The most innovative browser I have seen in recent times was one made for the tablet and called Coast by Opera. Now, Opera is back with another experimental browser, the Neon. It is a completely different take on how we use browsers, based on how we use browsers these days. If you haven’t realised browsers haven’t changed much in the two-odd decades that the Internet has been part of our lives.
I decided to use the browser as my primary access to the web for a few hours and this is what I felt.
Design: The design is radical, at least when it comes to browsers. The browser is transparent and your desktop shows through. You open up to see top websites — initially these are sites Opera wants to promote — showing up as bubbles on the page. Click open of them, or open a new website using the simple address bar, and the bubble shifts to the the left bar and the page opens in the rest of the browser. There are no tabs and the right bar shows you which all pages are open.
There is a right bar that shows the browser features like tabs that are playing music or video — these pages can be left open in the background, quick option to take screenshots, another button for saved screenshots and one for downloads. At the bottom you have a settings menu which is very similar to what you would find on Opera or Chrome.
What is good?
The Neon browser actually has lesser real estate than other browsers, but it gives the feeling that it is offering more space for content. Anyway, it does make it easier to access content, like the different tab for music or video that is playing in the background. Other browsers too can play music in the background, but none make it this easy to go back to what you were listening too.
We are all used to tabs and people like me are slaves to dozens of them by the end of the day. From that perspective I think Neon is much more user friendly in comparison to traditional browsers. Also, in one glance you get a good idea of what is open, if there are any new notifications on those pages etc.
What is not good?
This is a concept browser and not really stable. In one day I had two occasion when the browser crashed. If you are one of those used to browser extensions then Neon could pose issues as it does not support any at the moment. Also, if you are planning to switch from Opera, then features like discover that lets you read from multiple sources are not in yet.
Neon is without a doubt a bold move, one that incorporates out of the box thinking. However, it does not have enough now to get power users to cross over. It might, however, find favour with those who like to read and browse a lot. And we can expect there is more going to come out of the Opera stables with Neon.