Opera (web browser)

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Opera
Opera browser logo 2013.png
Opera Web Browser.png
Opera 15.0 displaying Wikipedia on Windows 8
Developer(s) Opera Software
Initial release late 1994[1]
Stable release
Windows, OS X

20.0.1387.91 (April 2, 2014; 13 days ago (2014-04-02)[2]) [±]

Linux, FreeBSD
12.16 (July 4, 2013; 9 months ago (2013-07-04)[3]) [±]
Preview release
Next

21.0.1432.39 (April 10, 2014; 5 days ago (2014-04-10)[4]) [±]

Developer
22.0.1460.0 (April 3, 2014; 12 days ago (2014-04-03)[5]) [±]
Development status Active
Written in C++[6]
Operating system Windows
OS X
Linux
FreeBSD
Engine Blink
Type Web browser
License Proprietary freeware with open-source components
Website www.opera.com

Opera is a web browser developed by Opera Software. The latest versions of Opera use the Blink layout engine. Earlier versions used Opera Software's proprietary Presto layout engine and had additional Internet suite features such as sending and receiving e-mail messages, managing contacts, chatting on IRC, downloading files via BitTorrent, and reading web feeds. Opera is offered free of charge for personal computers and mobile devices. According to Opera Software, the browser has over 300 million monthly users worldwide.[7]

Opera is the fourth most popular mobile web browser as of March 2014.[8] Opera Mini has been chosen as the manufacturer's default integrated web browser in several mobile handsets.[9][10][11]

Features include tabbed browsing, page zooming, mouse gestures, and an integrated download manager. Its security features include built-in phishing and malware protection and the ability to delete private data such as HTTP cookies. Opera has been noted for originating many features later adopted by other web browsers, a prominent example being Speed Dial.[12][13]

Opera runs on a variety of personal computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD. Opera editions are available for devices running the Android, iOS, Symbian, Maemo, Bada, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile operating systems, and Java ME.[14][15][16] Approximately 120 million mobile phones have been shipped with Opera.[17] Opera is the only commercial web browser available for the Nintendo DS, DSi and Wii gaming systems. Some television set-top boxes as well as TV-sets use Opera to render HTML-based interactive content. Adobe Systems has licensed Opera technology for use in the Adobe Creative Suite.[18][19]

History[edit]

Opera began in 1994 as a research project at Telenor, the largest Norwegian telecommunications company. In 1995, it branched out into a separate company named Opera Software ASA.[20] Opera was first released publicly with version 2.0 in 1996,[21] which only ran on Microsoft Windows.[22] In an attempt to capitalize on the emerging market for Internet-connected handheld devices, a project to port Opera to mobile device platforms was started in 1998.[22] Opera 4.0, released in 2000,[21] included a new cross-platform core that facilitated creation of editions of Opera for multiple operating systems and platforms.[23]

Up to this point, Opera was trialware and had to be purchased after the trial period ended. Version 5.0 (released in 2000) saw the end of this requirement. Instead, Opera became ad-sponsored, displaying advertisements to users who had not paid for it.[24] Later versions of Opera gave the user the choice of seeing banner ads or targeted text advertisements from Google. With version 8.5 (released in 2005) the advertisements were removed entirely and primary financial support for the browser came through revenue from Google (which is by contract Opera's default search engine).[25]

Among the new features introduced in version 9.1 (released in 2006) was fraud protection using technology from GeoTrust, a digital certificate provider, and PhishTank, an organization that tracks known phishing web sites.[26] This feature was further improved and expanded in version 9.5, when GeoTrust was replaced with Netcraft, and malware protection from Haute Secure was added.[27]

Also in 2006, editions of Opera were made and released for Nintendo's DS and Wii gaming systems.[28][29][30][31] Opera for the Wii, called the Internet Channel, was free to download from its release on 12 April 2007[32] until 30 June 2007. After that date, Wii users had to pay 500 Wii Points to download it.[33] As of 2 September 2009, it is again free to download. Users who previously paid to download are offered a NES game of their choice of the same value.[34][35] The Nintendo DS Browser is not free; it is sold as a physical DS game cartridge. The Nintendo DSi has an Internet Channel that can be downloaded for free from the DSi shop.[36]

