Opera (web browser)
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Opera 60 displaying the Wikipedia main page on Windows 10
|Initial release||10 April 1995|
|72.0.3815.148 (21 October 2020)|
|Engines||Blink (formerly Presto), V8|
|Operating system||Windows 7 or later, macOS, Linux, Android, (formerly FreeBSD and NetBSD)|
|Available in||42 languages|
Opera is a multi-platform web browser for Microsoft Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux operating systems developed by Opera Software. Opera is a Chromium-based browser using the Blink layout engine. It distinguishes itself from other browsers through its user interface and other features.
Opera was conceived at telecom firm Telenor as a research project in 1994 and was spun off by its developers, who formed Opera Software in 1995 and released the first version of the browser, making it one of the oldest desktop web browsers still actively developed today. 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.
In 1995, they founded Opera Software AS. Opera was initially released in April 1995 and was first publicly released in 1996 with version 2.10, which ran on Microsoft Windows 95. Opera began development of its first browser for mobile device platforms in 1998.
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 expanded in version 9.5, when GeoTrust was replaced with Netcraft, and malware protection from Haute Secure was added.
On 16 December 2010, Opera 11 was released, featuring extensions, tab stacking (where dragging one tab over another allows creating 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 of which was 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 sold his stake in Opera Software company to a Chinese consortium named Golden Brick Capital Private Equity Fund I Limited Partnership for $600 million. An earlier deal was not approved by Norwegian 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.
Usability and accessibility
Opera includes a bookmarks bar and a download manager. It 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.
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 because of lower total amount of data usage. This technique is also used in Opera Mini for mobile devices and smartwatches.
Privacy and security
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 the user 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 already fixed in December 2006, however. 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. It was later determined that the browser VPN operated the same as a proxy rather than other VPN services.
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, Opera released a video showing many decentralized applications like Cryptokitties running on the Android version of the Opera Web Browser.
In March 2020, Opera updated its Android browser to access crypto domains, making it the first browser to be able to support a domain name system (DNS) which is not part of the traditional DNS directly without the need of a plugin or add-on. This was through a collaboration with a San Francisco based startup, Unstoppable Domains.
Opera Software uses a release cycle consisting of three "streams", corresponding 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 integrated 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 noted 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
Opera browser platform variants:
- 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 Windows and macOS.
- Otter Browser: an open-source browser that recreates some aspects of the classic Opera
- Vivaldi: a freeware browser created by former Opera Software employees
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