If you look at the alternative browsers cluttering up the landscape, Chrome, Firefox and Safari, you can't help but notice that they owe a lot to Opera. Opera was the first major browser to use most of the innovations people take for granted today, at a time when most people were willing to settle for nothing more than a bare bones IE setup.

But a new release of Chrome or Firefox gets the same kind of attention that a new Star Wars movie would (one not involving George Lucas or the prequel universe) even when it's only Firefox bumping up half a version from 3.0 to 3.5. (But Opera 10's release is getting ignored. Not by everyone, since Firefox's 4.0 design mockups already borrowed Opera's new tabbed browsing approach.)

So why can't Opera catch a break?

Opera 10 points up some of the problems with the Opera browser. It's clunky. And a lot of the Opera releases suffer from clunkiness. Opera may implement the stuff that becomes universal, but it doesn't do so with the design flair of Google or Mozilla. Like Xerox, Opera is doomed to popularize features just enough for its competitors to pick up on them, while the same people who promote Firefox all day, still hardly know what Opera is and have never tried it.

Then there's the Netscape problem. To compete with Internet Explorer, Netscape began integrating more features to create a massively clunky and overpowered browser suite that no one really wanted. Opera suffers from the same problem, overpowering its browser, while Google and Mozilla devs works to streamline theirs. What a lot of users want now is speed. And Firefox, which began heading down the Netscape road with 2.0 and 3.0 listened with 3.5. Firefox may not be as fast as Chrome, but it meets the speed race. Opera 10 makes some effort at speed, but it's just too weighed down.

Mostly though Opera isn't cool. Chrome and Firefox have cultivated the image of the new tech cool. But no matter what Opera does it seems hopeless rooted in the aesthetics and tech culture of 1997. It isn't sleek. It isn't cool. And it lacks open source press releases and a shiny logo. Instead there's the old fashioned O. How IE!