In some ways, Opera is the Rodney Dangerfield of browsers. Both have their rabid followers, and both struggle to gain respect from the mainstream audience. That's where the similarities end, and where Opera really distinguishes itself is in being relevant still today (apologies for the gut punch, Dangerfield fans). Opera Software's next big browser release -- Opera 12 -- is now available as an alpha build, and with it another major development.
If there's a Rodney Dangerfield of browser makers, it has to be Opera Software, the Norwegian browser maker responsible for Opera, the oft overlooked alternative to Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Opera might not get the same market share respect that the big three receive, but even if the useage numbers don't bear it out, it's a decent overall browser worth checking out. For those who like to live on the bleeding edge, Opera Software just made available Opera 11.50 beta codenamed "Swordfish."
In the battle for browser market market share, Opera Software can claim victory in a skirmish to land a contract with Sony. As a result, Sony will shove the Opera browser into its Internet-connected Bravia televisions and Blu-ray disc players, the Swedish browser maker announced.
"The Web as we know it is evolving, and we are committed to making it more accessible across diverse devices," said Christen Krogh, Chief Development Officer, Opera Software. "Our ability to address key hybrid broadcast-broadband initiatives in numerous markets makes us a natural fit with Sony. By delivering both a global viewpoint and the necessary technology, we are able to stay on the cutting edge of the industry."
Opera talked up its SDK in the announcement, calling it a "robust, open platform" that's highly customizable and ideal for this sort of thing. The platform will allow for developers to create related apps and widgets.
The Opera browser is already used by Nintendo on its gaming consoles, and Opera's mobile browser remains a popular download. Nevertheless, the combined market share for Opera and Opera Mini sits at less than 3.5 percent, according to NetMarketShare.
Opera Software wasn't blowing smoke up anyone's backside when the browser maker said its Opera 11 Release Candidate was nearly ready to go gold. That time has come, with Opera 11 in finished form now available for download just one day after the release of the first RC, and a mere two days after the third RC.
There's a lot that's new in Opera 11, perhaps none more important than the addition of Extensions. Previously, Opera got by with Widgets, but it's hard to imagine a modern day browser appealing to the masses without some kind of extensions integration.
Other trumpeted features include tab stacking, visual mouse gestures, and a safer address field, to name a few. It all adds up to the best version of Opera yet, and so far it's been well received.
"A little more than a year ago, we launched Opera 10.10. We were stunned to see an average of 1.7 million downloads per day the first week. In fact in our own words: 'This download rate shatters previous Opera records,'" Opera Software said in a blog post.
"What a difference a year makes. Yesterday, Opera 11 was downloaded a total of 6.7 million times with 1.1 million coming from download partners around the globe."
Much of those numbers can be attributed to Opera's auto-update feature, which Opera Software admits "does help download numbers, as it should."
We get it, you're not about to give up ______ (fill in the blank with Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or IE), which other browser makers will have to pry from your cold, dead hands. But aren't you the least bit curious what the competition is up to?
Now is as good of a time as any to give the Opera browser a whirl. The second Release Candidate for Opera 11 is just a click away, following the release of the first RC that was posted just one day ago. This followup RC mainly addresses a handful of tab stacking issues, otherwise Opera Software promises "Opera 11.0 is mature enough to be prepared for a final release."
In addition to tab stacking, the major new feature in Opera 11 is the long overdue support for extensions. Other features included baked in visual mouse gestures, better performance, search predictions from Google, and enhanced HTML5, to name just a few.
Opera 11 in beta form for Windows is now available for download, and with it a bunch of new features, including Tab Stacking. Just as it sounds, Opera's newest browser lets you stack tabs on top of each other and group them by site or theme.
"Tabs are the most popular feature in browsers today," said Jan Standal, VP of Desktop Products, Opera. "Because so many of us wrestle with tens or even hundreds of open tabs, we needed a way to simplify tab management. Just like stacking papers for future reference, stacking your tabs is an intuitive way to organize and collect your open Web pages."
The other big feature addition is extensions support. Extensions were first introduced in the alpha release of Opera 11, and these days developers are adding between 10 and 20 new extensions every day, Opera says.
Other features include improved mouse gestures, plug-ins can now be set to load on-demand, enhanced HTML5 support, search prediction from Google, and faster performance.
Opera Software recently said that its next major browser release, Opera 11, wil include support for extensions, and the Norwegian company called on browser makers to create a unified standard for add-ons. Showing that it's willing to lead by example, Opera Software today announced it has joined the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), an alliance of mobile operators tasked with developing a common mobile application platform.
"WAC is being built around open Web standards, so it is valuable to have a Web browser company involved," said Peters Suh, CEO, Wholesale Applications Community. "Opera has a proven track record in supporting Web standards. Most importantly, they have already delivered standards-compliant widget and Web application repositories to major mobile operators. Their expertise is extremely helpful as we prepare to launch the Wholesale Applications Community."
Opera is the first browser vendor to join WAC, with Opera products already supporting the initial WAC 1.0 standard
"WAC is an important industry initiative towards making a mobile application platform that is web based, rather than locked-down, proprietary application models," said Christen Krogh, Chief Development Officer, Opera Software.
The newest version of the Opera browser -- version 10.60 -- has gone Gold and is now available for downlaod. Opera Software's latest browser incarnation comes built around the Opera Presto 2.6 rendering engine and is purportedly the company's speediest browser yet.
"Opera 10.60 is the fastest browser we have ever made," Opera Software wrote in a blog post. "With millions of users expecting Opera to deliver the future, we now support search suggestions, Geolocation, WebM, and new HTML5 elements such as Web workers in addition to added security and stability fixes."
However, Speed alone is not the only area of improvement. The browser is now armed with key HTML5 technologies, including Appcache, Web Workers and the royalty-free WebM online video format (based on the VP8 codec). The latest version also brings improvements to the UI and search suggestions. “Beyond the speed boost, the latest version of Opera improves on our robust HTML5 support and provides more options for quick and efficient Web search through your preferred search engines. By combining raw speed with intuitive and easy-to-use features, Opera places you among the fastest Internet users on the planet.”
Can your browser beat a potato in a speed test? If you're using either Chrome or Opera, the answer is a resounding "yes," and both Google and Opera Software have proof. Let's start with Google.
Following the release of Chrome beta version 5.0.375.29, Google wanted to get the point across that there have been significant speed-enhancing improvements made to the underlying architecture. To get their point across, Google posted a video featuring a variety of stunts filmed with high-speed videography. The very first one involves a potato being shot through a metal grid and, well, it's probably better if you just see for yourself:
Not to be outdone, the spunky developers over at Opera Software saw this as an opportunity to poke a little fun at Google, and so they've gone and posted a video of their own. In it, a Scandivavian engineer concludes, "So there we have it, the Opera browser is much faster than a potato." This too will make more sense if you see it for yourself, so here you go:
The million dollar question is, which video is better? Cast your vote in the comments section below!