Liselle (684663) * <slashdotNO@SPAMliselle.net> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:48AM (#9182832) Journal
        It could have been an honest mistake. They say never to attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity, of course. But some of us remember a few years ago when MSN blocked all non-IE browsers [com.com] from accessing their site, and even went so far as to redirect people to a page telling them to download their goat-kissing IE browser so it would render properly.

        In this case, I'm calling malice. :P
        • It could have been an honest mistake. They say never to attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity, of course. But some of us remember a few years ago when MSN blocked all non-IE browsers from accessing their site, and even went so far as to redirect people to a page telling them to download their goat-kissing IE browser so it would render properly.

          This wasn't an issue of sending a different stylesheet to non-IE browsers. RTFA. The Opera folks tried changed the user agent string

      • If you read the article, Opera itself PROVED its indeed targeting Opera only via using open source wget.

        Ever wonder how MS got that big? Start to wonder...
      • Re:Microsoft? (Score:5, Informative)

        by RedSteve (690399) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:01AM (#9182941)

        Read the article (or at least the google cached article), and you will see that Opera's research showed that MSN was feeding opera a debilitated style sheet that had list items falling off the left edge of the screen. The code in question is

        ul {
        margin: -2px 0px 0px -30px;
        }

        The research further showed that if you fed this same sheet to MSIE, it behaved exactly the same way -- that is, it fell off the left side of the page. Further, anyone who has ever done anything with style sheets would never feed that -30px declaration and expect anything productive to be done with it. That MSN fed it to someone else's browser but not theirs is suspicious at least.

        • Further, anyone who has ever done anything with style sheets would never feed that -30px declaration and expect anything productive to be done with it

          Not quite true... LI tags automatically indent horribly (to my eyes), so feeding it a negative left-margin is quite sensible to shove it leftwards, so that it lines up with the normal paragraph text...

          .
        • Re:Microsoft? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:57AM (#9183595)
          That instruction actually fixed the page in Opera 5. In short, the special style sheet was an attempt to fix bugs in Opera 5.

          I love Opera myself, but that little episode was pure FUD.

          Now if you want some pure anti-Opera stuff, visit this link [translink.bc.ca] in Vancouver's (admittedly crappy) Translink website. If you look at it in Opera ID=Opera you get a blank page, use ID=MSIE and it works. I've emailed their admins and they refuse to fix it.
        • Re:Microsoft? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Reziac (43301) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:23AM (#9183899) Homepage Journal
          But if MSN was deliberately breaking Opera -- why not do the same to Netscape and Mozilla?? After all, they're more of a market threat than Opera. And why restrict the breakage to Opera7? That doesn't seem to have much point. And Opera's own analysis page says the CSS sent to Opera*6*, and to Netscape, was NOT broken.

          Given that, it does look like a case of stupidity rather than malice. There's not much point in only breaking a single version of a minority browser, especially when that version is still so new as to be not yet widely adopted even by its fans.

          I'd guess someone at MSN tested their CSS with a broken beta of Opera7, and built an Opera7-specific CSS to account for said breakage, but never tested again with the release version.

        • Re:Microsoft? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by poot_rootbeer (188613)
          Further, anyone who has ever done anything with style sheets would never feed that -30px declaration and expect anything productive to be done with it.

          Maybe it was a typo, and was supposed to read -3px?

          You still haven't convinced me that Microsoft's act was malicious, and not just negligent.
      • Uhh, dude? The pros test their code before it goes live.

        Probability of this being an accident is zilch.
      • The problem wasn't that the CSS settings didn't play well between the different browsers, but instead, Microsoft intentionally sent a set of broken CSS settings to browsers that identified themselves as Opera.

