Buh-bye, tabs! Opera introduces a new iPad browser called Coast

Opera has had a version of its Opera Mini browser available for the iPad for some time, but it seems the Norwegian software firm was not satisfied. On Monday, it unveiled a new browser for Apple(s aapl)’s tablet: Coast.

The app, which rolls out from today, is described by its maker as the browser that “should have come with the iPad” – a claim that derives from the fact that Coast does away with my desktop-like conventions: the always-present URL bar at the top, back and forward buttons, bookmarks and even tabs, for example.

Of course, all this functionality is still in there – it’s just more a matter of gestures than buttons now. To go back, you swipe to the left; to go forward, you swipe to the right. As for bookmarks, these have been replaced by Opera’s now-familiar Speed Dial setup, which can be accessed by pressing one of Coast’s rare, minimalist buttons at the bottom of the screen.

This is where you can enter a URL too, in case you were wondering, and also where you can close open pages with a cutely animated upwards swipe. And tabs may not show up as such, but if you click the button at the bottom right you can scroll through open pages, share or print them, and look at the page’s security credentials.

Opera Coast sharing screenshot

According to Opera CEO Lars Boilesen:

“Coast started as an initiative from some of our most creative engineers and designers, which quickly turned into something unique and truly awesome. After today, tablet users will expect more from their web experience, and Coast will be the first to deliver.

Having spent a mere few minutes playing with Coast, the first thing to strike me is that, in the absence of a URL bar, there is no easy way to tell if a page is encrypted or not (that green padlock and “https” prefix).

Opera Coast safety screenshotAlthough Opera says Coast provides “can’t-miss warnings when a suspicious site is accessed,” and security credentials can be viewed if the user makes a bit of an effort, I do wonder whether this might make it easier for miscreants to fool users into accessing spoofed versions of banking sites and so on.

I’m intrigued to find out how Coast fares when it comes to handling multiple windows. At first glance, it looks like it won’t work as well as, say, Chrome(s goog), due to the lack of tabs. However, tabs become pretty useless as time-savers once you have a certain number open, as you can’t read anything on them, making it necessary to open them to see what they contain.

Apart from that, though, first impressions are positive. I like the idea of getting rid of as much space-wasting stuff as possible in the mobile context, and web apps in particular stand to benefit – the more they look like proper apps, rather than a web page, the better.

It is certainly true is that browsers need a makeover for mobile. Well done to Opera for thinking past the PC on this one – it’s not the out-there futuristic approach taken by the likes of Futureful, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

If you’re interested in the implications of apps such as Coast, you might want to check out two conferences we have coming up: Mobilize in October, which centers on mobile advances; and Roadmap in November, which will deal with new ideas around design and user experience.