Opera (web browser)
Opera 45.0 displaying the Speed Dial page on Windows 10
|Developer(s)||Opera Software AS|
|Initial release||April 1995|
|56.0.3051.52 (October 17, 2018)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 or later, macOS, Linux, Android, (formerly FreeBSD)|
|Engines||Blink (formerly Presto), V8|
|Available in||42 languages|
Opera is a web browser for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems developed by Norwegian company Opera Software AS. It uses the Blink layout engine. An earlier version using the Presto layout engine is still available and runs on FreeBSD systems.
Opera was conceived at Telenor as a research project in 1994 and was bought by Opera Software in 1995. Initially a commercial web browser, Opera became freeware in 2005. Before 2013, Opera used the Presto layout engine. The Presto versions of Opera received 13 different awards. In 2013, Opera changed its layout engine to Blink, the layout engine of its competitor Google Chrome. These new versions were criticized for lacking popular user interface elements and for the layout engine change.
In 2016, Opera Software AS was sold to a Chinese consortium. The parent company, the similarly named Opera Software ASA, changed its name to Otello Corporation.
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. Opera was first released publicly in 1996 with version 2.0, which only ran on Microsoft Windows. 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. Opera 4.0, released in 2000, included a new cross-platform core that facilitated creation of editions of Opera for multiple operating systems and platforms.
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. 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).
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. 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.
On 12 February 2013, Opera Software announced that it would drop its own Presto layout 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. On 3 April 2013, Google announced that it would fork components from WebKit to form a new layout engine known as Blink; the same day, Opera Software confirmed that it would follow Google in implementing Blink layout engine.
On 28 May 2013, a beta release of Opera 15 was made available, the first version based on the Chromium project. Many distinctive Opera features of the previous versions were dropped, and Opera Mail was separated into a standalone application derived from Opera 12.
In November 2016, the original Norwegian owner of Opera sold the Opera name and web browser business to a Chinese consortium under the name Golden Brick Capital Private Equity Fund I Limited Partnership for $600 million. An earlier deal was not approved by regulators.
In January 2017, the source code of Opera 12.15 (one of the last few versions that was still based on Presto layout engine) was leaked.
To demonstrate how a radically different browser could look, Opera Neon, dubbed a "concept browser", was released in January 2017. PC World likened it to demo models that automakers and hardware vendors release to show their visions of the future. Instead of a Speed Dial, it displays the frequently accessed websites in what resembles a desktop with computer icons scattered over it in artistic formation.
Opera has originated features later adopted by other web browsers, including Speed Dial, pop-up blocking, re-opening recently closed pages, private browsing, and tabbed browsing. Opera includes a bookmarks bar and a download manager. Opera also has "Speed Dial", 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. Speed Dial allows the user to more easily navigate to the selected web pages.
Usability and accessibility
It is possible to control some aspects of the browser using the keyboard shortcuts. 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 to help those with impaired vision.
Opera Software claims that when the Opera Turbo mode is enabled, the compression servers compress requested web pages (excepts HTTPS pages) by up to 50%, depending upon the content, before sending them to the users. This process reduces the amount of data transferred and is particularly useful for crowded or slow network connections, making web pages load faster or when there are costs dependent for the total amount of data usage. This technique is also used in Opera Mini for mobile devices and smartwatches.
Privacy and security
One security feature is the option to delete private data, such as HTTP cookies, browsing history, items in cache and passwords with the click of a button. This lets users erase personal data after browsing from a shared computer.
When visiting a site, Opera displays a security badge in the address bar which shows details about the website, including security certificates. Opera also implements the Google Safe Browsing API to check the website that is being visited against blacklists for phishing and malware, and displays a warning page if it matches any of these lists.
In January 2007, Asa Dotzler of the competing Mozilla Corporation accused Opera Software 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 that were present in the previous version of Opera, and thus they would not realize that they needed to upgrade to the latest version or else risk being exploited by hackers. Opera Software responded to these accusations on the next day.
In 2016, a free virtual private network (VPN) service was implemented in the browser. Opera said that this would allow encrypted access to websites otherwise blocked, and provide security on public WiFi networks. Either VPN or Turbo can be enabled, but not both.
Opera Software uses a release cycle consisting of three "streams" (which correspond to phases of development) that can be downloaded and installed independently of each other: "developer", "beta" and "stable". New features are first introduced in the developer build, then, depending on user feedback, may progress to the beta version and eventually be released.
The developer stream 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 it enables advanced users to try out new features that are still under development, without affecting their normal installation of the browser. New versions of the browser are released frequently, generally a few times a week.
Both streams can be installed alongside the official release without interference. Each has a different icon to help the user distinguish between the variants.
In 2005, Adobe Systems opted to integrate Opera's rendering engine, Presto, into its Adobe Creative Suite applications. Opera technology was employed in Adobe GoLive, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, and other components of the Adobe Creative Suite. Opera's layout engine is also found in Virtual Mechanics SiteSpinner Pro. The Internet Channel is a version of the Opera 9 web browser for use on the Nintendo Wii created by Opera Software and Nintendo. Opera Software is also implemented in the Nintendo DS Browser for Nintendo's handheld systems.
Versions with the Presto layout engine have been positively reviewed, although they have been criticized for website compatibility issues. Because of this issue, Opera 8.01 and higher had included workarounds to help certain popular but problematic web sites display properly.
Versions with the Blink layout engine have been criticized by some users for missing features such as UI customization, and for abandoning Opera Software's own Presto layout engine. Despite that, versions with Blink layout engine have been praised for being fast and stable, for handling the latest web standards and for having a better website compatibility and a modern-style user interface.
Over the years, Opera for personal computers has received several awards. These awards include:
- About.com Best Major Desktop Browser - 2012
- About.com Best Major Desktop Browser - 2010
- Webware 100 winner, 2009
- Webware 100 winner, 2008
- 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
Related web browsers:
- Otter Browser: An open-source web browser that aims to recreate some aspects of the classic Opera
- Vivaldi: A freeware web browser by former Opera Software employees who were not satisfied by the development decisions of the company
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