        The author proved this by using wget with the user-agent strings set to emulate Opera, MSIE, and Netscape, and saved the output from the www.msn.com page for each user-agent. Content was indeed different for each user-agent, but the kicker was that the page returned for Opera contained a setting that
        • easy there... while it is obvious that MS sent different CSS settings to different browsers (not a big deal), there is no proof that the Opera CSS was INTENTIONALLY BROKEN as you seem to claim. Intentionally different, but only the coder knows if he intentionally 'broke' the CSS settings or not. It is quite possible that different coders with appropriate backgrounds in the various browsers wrote seperate style sheets, and perhaps the Opera guy simply made a mistake. Just a thought.
    • Re:Microsoft? (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've been debating this issue in my head for a long time. I even had a discussion with some tech journalist somewhere about it. But, basically, I don't see anything wrong with Microsoft blocking out whatever browser it choses. Here is my reasoning (at risk of someone telling me how my reasoning sucks by totally misconstruing it):

      Lets pretend I run a club. While my club might be a really great, there are other clubs in the city, and they are really great, also.

      I'm a bit of an elitest, so I only wan
      • Re:Microsoft? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by curator_thew (778098) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:15AM (#9183123)

        Nice attempt at reasoning, but _arbitrary_ restrictions relating to sale/use of your product are viewed as discriminatory. I say _arbitrary_ because you can discriminate on objective reasons, even if they are "my nightclub is about stylish people, so we only let in those well dressed and with good attitude".

        Secondly, it's more severe when the discrimination relates to a competitive product, and even more so when you are a dominant company. When you're building a large content service on the one hand, and owning a viewing technology on the other hand, and in both cases you have a dominant market share: then arbitrary restraints on competitors are pretty serious issues that regulators will tackle.

        I note also that recent Microsoft has been doing a _lot_ of out of court settlements, it seems as though they want to pay off problems. Equally, the large anti-trust rulings mean that Microsoft is skating on thin-ice and has the scrutiny of the regulators who would use such activities as future evidence in antitrust actions.

        Better to reach a settlement which involves a confidentiality clause in which the supposed activities won't in the future be disclosed or used in any regulatory action.

        Wise commercial move Microsoft!

      • To complete your analogy, you'd need the "club owners" to also own 98% of all TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines, and any other avenue of advertising. They disallow all advertizing for anything other than their own clubs.

        Thus, even though the clubs "should" lose money, they don't, because the competition's capability to compete has been squashed because of their inability to be known by the customer, and all customers are funneled into the clubs, and hey, the clubs only serve the club owners whiskey, be

        • "you'd need the "club owners" to also own 98% of all TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines, and any other avenue of advertising"

          I may be wrong, but I don't think Microsoft owns 98% of all advertising methods on the Internet. Microsoft doesn't own word of mouth, and they don't own, AFAIK, DoubleClick, or OSDN's ad system.

          I don't really pay attention to ads very much anymore, but I don't recall seeing any MSN.com ads (or Yahoo for that matter) in a while.

          "Hopefully you get the point why such a thing
      • Re:Microsoft? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Liselle (684663) *
        Thank you for ending the analogy early. ;)

        My objection is simple, and has nothing to do with their monopoly: they are pissing all over the work of Tim Berners-Lee and anyone else associated with the creation of the web as it was originally envisioned. Hacking apart standards so that you can have control is wrong, period. Either put your content up, or don't. Get out of my browser.
      • Re:Microsoft? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lazyl (619939)
        The key point that you're missing is that MSM.com's behaviour is designed to make the user think that Opera has serious bugs. There is certianly no justification for that.

        Your analogy only works if MSN were to completely and visibly block Opera; which they actually tried with every [com.com] non-IE browser a few years ago. That didn't work out for them.
    • $quote =~ s/For those who didn't RTFA/For those who couldn't RTFA/

      Thanks slashdot.

    • Actually after reading the article again, I realized that there was no ill intention against Opera per se on MSN's part.

      If you look at the names of their css files, it becomes clear that they categorize browsers as IE for windows (presumably there is also a mac version), Netscape 6/7/Mozilla, and everything else.

      The "everything else" stylesheet was arguably broken, but it was by no means targeted at Opera alone. In the article, the Opera people "prove" that it is by changing their UA string from contain

      • Re:Microsoft? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RedSteve (690399)

        But WHY would their generic sheet feed a declaration for unordered lists that called for the list to have a left margin that goes 30 pixels off the left side of the containing box (or page if the UL is a direct child of the body)? Even a poor css author would have a hard time pulling that declaration randomly out of his or her bodily orifice of choice. At the very least, it should have been caught during testing...if they wanted to provide any quality assurance at all.

