Opera is a web browser first publically released in 1996 and offered freely for use on personal computers (the Opera Mini browser, also free, runs on mobile devices). Over 300 million people now use it. Many features now common on other browsers originated on Opera.
Besides Windows, Opera runs on Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD. Versions of the Opera browser are available for mobile platforms such as Sybian, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Android, iOS, Java ME and others. Opera’s interface is minimal and elegant, which may enhance usability as well as appearance. Opera offers what it calls “Turbo” technology, which speeds performance by caching data from some sites on Opera’s servers and compressing image data. PC Magazine reported in August 2012 that Turbo tripled performance. The latest version has improved HTML5 support. Opera is the only major browser to run on the Nintendo DS and Wii systems.
As of August 2012, Opera is the only browser with integrated BitTorrent support. Other features include tabbed browsing, ad blocking, fraud protection, a download manager and a web feed aggregator. Speed dial is a nice feature which consists of thumbnails displayed upon opening a new tab. This allows for easy visual navigation to favorite sites. Opera is available in 61 languages and is pointedly designed to allow for use by those with visual or motor difficulties. Most of the browser’s functions can be performed from the keyboard alone, and mouse gestures (such as “back,” “forward,” and “new tab”) are supported. Page zoom, from 20% to 1000% is available to aid in viewing content, and fonts and colors can be changed to enhance readability.
The browser can be operated by voice command, and conversely, can read text aloud. Opera allows users to easily delete cookies, cache and browsing history. Like most other browsers, Opera encrypts data when visiting a secured web site. It also, by default, checks the visited site against databases of phishing and malware hazards and warns the user if necessary. Opera can protect all of the user’s passwords with a master password. It does not show the passwords in a password manager, as some other browsers do.
All major browsers are free, except for Internet Explorer, which requires purchase of Windows. User share is as follows: Google Chrome, 29.03%; Intenet Explorer, 22.54%; Firefox, 19.26%; Safari, 15.59%; Android, 4.59%; Opera, 4.53%. According to StatCounter, only Google Chrome is gaining user share. Other browsers are losing share, and although Opera always has had a relatively small market share, its loses are proportionately small. Secunia reports that of major browsers, only Firefox, Opera and Safari have no known, unpatched vulnerabilities. Only Internet Explorer and Firefox have are available in more languages that Opera. Due to its low user share, many site creators do not test their sites on Opera, resulting in occasional rendering problems. According to Wikipedia, Firefox and Opera lead the other major browsers in running on 5 operating systems, while Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome and Safari all had the common browser features used for the comparison. Opera leads in number of accessability features offered.
Opera is probably a better browser than it’s user share would indicate. The Turbo function is very impressive, but as bandwidth improves it may become less important. The speed dial feature is very good. Firefox has a similar implementation, but it does not allow for grouping thumbnails or for as many thumbnails as Opera’s speed dial. The “Stash” feature, which allows you to save a web page for later is really nice. There are similar features available as extensions or plug-ins on other browsers, but “Stash” is very convenient and usable as it is an integral part of the browser. Bookmarking would work, but it seems awkward and slow in comparison.
The actual performance of different browsers varies with the task and the criteria. The choice one makes is generally subjective and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Trying a few that look good and deciding which one works for what you do and what you want is a good approach.
Opera began as a research project by Trevenor, a Norwegian telecommunications company, in 1994. In 1995, Opera Software ASA was formed as an independent business by Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsøy. The company's IPO was in 2004, and it is listed on the Oslo Stock exchange. Headquarters are in Oslo, and the company has several offices in Asian and European countries, as well as the United States and Australia. In 2005, Opera Software offered free licences to institutions of higher education (this was a change from a $1000 fee). In early 2013 the company acquired Skyfire, primarily for its video optimization technologies, which would complement Opera's own capabilities in that area. Opera Software saw to it that its browser was the first to strictly implement W3C standards (W3C, or World Wide Web consortium, is the major standards organization for the world wide web. It promotes compatibility and standards which benifit individual and business users).
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