No one has really cracked browsing on a touchscreen. While Safari works fine on the iPad, it’s still a little clunky because it’s practically identical to using a browser on your desktop or laptop. Now Norwegian browser developer Opera has decided to see if it’s able to reinvent browsing on the iPad with this brand new browser.
Fire up Coast for the first time and an instructional video briefly reveals how the app works – by touch and swipe wherever possible. So out go the browser toolbars and in come navigation by swiping left to go back and right to go forwards.
The aim of Coast is to minimise the user interface, so only two buttons are ever-present on screen: a Home button that takes you to a home screen similar to the iOS home screen, with favourite and recently visited sites represent by icons, nine to a screen (swipe left to reveal more). This is also where you’ll find the unified Address and Search bar for locating more content.
Recent sites are also accessible via a button in the bottom right-hand corner. Tap this and they’ll appear as thumbnails, with two further buttons to investigate: the ‘I’ button provides a safety rating for the site (Coast will also provide a more visible alert for sites it deems as unsafe), while the Share button lets you tweet, Facebook, Message, email or print the page, plus add it to your home screen as a favourite.
Unlike Opera’s other iOS browser, Opera Mini, Coast utilises the WebKit browser engine used by Safari. Early indications are that performance isn’t quite on a par with Safari, while others are looking for more privacy controls (mainly an option to wipe all cached data) as well as the ability to transfer bookmarks and other settings from other browsers.
There’s also the question of whether there’s a demand for such a revolution in web browsing, but at least Coast has the benefit of being incredibly simple to pick up and use. It will be interesting to see if it becomes a success.
Coast by Opera offers an intriguing glimpse into one possible future of web browsing on a tablet. Simple and intuitive, it’s major problem is going to be changing people’s attitudes to browsing.