    • You probably won't believe this, but the truth doesn't hurt.

      I know the guy responsible for the "MSN Style sheet debacle". I know him well & trust him. The REAL truth? Like any other organisation, they can't test every single browser on the market, you well know there are hundreds. As any decent site does, they did their test matrix, with a defined cut off point, I think it was anything with more than .5% share (don't remember for sure if it was .5%) was in the matrix, if not, it was out. We all have f

  • by Randar the Lava Liza (562063) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:26AM (#9182571) Homepage
    Why is it the most interesting link is always /.'d first? Ah well, here's the "something to do with this" link cache [64.233.161.104].
  • ...and you can bet your last dollar you'd hear Microsoft has something to do with - and quite sadly it usually ends up on the wrong side - patent infrigements, monopolistic policies, etc..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:27AM (#9182582)
    Here's Opera's press page [opera.com].

    Nary a word about it.

    But hey, don't let that stop you from flaming Microsoft.
    • makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sofar (317980) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:40AM (#9182723) Homepage

      Microsoft has a lot to lose and taking down opera (or being caught doing something that looks like that) would seriously hurt their current EU legal status (monopolizing a competitor on the browser market). I'm sure microsoft will have settled this on very strict terms with Opera.

      Opera however can use the funds to publicise itself FAIR wihtout slandering M$. That would be the wiser choice.
      • ...just something that looked bad and was contrary to the spirit of web standards. I'm an Opera user myself, and occasionally come across sites that specifically redirect me to a 'blocked' page saying that they only support IE or Netscape and telling me to download one or the other. (The site usually ends up working fine in Opera.) I've never heard of anyone being prosecuted for doing this.
  • by GatorMan (70959) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:31AM (#9182616)
    In related news, OSDN/Slashdot to pay 'cost of loss' for the disrepectful way in which, after posting a link to Opera's site, the server melted in less than 8 comments.
    • Which is why it's always a good idea to actually go ahead and spell out what a link is pointing to.

      Now that the pages are slashdotted, anyone who hasn't read the page yet want to make a guess about what "something to do with this" is actually about?

      I mean, I applaud the unique way of setting up the links, I really do. I just now have absolutely no idea why Microsoft may or may not have paid up.
  • by WordODD (706788) <wordodd@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:31AM (#9182621)
    I really enjoy the Opera interface, but I am a FireFox diehard as many other people here are, so I wonder why Opera? Why not FireFox, or one of the others, Mozilla, etc. etc.? I'm sure its Slashdotly correct to assume that MS and the MSN website issue are the reason for this money but perhaps its something much less sinister. Mod me down if you want but I think putting something like this on the front page is just spreading unnessecary FUD.
    • by rborek (563153) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:06AM (#9183001)
      I use both Opera and Firefox. The one thing Opera has going for it is that it has a better caching system - going forwards and backwards. See Bug 38486 [mozilla.org] for information on this. Firefox (and Mozilla) are dog slow when going forwards or backwards, because it reloads the entire page and re-parses everything. Opera is instantaneous. Even IE is faster.

      That said, I hate Opera's handling of history and typed-in links - it's slow, they show up in alphabetical order (if you type in part of a URL - otherwise I think it's random) and it's a FIFO system (so it's not based on last-visited or number of times visited or anything like that). Opera also seems to have more problems rendering content, and actually crashes more often than any of the Firefox nightlies.

    • Why Opera? Small (both footprint and download), fast, works on lower-end systems, real Small Screen Rendering [opera.com] as seen on mobile devices, the M2 email client, which is rather unique, built in... No need to download countless extensions to mimic features that are already there when you install Opera. Integration between those features, instead of some random unrelated extensions doing their own thing and adding clutter to the UI. Then again, with Firefox you can do just about anything by installing extensions
    • by Tiram (650450) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:21AM (#9183207) Homepage Journal
      Neither Mozilla nor Opera are serious competition for Microsoft on the desktop, but Opera is a very serious competitor for MS on devices and mobile phones, and devices and phones is where the money is, after all. That's why Opera.
  • by Sheepdot (211478) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:39AM (#9182719) Journal
    ... slashdot pays a few million to an unknown company with apologies for driving their bandwidth to the ground.

