Opera is a web browser for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. It is developed by Opera Software. On 4 November 2016 Opera's consumer business, including the browser, was acquired by a Chinese group of investors under the name Golden Brick Capital Private Equity Fund I Limited Partnership.
It is also available as Opera Mobile, Opera Mini and Opera Coast - on devices running Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Symbian, Maemo, Bada, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile operating systems, and as Opera Mini on Java ME-capable devices.
It uses the Blink layout engine. An earlier version using the Presto layout engine is still available, and runs on FreeBSD systems.
According to Opera Software, the browser had more than 350 million users worldwide in the 4th quarter of 2014. Total Opera mobile users reached 291 million in June 2015. According to SlashGeek, Opera has originated features later adopted by other web browsers, including Speed Dial, pop-up blocking, browser sessions, private browsing, and tabbed browsing.
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. 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.
Also in 2006, Opera Software ASA released Internet Channel and Nintendo DS Browser for Nintendo's DS and Wii gaming systems.
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 features of the previous versions were dropped, and Opera Mail was separated into a standalone application derived from Opera 12.
In July 2016, the Opera browser was sold to Qihoo for $600 million. On 4 November 2016 Golden Brick Capital (Qihoo included) completed the acquisition.
In January 2017 the source code of Opera 12.15 was leaked.
Opera includes built-in tabbed browsing, a bookmarks bar, add-ons, 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 compresses requested web pages (excepts HTTPS pages) by up to 50%, depending on 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 a proprietary protocol from Google called "Safe Browsing" 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 is present in the previous version of Opera, and thus they would not realize that they needed to upgrade to the latest version or risk of being exploited by hackers. Opera Software responded to these accusations at the next day.
In 2016 free VPN support was implemented in the browser. Opera said that this would allow encrypted access to Web sites otherwise blocked, and provide security on public WiFi networks. Either VPN or Turbo mode can be supported, but not both.
Opera was one of the first browsers to support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). With the adoption of the Blink rendering engine, web standards support of Opera should be similar to Google Chrome.
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, it progress to the beta version and eventually 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 and frequently, generally a few times a week.
The beta stream, formerly known as "Opera Next", is a feature complete package, allowing stability and quality to mature before the final release. A new version is released every couple of weeks.
Both streams can be installed alongside the official release without interference. Each has a different icon to help the user distinguish between the variants.
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.
In addition to the edition of Opera for personal computers, there are versions for a variety of devices.
Opera Mini is a microbrowser designed primarily for mobile devices. Versions up to 4 used the Java ME platform, requiring the mobile device to be capable of running Java ME applications. The microbrowser began as a pilot project in 2005. After limited releases in Europe, it was officially launched worldwide on 24 January 2006. 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. This compression process reduces data transferred by up to 90% (depending upon content), increasing loading speed, and the pre-processing smooths compatibility with web pages not designed for mobile phones.
Opera browser for Android (Opera Mobile) is a browser designed for mobile phones and tablets which have the Android operating system. It uses the Blink rendering engine. Opera for Android was released on 21 May 2013. It has the following features:
- Combined search and address bar.
- Discover feature (a list of websites with the latest news).
- Off-Road mode (compression technology to reduce data usage, similar to Opera Turbo).
- Private browsing tabs.
- Speed Dial with visual folders.
- Bookmarks synchronization with desktop version. This required Opera 28 or later or Opera Mini 8 or later.
Opera Coast is an Opera edition for iPhone and iPad. It was released on 9 September 2013.
Opera TV browser is a browser for TV-sets and television set-top boxes.
In 2015, Opera was the fifth most popular desktop browser worldwide, according to StatCounter. In Q3 2016, Opera's usage share across all platforms was 5.67%.
Opera was the fifth most popular browser for mobile phones worldwide in 2015 with 11.00% of the market, according to StatCounter. Opera Mini will become the default web browser for Microsoft's existing feature phone and Asha product lines that Microsoft acquired from Nokia; this could put Opera Mini on another 100 million phones a year. Opera is the most popular browser for mobile telephones in most African countries and in several Asian countries.
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 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 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
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