When Opera announced that it will change the core of its browser to Webkit, I was a bit disappointed. This shows that today even bigger projects that were developed for years can reach a plateau. This isn't good news for startups, because they can no longer rely on innovation and open culture alone when they might be unable to escape the realities of the highly competitive browser market. This decision will probably affect future plans to eventually build new browsers—something that requires close to heroic effort, when we consider that browsers today have become operating systems, offering everything from third party rulers and magnifiers to popular debugging tools for web developers. Joining forces between any two big competitors imposes specific challenges for the rest of the ecosystem and its ability to grow. That's not a specific threat to Opera as a company; rather it's a threat to the openness of the web, for which Opera is also a symbol.
Fewer browsers can make testing and development much easier, which is why some web designers prefer such a move. But by having fewer browsers we also risk having less innovation or even losing momentum in introducing better ones, whose features will drive the next wave of designs and inspire even more designers. Ultimately, web designers would be jobless if there were no browsers on which they could present their work. Then it wouldn't matter how great our site was in terms of content, presentation or behavior, when all we had was mostly text, that someone had to take, interpret and present in consistent, appealing way that considers security, usability, performance and things that we, as users, rarely think about.
Smaller market share isn't always equal to a bad product and this browser has proved it. I always wondered how Opera could be so fast in implementing the latest standards; beat others in ACID tests; stay lean and generally perform so fast. Lately, I have used Opera to find a more accurate description of the errors in my scripts, when all Firefox could show were some strange constant names. Every browser is unique in its own way and we must learn to appreciate this uniqueness instead of trying to banish it. Something, which isn't very obvious is that we, as a community, need to generally praise browser vendors more for the exciting things they empower us to do and not only curse them for the bugs they introduce. Bugs are only temporary, but other people's feelings are forever.