    Full text (sorry, no pictures):

    Why doesn't MSN work with Opera?
    [Update Feb 7: After this page had been referenced by Cnet, The Register and Slashdot, MSN changed their setup so that Opera7 no longer receives the distorted style sheet. Opera6, however, still does]

    Microsoft and MSN have a history of trying to stop people from using the Opera browser. When trying to access MSN.com using the Opera browser, there are two visible problems. First, for the user it looks like Opera has a serious flaw so that many lines are partially hidden. Second, the page shows less content than users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (MSIE) see.

    The purpose of this page is to document, in technical terms, what is going on. Did the Opera programmers make grave mistakes? Or is it something wrong on the MSN site? If so, is the Opera browser targeted specifically? (Executive summary: no, yes, yes)

    To analyze the problem, the first step is to download the files as they are served to the browsers. When requesting a page, the browser sends along a "User-Agent" string which makes it possible for the server to identify which make and version the browser is. Here are the User-Agent strings used by the three browsers (when running on Windows XP) in this test:

    Browser User-Agent string
    Opera 7.0 Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.1) Opera 7.0 [en]
    MSIE 6.0 Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)
    Netscape 7.01 Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.0.2) Gecko/20021120 Netscape/7.01

    When downloading pages, browsers sometimes modify the content before saving the pages to disk. For comparison purposes it is therefore important to use another to fetch the files. In this test "wget" was used. The table below shows the files fetched by "wget" when told to identify as Opera7, MSIE and Netscape 7.01, respectively. The test was run around 2PM Oslo time on Feb 5, 2003.

    Files Bytes Command used to fetch file
    opera7.html 39436 wget --user-agent="Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.1) Opera 7.0 [en]" --output-document opera7.html http://www.msn.com
    msie6.html 37253 wget --user-agent="Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)" --output-document msie6.html http://www.msn.com
    ns7.html 37379 wget --user-agent="Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.0.2) Gecko/20021120 Netscape/7.01" --output-document ns7.html http://www.msn.com

    As can be seen in the table above, each browser is sent different HTML files. If you open the files in your browser of choice, you will see that that the file sent to Opera7 has less content in (although it is bigger) than the version sent to the Microsoft and Netscape browsers.

    To understand why there are differences, we need to peek inside the HTML files. This part of the analysis is quite time-consuming, but by now we have some experience. It turns out that MSN sends different style sheets to the different browsers. This can be seen in the first LINK element of each of the three files. The style sheets are:

    Browser File Bytesize Command used to fetch file
    Opera 7.0 site.css 521 wget --user-agent="Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.1) Opera 7.0 [en]" --output-document site.css http://i.msn.com/m/8/c/site.css
    MSIE 6.0 site-win-ie6.css 2036 wget --user-agent="Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)" --output-document site-win-ie6.css http://i.msn.com/m/8/c/site-win-ie6.css
    Netscape 7.01 site-all-nav6.css 1926 wget --user-agent="Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.0.2) Gecko/20021120 Netscape/7.01" --output-document site-all-nav6.css http://i.msn.com/m/8/c/site-all-nav6.css

    As can be seen in the table above, Opera7 receives a style sheet which is very different from the Microsoft and Netscape browsers. Looking inside the style sheet sent to Opera7 we find this fragment:
  • by falsemover (190073) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:46AM (#9182797)
    This isn't new. Morally nebulous web site owners around the world configure their sites to check the user agent and if they detect a search engine like Google, they send a page that will 'spamdex' the Google search results; a page that with keyword laden or otherwise garbage to the user but optimized for search. The temptation to corrupt the fair process of serving the same info to everyone is irrisistable, especially when there is money to be made from a well ranked mortgage/gambling/casino/hi risk loan/no credit card refused type site. Hypocritically, this appears to work in reverse for vendors like Microsoft. Although they don't like users spamdexing their search engines based on user agent discrimination; they are more than happy to serve the same flavor of evil to help sqash a competitor in their marketplace.
  • by hyfe (641811) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:47AM (#9182820)
    Translating properly is hard.. but I'll give it a try just for the heck of it :)

    Headline: Secret Million-settlement

    Picturetext: MSN: This is how the broken MSN looked like.