A new JavaScript engine called Carakan, after the Javanese alphabet, was introduced with version 10.50.[37] According to Opera Software, Carakan makes Opera 10.50 more than seven times faster in SunSpider than Opera 10.10.[38][39][40] On December 16, 2010, Opera 11 was released, featuring extensions, tab stacking, visual mouse gestures, and changes to the address bar.[41] The new address bar hides the address's protocol and query information by default.[41] Opera 12 was released on 14 June 2012.[42]

On 12 February 2013, Opera announced it would drop its own Presto engine in favour of WebKit as implemented by Google's Chrome browser, using code from the Chromium project. Opera Software also planned to contribute code to WebKit.[43] On 3 April 2013, Google announced that it would fork components from WebKit to form a new rendering engine known as Blink; the same day, Opera confirmed that it would follow Google in implementing Blink.[44]

On 28 May 2013, a beta release of Opera 15 was made available,[45] the first version based on the Chromium project.[46][47] Many distinctive features of the previous versions were dropped, and Opera Mail was separated into a standalone application derived from Opera 12.[48]

Michael Muchmore, writing in PC Magazine, commented in a review of Opera 20 shortly after its release that, on replacing its own Presto engine by Google's, Opera had become largely an interface built on top of Chrome, using Chrome's underlying code. Users who wanted the ingenious Opera features dropped in later versions could download version 12, still maintained. Opera 20 was rated lower than Google Chrome 33, Firefox 27, and Internet Explorer.[49]

Features[edit]

Opera includes built-in tabbed browsing, ad blocking, fraud protection, a download manager and BitTorrent client, a search bar, and a web feed aggregator. Opera also comes with an e-mail client called Opera Mail and an IRC chat client built in.[50]

Opera includes a "Speed Dial" feature, which allows the user to add an unlimited number of pages shown in thumbnail form in a page displayed when a new tab is opened. Thumbnails of the linked pages are automatically generated and used for visual recognition on the Speed Dial. Once set up, this feature allows the user to more easily navigate to the selected web pages.[51]

Opera is extensible in a third way via plug-ins, relatively small programs that add specific functions to the browser,[52] and as of Opera 11, third-party extensions. However, Opera limits what plug-ins can do. Additionally, "User JavaScript" may be used to add custom JavaScript to web pages.

Languages and localization[edit]

As of 2012 Opera was available[53] in 61 languages and locales: Afrikaans, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Czech, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English (UK and US), Estonian, Finnish, French (France and Canadian), West Frisian, Georgian, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Montenegrin, Norwegian (Nynorsk and Bokmål), Polish, Portuguese (Portugal and Brazil), Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish (Latin America and Spain), Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, Telugu, Turkish, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Vietnamese and Zulu.

Usability and accessibility[edit]

Sample mouse gestures in Opera
Opera back mouse gesture.svg Back: hold down right mouse button, move mouse left, and release.

Alternative: hold the right button down and click the left button

Opera forward mouse gesture.svg Forward: hold down right mouse button, move mouse right, and release.

Alternative: hold the left button down and click the right button

Opera new tab mouse gesture.svg New tab: hold down right mouse button, move mouse down, and release.

Clicking a link with the middle mouse button produces a similar effect, but the new tab is opened in the background instead of becoming the active tab.

Opera was designed with a commitment to computer accessibility for users who have visual or motor impairments. As a multimodal browser, it also caters to a wide variety of personal preferences in the user interface.

