To complete this tweak, you’ll also need to create a new integer value (just right-click anywhere and select ‘new integer’), which you should name ‘nglayout.initialpaint.delay’ and set to a value of 0 – this is the amount of time (or rather lack of) between the browser receiving and acting upon data received. Incidentally, to speed up your editing of the config file, instead of following a right-click menu to change values, simply double-click to change a true value to a false one and vice versa. The same double-click automatically pops up an entry box when a numerical value needs to be modified.
My final Firefox tip involves getting more out of the ‘about:’ command string. Pop along to Mr Tech at www.mrtech.com, where you’ll find an extension called ‘about:about’. Install this and you’ll see an additional Help menu ‘about’ item, which opens to reveal numerous ‘about’ options to explore, including ones for build configuration, disk and memory caches and even ‘the kitchen sink’ (I won’t spoil it by telling you what this actually does; go see for yourself). Oh, and while you’re at Mr Tech, it would be remiss of me not to recommend that you install the ‘disable XPI install delay’ extension, as this does away with that intensely irritating delay before installing an extension. Well, when you’re down at the microsecond level of browser streamlining, every little helps.
The fat lady isn’t singing
The good news that Opera (www.opera.com) is finally available free of charge and free of advertising has been a long time coming. Indeed, I’ve pretty much worn out the saddle of this particular hobby-horse by arguing that despite being an undoubtedly fine browser it was doomed to failure unless it could free itself of the commercial baggage weighing it down. Sure, a ‘free’ version was available, if you didn’t mind the embedded advertising, but you (and I for that matter) did mind.
So is everything all rosy now that the ads and the licence fee have been removed? Well, not quite. I don’t think the fat lady is singing just yet, but she’s certainly cleared her throat and is starting to warble. The problem is that I fear Opera left it too late to deal with the Firefox threat, which is still gaining both momentum and market share. Firefox has already cribbed most, if not all, of the UI components that made Opera so capable in the first place, and added several new ones of its own for good measure. Firefox can even outdo Opera when it comes to the size of its supporting user community: the Mozilla massive is more vocal, more active and, thanks to the open-source extensible architecture of Firefox, more inventive.
Opera can’t even, surely, compete when it comes to the revenue raised by renting out the search-engine space within the browser. With no more than 1 per cent market share, Opera will struggle to match the rumoured $30 million per year that Firefox makes from its Google search box deal, and this bums-on-browsers logic applies just as much to similar cash-for-referral deals with the likes of Amazon and eBay.
There are still two areas where Opera does lead the way, though, the first being raising revenue from embedded browser deals. Opera is already the de facto web client for most non-Microsoft powered smartphones, and its foothold in this mobile browser market isn’t just strong but getting stronger. The second area of promise is security: according to the ‘Symantec Global Internet Threat Report 2005 Vol VIII’ (www.symantec.com), which covers the period from the start of January to the end of June, Opera exhibits the fewest security vulnerabilities of any browser, with just six (three rated as high severity) compared to the Mozilla family’s 25 (18 of high severity). IE rather surprisingly sat in the middle at 13 (eight high severity). Looking at the figures for last year, when Firefox started to grab market share, you discover it started 2004 with just two vulnerabilities.