    Ingress: An american company must pay one year of earnings(one year of opera's earning that is, the sentence was unclear in norwegian too) to Opera software. Why is a secret.

    (Dagbladet.no): Opera software has just reached a settlement in a legal dispute with an american company. According to a stockmarket note issued today, the compensation given to Opera was 89 millions.

    The company was not one of Operas existing customers.

    - We have presented a few fact against this company. We agreed to avoid taking this court. A part of the bargain is not telling which company this is, says technical manager Håkon Wium Lie in Opera software to dagbladet.no

    - Is this about the mobilephone reader or the pc-version?

    - This issue is not a pirating or patent issue. In the settlement we do not give away any rights concering our products, and we shall continue making good products, says Lie.

    It was after a substantial amound of documentation was sent over to the american company that the settlement came to be. As a consequence, this will not come before the court.

    Last year Opera made 78 million kroners (about 10 million dollars). This settlement therefor equals one year of revenues.

    - However, this year our ambitions are far greater, claims Lie.

    Accusing Microsoft

    Dagbladet.no doesn't know which company entered the settlement with Opera. It is however formerly known that since 2001 Microsoft have been blocking out Opera customers on purpose from their net pagers.

    On his private webpages Wium Lie have in detalj explained what happens when a user enters the netpage msn.com with Opera.

    He has documented that MSN sends a seperate version of their pages that looks worse on Opera and Netscape. On these pages, the page looks broken and weird. Among other things, part of the content is being placed outside the margin. MSN fixed the error after being by Opera, however older version still have trouble.

    Read also: 'ditch Internet Explorer'
  • by venomix (87217) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:52AM (#9182859)
    Here's a quick translation of the norwiegan article. I'm Swedish so nor my english or my norwiegan is perfect, but you should get the picture.

    [translation]
    Secret millon-dollar settlement

    An american company will pay about a years revnue to Opera Software. The reason is secret.

    Opera software has recieved a sum of money after entering a settlement with an american company. According to a press release that Opera send out today, the settlement has given the company a compensation of 89 million norwiegian kroner (NOK).

    The company is not one of operas existing customers.

    - We have laid forth some facts against a company. We have agreed not to take this to court. It's also a part of the settlement that we
    don't tell which the involved company is, says the technical director Håkon Wium Lie of Opera software to Dagbladet.no

    - Is this about the cellphone browser or the
    pc browser?

    - It's not about piracy or patents. We don't give
    up any rights in the settlement and we will
    continue to deliver good products, Lie says.

    It was efter sending a large amount of documents to the american company that the settlement was reached. Thereby this issue won't go to court.

    Last year Opera made of profit of 78 million NOK. The settlement thereby brings in a years profit to Opera.

    - Although this year we have widely larger ambitions, says Lie.
    [/translation]
    The rest is just about the old msn/opera issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:56AM (#9182887)
    Contains no more info, but in english so Americans can read it too.. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/05/18/opera_lega l/ [theregister.co.uk]
  • Block out MSIE (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ValourX (677178) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:11AM (#9183065) Homepage
    To retailiate, here's some PHP code to block or redirect MSIE users, if you're interested:
    <?php
    $agent="MSIE";
    global $HTTP_USER_AGENT;
    if ($ie!="true") {
    if (strpos($HTTP_USER_AGENT,$agent) == true) {
    header("Location: http://" . $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST']. dirname($_SERVER['PHP_SELF']). "/" ."msie.php");
    $ie="true";
    exit();
    }
    }
    ?>
    To implement:

    1. Place this at the top of your web pages and make sure they all have the .PHP extention.

    2. Create a file called msie.php and provide links to www.opera.com and www.mozilla.org and explain why they are seeing this page.

    3. Pass the ?msie=true setting to all of your internal links so that the code is bypassed for MSIE users.

    4. Use an if statement to direct MSIE users to a different style sheet if you wish to give them a watered-down version of your site.

    An example of a site that blocks MSIE [herotale.com].

    Have fun.

    -Jem
    • Re:Block out MSIE (Score:2, Informative)

      by ValourX (677178)
      Oops -- that variable should be ?ie=true instead of ?msie=true.