It is possible to control nearly every aspect of the browser using only the keyboard,[54] and the default keyboard shortcuts can be modified to suit the user.[55][56] It is the only major browser to include support for spatial navigation. Opera also includes support for mouse gestures,[57] patterns of mouse movement that trigger browser actions such as "back" or "refresh".[58]

Page zooming allows text, images and other content such as Adobe Flash Player, Java platform and Scalable Vector Graphics to be increased or decreased in size (20% to 1,000%) to help those with impaired vision. The user may also specify the fonts and colors for web pages, and even override the page's CSS styling as well. This can be useful for making sites appear in high contrast or in more readable fonts.[59]

Voice control, co-developed with IBM, allows control of the browser without the use of a keyboard or mouse.[60][61] It can also read aloud pages and marked text.[50]

When the Opera Turbo[62] mode implemented in versions 10 to 14 is enabled, Opera's servers act as a proxy which compresses requested web pages (but not HTTPS secure pages[62]) by up to 80%, depending upon content, before sending it to the user. This process reduces the total amount of data sent and is particularly useful with slower Internet connections, making pages load faster, or when there are restrictions or costs dependent upon the amount of data transferred. This technique is also used in Opera Mini for mobile telephones.[63] A similar technique, claimed to speed loading of Web pages even more on a congested Wi-Fi network, superseded Turbo mode from version 15, with the name "off-road mode".[62]

Privacy and security[edit]

Opera has several security features visible to the end user. One is the option to delete private data, such as HTTP cookies, the browsing history, and the cache, with the click of a button. This lets users erase personal data after browsing from a shared computer.[64]

When visiting a secure web site, Opera encrypts data using either SSL 3 or TLS.[65][66] It then adds information about the site's security to the address bar. It will also check the web site that is being visited against blacklists for phishing and malware, and warn if it matches any of these lists. This behavior is enabled by default, but the user may opt to not make such checks automatically. If this check is disabled, the user can still check sites individually by opening a Page Info dialog.[67]

The user can protect every saved password stored in Opera with a master password. This prevents malware from accessing those passwords unless the master password is known. Also, Opera does not show saved passwords using password manager unlike Firefox and Chrome.

To catch security flaws and other software bugs before they are exploited or become a serious problem, the Opera Software company maintains a public web form where users can submit bug reports.[68] According to Secunia, a computer security service provider, the mean average of unpatched vulnerabilities in the last 365 days is 0.01. This stands in contrast to Internet Explorer (38.3), Firefox (5.77), and Safari (1.54).[69]

In January 2007, Asa Dotzler of the competing Mozilla Corporation accused the Opera Software company of downplaying information about security vulnerabilities in Opera that were fixed in December 2006. Dotzler claimed that users were not clearly informed of security vulnerabilities present in the previous version of Opera, and thus they would not realize that they needed to upgrade to the latest version or risk being exploited.[70] Opera responded to these accusations the next day.[71]

Standards support[edit]

Opera was one of the first browsers to support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), now a major building block of web design.[72] Today, Opera supports many web standards, including CSS 2.1, HTML 5, XHTML 1.1, XHTML Basic, XHTML Mobile Profile, XHTML+Voice, WML 2.0, XSLT, XPath, XSL-FO, ECMAScript 5.1 (JavaScript), DOM 2, XMLHttpRequest, HTTP 1.1, TLS 1.0 (1.1 and 1.2 are supported but disabled by default),[73] Unicode, SVG 1.1 Basic, SVG 1.1 Tiny, GIF89a, JPEG, and full support for PNG, including alpha transparency.[74] Since version 9, Opera passes the Acid2 test, a test of whether or not a browser properly supports certain web standards. Opera was the second or fourth web browser to pass the test (depending on opinions regarding hiding the scrollbar)[75] and the first Windows browser to do so. Opera 10.5+ achieves a score of 100/100 on the Acid3 test[76] which is primarily focused on DOM and JavaScript standards compliance.

On Ecma International's ECMAScript standards conformance Test 262[77] (version 0.7.2), Opera version 11.10 scores 3840/10872. Lower scores are better, as the figure represents the number of failed tests out of the total number of tests. A pre-release build of Opera 12 scores 1/10927 on Test 262,[78] the one failed test being invalid.

On the official CSS 2.1 test suite by standardization organization W3C, Opera's rendering engine Presto passes 89.37% (77.44% out of 86.65%) of covered CSS 2.1 tests.[79]

Devices[edit]

In addition to the primary edition of Opera for personal computers, there are editions for a variety of devices, all based on the same core,[80] with some variation in the features offered and the user interface.

