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I also hate all the built-in functionality of Opera and would rather have the extensions-based functionality of Firefox.
Why? There's gotta be some reason for that...
Isn't having built-in functionality more convenient?
I just don't want them in front of me
Which functionalities are in front of you? Most functionalities are hidden (ex: mail client, RSS reader, chat client, Usenet client, mouse gestures, etc...). The default interface is not particularly bloated to me: http://i27.tinypic.com/en77n.png
At this point, the only extension I really *need* with Firefox is AdBlock (go crazy without it).
Have you tried Opera's built-in ad blocker?
It eventually became adware (horrible for someone who only had 31.2kbps dialup while everyone else was on 56kbps or moving to DSL)
I'm puzzled. How much bandwidth will a 10KB banner ad take off your bandwidth when downloaded every 5 minutes? There were even text-based banners. It's really not a bandwidth issue, it's rather an annoyment issue. No one wants to see ads, me neither.
by the time they made it completely free, other good free alternatives had risen to overcome it.
By the time it was free, it was too late, people already hated Opera and got their revenge with Firefox which was free of charge and with no ads. Freeing Opera: Too little, too late.
If they'd given the damn thing away, they would have gained a lot more market share.
Granted, that's not exactly a sustainable business prospect in itself...
When you have a partnership with Google and have hundreds of millions of users, you do make money (see the Mozilla Corporation). Opera was maybe too greedy and didn't expect Firefox would arise and eat them alive. Opera should have been free from the beginning, it would have eaten IE6.