      -Jem
    • Re:Block out MSIE (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shinglor (714132)
      Why not just use the correct content-type (application/xhtml+xml)? AFAIK almost all browsers support it except IE and it's a W3C recommendation.
    • Re:Block out MSIE (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Reziac (43301)
      I use Mozilla with a User-Agent toolbar, specifically to deal with sites that only do a dumb string check for User-Agent.

      Set to "real UA" your site works fine.
      Set to "IE", it redirects as specified.

      Note that it is locking out MOZILLA if it *calls* itself IE.

      IOW, your lockout script is just as broken as IE, because it only does a UA-string check, not a browser capabilities check.

    • Re:Block out MSIE (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)
      And the Macintosh version of IE which supports CSS correctly and is a pretty damned good browser in its own right? Why would you force Macintosh users to switch browsers when the one they're using has no rendering errors and no security holes?

      Microsoft does make good browsers, just not on Windows. This code just makes you into an asshole to Mac users.
  • by The Wannabe King (745989) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:16AM (#9183139)
    This aritcle [digi.no] is from a source that is far more reliable than Dagbladet, which is a tabloid newspaper of the worst sort. It's in Norwegian and says much the same as the Dagbladet article, but adds some paragraphs at the end (in bold) that are quite interesting. Translation follows:

    [Digi.no is interviewing Håkon Wium Lie from Opera]

    Digi.no reverses the question and asks whether Opera and Microsoft have had any contact on the coding of MSN. This ordinary question should give Lie no reason to be silent, but he refuses to answer.

    He only says cryptically: "Microsoft has fixed a lot, but there are still some versions of Opera that won't work".

    When digi.no asks "Can we expect that this is solved in the near future?", Lie says that he "unfortunately cannot comment on this."

  • Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mindfucker (778407) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:19AM (#9183183)
    Sounds like they deserved it.

    Now maybe the Mozilla Foundation, the World Web Consortium, and an us Web Developers can collectively sue Microsoft for deliberately breaking PNG, CSS, HTTP [apache.org], and the other myriad Internet standards out there. I don't think large punitive damages are out of the question considering the wasted time and effort their sorry excuse for a web browser causes us in having to maintain two different versions of stylesheets and web-pages (IE and non-IE).
    </rant>

    The effect is the same as mentioned in the article, albeit, on a much broader scale.

  • by Cyno01 (573917) <Cyno01@hotmail.com> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:01AM (#9183640) Homepage
    let me be the first to say...

    BORK!

  • by Bronz (429622) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:14AM (#9183784)

    1) While I'm no fan of browser-specific treatment (it's what keeps things like NS4 alive) and I'm no fan of MSN, I would hate to live in a world where I am liable if I screw up trying to support a browser. How does one determine if MSN just didn't test Opera 7 properly, or if they maliciously targeted it? Do you really want to set a precedent here?

    2) I've been an Opera fan for several years and I'll admit the default interface of Opera 7 is atrocious. The first thing anyone should do is go get a custom skin you like, or use the windows_skin. Then turn off the majority of the toolbars. Once you get mouse gestures down, you don't need any toolbars at all. Normally my Opera windows consist of an address bar and 5 to 30 tabs.

    3) Opera shouldn't open source their browser. Why would they? Not Everything Needs To Be Open Source (tm). Opera's foundation of qt is probably the best showcase for using open source for your closed sourced products. Asking Opera to open their source simply exemplifies the FUD that open source is viral.
  • Opera ROCKS!!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @02:46PM (#9186881)
    Good! I'm using Opera right now... Version six-point-something. Funny thing is, I also have the newest version installed on the same computer, and I switch between them depending on the sites I want to view. (I have different preferences set up in each of them.) Try that with Exploder...

    Opera is also much safer. Who cares if it costs 40 bucks or whatever? Of all the browsers I've tried, it's the best one out there. Renders EVERY page except the ones Microsoft OBVIOUSLY screw up to make Opera appear defective. Just like they did with Windows 3.1 and DR-DOS. And probably on many other occasions that don't come to mind right now. And who wants to look at Microsoft's retarded web sites anyway?

    Opera. Because friends don't let friends use crappy browsers.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. - Andy Finkel, computer guy

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