Opera (web browser)
Opera 60 displaying the Wikipedia main page on Windows 10
|Initial release||10 April 1995|
|64.0.3417.61 (16 October 2019)|
|Engines||Blink (formerly Presto), V8|
|Operating system||Windows 7 or later, macOS, Linux, Android, (formerly FreeBSD)|
|Available in||42 languages|
Opera is a freeware web browser for Microsoft Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux operating systems, developed by Opera Software, a Norwegian software company, publicly listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, with the majority of ownership and control belonging to Chinese businessman Zhou Yahui, founder of Beijing Kunlun Tech which specialises in mobile games and Chinese cybersecurity company Qihoo 360. Opera is a Chromium-based browser using the Blink layout engine. It differentiates itself because of a distinct user interface and other features.
Opera was conceived at Telenor as a research project in 1994 and was bought by Opera Software in 1995. It was a commercial software for the first ten years and had its own proprietary Presto layout engine. The Presto versions of Opera received many awards, but Presto development ended after a milestone transition to Chromium in 2013.
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 completely removed and the 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 the 16th of December 2010, Opera 11 was released, featuring extensions, tab stacking (where dragging one tab over another allows you to create a group of tabs), visual mouse gestures and changes to the address bar.
Opera 12 was released on 14 June 2012.
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 planned as well 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 the Blink layout engine.
On 28 May 2013, a beta release of Opera 15 was made available, the first version is 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 his stake in the 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 the Presto layout engine) was leaked.
To demonstrate how radically different a browser could look, Opera Neon, dubbed a "concept browser", was released in January 2017. PC World compared it to demo models that automakers and hardware vendors release to show their visions of the future. Instead of a Speed Dial (also explained in the following chapter "Features"), it displays the frequently accessed websites in resemblance to a desktop with computer icons scattered all over it in an 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 (except 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 on 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's fraud and malware protection warns you about suspicious web pages and is enabled by default. It checks the requested page against several databases of known phishing and malware websites, called blacklists.
In January 2007, Asa Dotzler of the competing Mozilla Corporation accused Opera Software of downplaying information about security vulnerabilities in Opera, (which 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.
In July 2018, Opera was listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange  in New York City at an initial offering of $12 per share.
Crypto wallet support
In 2018, a built-in cryptocurrency wallet to the Opera Web Browser was released. Announcing that they would be the first browser with a built-in Crypto Wallet. On 13 December 2018 they released a video showing many decentralized applications like Cryptokitties running on the Android version of the Opera Web Browser.
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 the 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:
- Opera Mobile: a browser for tablets and telephones
- Opera Mini: a browser for tablets and telephones
- Opera GX: a browser for gamers currently available on Microsoft Windows.
- 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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