Smartphones and PDAs[edit]

Opera Mobile can be used on smartphones such as the Nokia 5800.

Opera Mobile is an edition of Opera designed for smartphones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). The first version of Opera Mobile was released in 2000 for the Psion Series 7 and NetBook, with a port to the Windows Mobile platform coming in 2004.[81][82] Today, Opera Mobile is available for a variety of devices that run Android, the Windows Mobile, S60 platform, or UIQ operating systems.[83]

Users may also try Opera Mobile free.[84] Devices that use the UIQ 3 operating system, such as the Sony Ericsson P990 and Motorola RIZR Z8, come pre-installed with Opera Mobile, the former price of Opera Mobile being included in the price of the phone.[83]

One of Opera Mobile's major features is the ability to dynamically reformat web pages to better fit the handheld's display using small screen rendering technology.[85] Alternatively, the user may use page zooming for a closer or broader look.[86] However, like previous versions of Opera for personal computers, Opera Mobile's user interface has come under fire for being difficult to use or customize.[87][88]

Mobile phones[edit]

When a user browses the web using Opera Mini, the request is sent via the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) to one of the Opera Software company's servers, which retrieves the web page, processes it, compresses it, and sends it back to the user's mobile phone.

Opera Mini, offered free of charge, is designed primarily for mobile phones, but also for smartphones and personal digital assistants. Versions up to 4 used the Java ME platform, requiring the mobile device to be capable of running Java ME applications. The browser began as a pilot project in 2005.[89] After limited releases in Europe,[90][91] it was officially launched worldwide on 24 January 2006.[92]

Opera Mini requests web pages through the Opera Software company's servers, which process and compress them before relaying the pages back to the mobile phone.[89][93] This compression process reduces data transferred by up to 90% (depending upon content), increasing loading speed,[94] and the pre-processing smooths compatibility with web pages not designed for mobile phones.[95]

In March 2010, Opera Software launched a new beta version of Opera Mini for mobile phones running on Google's Android platform.[96]

From version 5, there is a native version of Opera Mini 5 for Windows Mobile 2003, 5- and 6-based handsets which does not require Java;[97] it implements the same features as the Java version.

On April 13, 2010, Opera Mini was officially approved as a free download for iPhone (and iPod Touch) on Apple's App Store.[98]

Tablets[edit]

An iPad-specific version of Opera was demonstrated at Mobile World Congress 2011,[99] and released with Opera Mini 6 for iOS on 24 May 2011.[100] An Android version of Opera for tablets is under development.[101] and has been available in Opera Mobile for Android since-mid 2011.

Nintendo DS[edit]

The Nintendo DS Browser is an edition of Opera for the Nintendo DS handheld gaming system. The Nintendo DS Browser was released in Japan on 24 July 2006,[102] in Europe on 6 October 2006,[103] and in North America on 4 June 2007.[104] It is sold as a physical game cartridge for US$30.[36]

The Nintendo DS Browser includes the same small screen rendering and page zooming technology present in Opera Mobile.[29][86] It also includes handwriting recognition software and an on-screen keyboard to enable user input. Additionally, Nintendo partnered with Astaro Internet Security to provide web filtering for the Nintendo DS Browser. The technology is simply a professionally maintained proxy server that blocks web sites related to pornography, discrimination, security hacking, software piracy, violence, gambling, illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, dating, weapons, abortion, and other content that Nintendo deems objectionable.[105] Users can configure the Nintendo DS Browser to receive web pages through this proxy server, and this setting can be password-protected (by a parent, for example) to prevent circumvention.[106]

In August 2007, the Nintendo DS Browser was quietly discontinued in North America,[36][107] although it is still available from Nintendo's online store.[108]

Wii[edit]

