Opera
By Harry McCracken
April 24, 2014

No disrespect meant to Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, but in the grand scheme of things, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them. They aim to do much the same thing in much the same way with much the same features.

And then there’s Opera Coast. This fresh take on web browsing from the venerable Norwegian web browser company, which debuted on the iPad last September, doesn’t have a conventional address bar, forward and backward buttons or other features that have defined browsers for more than 20 years now. Instead, it treats sites like apps, showing them as icons you can arrange on a desktop, running them in full-screen mode and automatically returning to where you left off each time you visit. It feels a little like a tiny operating system for sites.

Now Coast also runs on the iPhone. It’s the original iPad version intelligently squooshed down for the smaller screen, with a few tweaks. The search feature now suggests “Stuff We Like” — an eclectic list of sites, based on what other Coast users are looking at in your geographic area — and the app automatically downloads a variety of photographic wallpapers for its desktop.

As before, Coast is polished, fun and fluid — and on the iPhone, you can pretty much navigate the whole experience with your thumb. It’s fascinating to see what a web browser looks like when all the cruft that browsers have built up over the years gets stripped away in one fell swoop. Even if you have no desire to dump Safari for most of your iPhone browsing, this inventive alternative is worth a peek.

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