One of Google Chrome's major weaknesses or shortcomings is the browser's lack of user interface customization options. It is a take it or leave it interface that is giving users no options whatsoever to customize it.
You cannot move toolbar icons around, add a second toolbar (other than the bookmarks bar), or place new icons in locations in the browser to speed things up (other than with add-ons).
Opera Software released a preview of Opera 15 yesterday. It is the first desktop version of Opera based on Chromium, which Google Chrome is also based on.
While it is too early to tell if the final version will provide the same feature set, it is fair to say that this version feels like Google Chrome with a couple of Opera features sprinkled on it. The browser is as customizable as Chrome, which means that you cannot really customize it in any way or form. This is a stark contrast to Opera 12.15, the latest version of the browser based on the old rendering engine.
Opera turned from a highly customizable browser into a browser that you cannot customize at all.
But the Norwegian company is not the only that is reducing user choice. Mozilla too started work on a new design and changes in the popular Firefox browser, likely a result of Google Chrome pushing into the market.
There have been smaller changes in recent time, like the removal of the status bar but nothing major. This changes when Firefox 25 gets released as it will ship with the Australis theme enabled by default if nothing gets into the way in the meantime.
While things won't be as bleak as in Opera, some customizing options will get removed from the browser after all. This may include the add-on bar, all custom user created toolbars and less options when it comes to the icons in the navigational toolbar.
Firefox 25 will still be the browser that you can customize the most, at least where the top 5 browsers are concerned.
Firefox 24 is the next ESR (Extended Support Release) of the browser. This release will be supported for a period of eight release cycles so that Firefox users can switch to it temporarily to avoid Australis.
SeaMonkey on the other hand may be it. The Internet application suite combines a browser, mail reader and other tools under its hood. While it is using Firefox for the browsing part, it is not following when it comes to design changes that Mozilla made in the past.
It is for instance still using a status bar and I have not seen any evidence yet that this is going to change when Mozilla releases the Australis theme to the public.
Since it is based on Firefox, it is possible to install most add-ons for the browser in SeaMonkey as well. Opera users on the other hand may like the integrated email client that the suite ships with. While they will certainly have to spend more time adjusting to the new environment, it is certainly closer to Opera 12.15 than Opera 15 is in its current state of development.
SeaMonkey is by no means the perfect solution, but there are not really that many left that you can use.
Windows users can also look at Pale Moon, a version of the browser maintained by a single developer. It is however not clear how Pale Moon will look and feel like when Firefox 25 gets released.
Firefox and Opera do not become unusable when the changes land and there are good arguments for adjusting to change to keep on using them. It may take some time to adjust and find new ways to work with the browser, but that is not really the core issue here, at least not for me. Customizations make Firefox and Opera great, and easily distinguishable from a one-interface for everyone browser like Chrome.
If they take that away from the browser, they are removing one of the main reasons for using Firefox or Opera.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.