Nintendo's Wii console

On 10 May 2006, the Opera Software company announced that it was partnering with Nintendo to provide a web browser for Nintendo's Wii gaming console.[28][29][30][31] Opera for the Wii, called the Internet Channel, was free to download from its release on 12 April 2007[32] until 30 June 2007. After that date, Wii users had to pay 500 Wii Points to download it.[33] However, in late August / early September of the year 2009, the Internet Channel was once again available to download for free and those who paid for the service had their Wii Points returned in the form of a free NES virtual console game.[34]

Scott Hedrick, an executive of the Opera Software company, explained that the Wii browser was designed to suit a "living room environment".[109] In contrast to Opera's appearance on computer monitors, fonts are larger and the interface is simplified for easier use.[109] Notwithstanding the changes in design, the Wii browser supports the same web standards as the desktop version of Opera 9,[109] including passing the Acid2 test.[110]

Market adoption[edit]

As of June 2013, Opera has a 1.03% to 5.45% worldwide usage share of web browsers.[111]

The browser has been more successful in Eastern Europe, including about 51% market share in 2009 in Belarus, 47% in Georgia, 43% in Ukraine, 39% in Kazakhstan, 36% in Russia, and 8–11% in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic.[112]

In July 2011, Opera broke its previous download records when Opera 11.50 was released and was recorded to be downloaded 35 million times during the first week of release.[113]

Since its first release in 1996, the browser has had limited success on personal computers. It has had more success in the area of mobile browsing, with product releases for a variety of platforms.[114] Opera Mini had more than 140 million active users in October 2011, and Opera is the fourth most popular mobile browser, according to StatCounter.[8][115]

It is used on some television set-top boxes as well.[116] In 2005, Adobe Systems opted to integrate Opera's layout engine, Presto, into its Adobe Creative Suite applications. Opera technology is now found in Adobe GoLive, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, and other components of the Adobe Creative Suite.[18][19] Opera's layout engine is also found in Virtual Mechanics SiteSpinner Pro.[117]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception of Opera has been largely positive,[118][119][120] although it has been criticized for website compatibility issues.[121][122] According to one of Opera's competitors, this is partly because developers do not test web sites with Opera due to its lack of market share, as well as the fact that Opera follows the published web standards more strictly than others.[122] Because of this issue, Opera 8.01 and higher have included workarounds to help certain popular but problematic web sites display properly.[123][124]
The Opera 15 release has been criticized by some users for missing features such as bookmarking and UI customization,[125] and for abandoning Opera Software's own Presto engine.[126]

Awards[edit]

Over the years, Opera for personal computers has received several awards for the older versions up to 12.6. Newer and current versions lacking functionality are rated lower than competitors.[49] These awards include:[127]

  • About.com Best Major Desktop Browser - 2012[128]
  • About.com Best Major Desktop Browser - 2010[129]
  • Webware 100 winner, 2009[130]
  • Webware 100 winner, 2008[131]
  • PC World World Class Award, 2004 and 2005
  • Web Host Magazine & Buyer's Guide Editors' Choice
  • PC Magazine Testsieger (Test Winner), 2006
  • PC Plus Performance Award
  • PC World Best Data Product, 2003
  • PC World Best i Test, 2003
  • Web Attack Editor's Pick, 2003
  • ZDNet Editor's Pick, 2000
  • Tech Cruiser Award 4 Excellence, 1999

Opera Developer and Opera Next[edit]

With the transition of the browser's rendering engine from the in-house Presto to Blink, Opera Software introduced a new release cycle consisting of three "streams" that can be downloaded and installed independently of each other: Opera Developer, Opera Next and the Opera final release. New features are first introduced in the Developer build, then, depending on user feedback, progress to the Next version and eventually the official release.[132]

Opera Developer allows early testing of new features, mainly targeting developers, extension creators, and early adopters. Opera Developer is not intended for everyday browsing as it is unstable and is prone to failure or crashing, but enables advanced users to try out new features still under development, without affecting their normal installation of the browser. New versions are released frequently, generally a few times a week.[133]

Opera Next is a feature complete phase, allowing stability and quality to mature before the final release. A new version is released every couple of weeks.[134]

Both versions can be installed alongside the official release without interference. Each has a different icon to help the user distinguish between the variants.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]