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Opera support for Google Instant: 'Shortly'

The fifth-ranked browser is on the to-do list for the livelier search technology. Also: the tech behind Google Instant and this week's Google Doodles.

Opera logo

On Wednesday, when the world's dominant search company launched the Google Instant search-as-you-type service, a technically savvy section of Web users were left out: those who prefer the Opera browser.

But they won't be for long, Google said Thursday. "We hope to support Opera shortly after launch," the company said in a statement.

Google Instant works on newer versions of the four most widely used browsers: Google's Chrome version 5 and later, Firefox version 3 and later, Safari for Mac version 5, and Internet Explorer 8, the company said. "We encourage people to upgrade to the latest version of their favorite browser," Google added, expressing a sentiment shared by innumerable Web developers.

In the meantime, Opera's Bruce Lawson offered quick advice on enabling Google Instant in Opera by telling the browser to masquerade as Firefox at Google. The advice and Google Instant worked for me on both Mac OS X and Windows 7, though the left edge of the search box was missing.

Opera users got a preview of coming disappointment with this week's dynamic Google Doodles--the rejiggered Google logos that appear on the company's home page. Opera users didn't see either Tuesday's doodle, in which Google's logo was rendered in colored circles that evaded the user's mouse, or Wednesday's, in which letters of Google's logo written in gray letters turned colored as a person typed in search terms. Again, faking out Google by using Firefox's identity enabled the special effects.

Google vice president Marissa Mayer introduces Google Instant.
Google vice president Marissa Mayer introduces Google Instant. James Martin/CNET

And the effects weren't even cutting-edge by some measures. Google is on a tear to develop and promote new-era Web technologies for elaborate, graphically rich applications, and has been promoting elaborate demonstrations accordingly. But the mouse-evading circles doodle used fairly conventional, pre-HTML5-era technologies, according to one discussion of the doodle on an HTML5 mailing list.

Those who are curious can check demonstrations using new-fangled approaches: Robin Berjon's bouncy balls in SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) or Rob Hawkes' Canvas version. (In neither do the balls eventually lose their mouse pointer aversion, as in Google's original, but you get the point.) Also worth a peek is Ian Devlin's "AreGooglesBouncingBallsHTML5.com site.

What did require newer technology was Google Instant itself. Using it, Google has to deliver five to seven times the number of search pages as is needed for a typical search, and Google already serves more than a billion such pages per day, according to a blog post Thursday by Google Instant engineer Ben Gomes. He shared a little detail on how the company cached data in a new way, kept track of users' search activity so it didn't have to retrieve the same search data multiple times, and tailored the JavaScript programming on the results page to match the new service.