Opera (web browser)

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Opera is a web browser and Internet suite developed by the Opera Software company. The browser handles common Internet-related tasks such as displaying web sites, sending and receiving e-mail messages, managing contacts, chatting on IRC clients, downloading files via BitTorrent, and reading Web feeds. Opera is offered free of charge for personal computers and mobile phones.

Features of Opera include tabbed browsing, page zooming, mouse gestures, and an integrated download manager. Its security features include built-in phishing and malware protection, strong encryption when browsing secure Web sites, and the ability to easily delete private data such as HTTP cookies.

Opera runs on a variety of personal computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris.[1] Evaluations of Opera have been largely positive, and Opera has innovated many key features of modern browsers.[2][3] Despite these factors, Opera has captured only a small fraction of the worldwide personal computer browser market. It does, though, have a stronger market share on mobile devices such as mobile phones, smartphones, and personal digital assistants. Editions of Opera are available for devices using the Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems, as well as Java ME-enabled devices. Approximately 100 million mobile phones have shipped with Opera pre-installed. Opera is the only commercial web browser available for the Nintendo DS and Wii gaming systems. Some television set-top boxes use Opera. Adobe Systems has licensed Opera technology for use in the Adobe Creative Suite.[4][5]



File:Håkon Wium Lie.jpg
Håkon Wium Lie, chief technical officer of the Opera Software company and co-creator of the CSS web standard.

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.[6] Opera was first released publicly with version 2.0 in 1996,[7] which only ran on Microsoft Windows.[8] 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.[8] Opera 4.0, released in 2000,[7] included a new cross-platform core that facilitated creation of editions of Opera for multiple operating systems and platforms.[9]

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.[10] 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).[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

Also in 2006, editions of Opera were made and released for Nintendo's DS and Wii gaming systems.[14][15][16][17] Opera for the Wii, called the Internet Channel, was free to download from its release on 12 April 2007[18] until 30 June 2007. After that date, Wii users had to pay 500 Wii Points (about US$5[19]) to download it.[20] As of 02 September 2009, it is again free to download. Users who previously paid to download it will be offered a NES game of their choice to the same value. [21] [22] The Nintendo DS Browser is not free; it is sold as a physical DS game cartridge. The DSi has an Internet Channel that can be downloaded for free from the DSi shop.[23]


One set of third-party speed tests concluded that Opera 9.5 was indeed faster than Internet Explorer 7 and prerelease versions of Firefox 3 and Safari 3.[24] Technology website ZDNet's speed tests in early 2008 showed that out of Internet Explorer 7, Safari 3, and pre-release versions of Firefox 3 and Opera 9.5, Opera was the fastest in some areas, but the only browser that Opera clearly outperformed was Internet Explorer.[25] However, Opera 10.50, which is currently only available as an unstable pre-alpha release, features a new JavaScript engine (codenamed Carakan), as well as a new hardware-accelerated vector graphics library (codenamed Vega), which together significantly increase Opera's overall rendering speed.[26][27]

Opera includes built-in tabbed browsing, ad blocking, fraud protection, a download manager and BitTorrent client, a search bar, and a web feed aggregator. Opera also comes with an e-mail client called Opera Mail and an IRC chat client built in.[28]

Opera includes a "Speed Dial" feature, which allows the user to add up to 25 links (or more, by editing the speeddial.ini file) shown in thumbnail form in a page displayed when a new tab is opened. Thumbnails of the linked pages are automatically generated and used for visual recognition on the Speed Dial page or can be modified using Opera Image Dial Generator. Once set up, this feature allows the user to more easily navigate to the selected web pages.[29] Note that editing the speeddial.ini located in the directory file (which is in an OS-dependent location) of Opera gives the user better control of the look of the new tab. It gives the ability to edit the number of columns and rows separately, and recently the opacity of thumbnails for better visibility of the background image.

Opera supports "Opera Widgets", small web applications that start from within Opera. Alongside Widgets, "User JavaScript" may be used to add custom JavaScript to web pages. Greasemonkey support is limited, and there is no interface to manage scripts or toggle 'Greasemonkey-on' functionality.

Opera is extensible in a third way via plug-ins, relatively small programs that add specific functions to the browser.[30] However, Opera limits what plug-ins can do and does not support full-fledged third-party extensions to the browser. Opera does this as a quality assurance measure, so that third-party extensions cannot introduce bugs.[31]

Usability and accessibility

Sample mouse gestures in Opera
File:Opera back mouse gesture.svg Back: hold down right mouse button, move mouse left, and release or hold the right button down and click the left button
File:Opera forward mouse gesture.svg Forward: hold down right mouse button, move mouse right, and release or hold the left button down and click the right button
File:Opera new tab mouse gesture.svg New tab: hold down right mouse button, move mouse down, and release. Clicking a link with the middle mouse button produces a similar effect, but the new tab is opened in the background instead of becoming the active tab.

Opera was designed with a commitment to computer accessibility for users who have visual or motor impairments. As a multimodal browser, it also caters to a wide variety of personal preferences in the user interface.

It is possible to control nearly every aspect of the browser using only the keyboard,[32] and the default keyboard shortcuts can be modified to suit the user.[33][34] It is the only major browser to include support for spatial navigation. Opera also includes support for mouse gestures,[35] patterns of mouse movement that trigger browser actions such as "back" or "refresh".[36]

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 (20% to 1,000%) to help those with impaired vision. The user may also specify the fonts and colors for web pages, and even override the page's CSS styling as well. This can be useful for making sites appear in high contrast or in more readable fonts.[37]

Voice control, co-developed with IBM, allows control of the browser without the use of a keyboard or mouse.[38][39] It can also read aloud pages and marked text.[28]

Privacy and security

Opera has several security features visible to the end user. One is the option to delete private data, such as HTTP cookies, the browsing history, and the cache, with the click of a button. This lets users erase personal data after browsing from a shared computer.[40]

When visiting a secure web site, Opera encrypts data using either SSL 3 or TLS,[41][42] both of which are highly secure encryption protocols. It then adds information about the site's security to the address bar. It will also check the web site that is being visited against blacklists for phishing and malware, and warn if it matches any of these lists. This behavior is enabled by default, but the user may opt to not make such checks automatically. If this check is disabled, the user can still check sites individually by opening a Page Info dialog.[43]

The user can protect every saved password stored in Opera with a master password. This prevents malware from accessing those passwords unless the master password is known. To catch security flaws and other software bugs before they are exploited or become a serious problem, the Opera Software company maintains a public web form where users can submit bug reports.[44] According to Secunia, a computer security service provider, the mean average of unpatched vulnerabilities in the last 365 days is 0.01. This stands in contrast to Internet Explorer (38.3), Firefox (5.77), and Safari (1.54).[45]

In January 2007, Asa Dotzler of the competing Mozilla Corporation accused the Opera Software company 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 present in the previous version of Opera, and thus they would not realize that they needed to upgrade to the latest version or risk being exploited.[46] Opera responded to these accusations the next day.[47]

Standards support

Opera was one of the first browsers to support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), now a major building block of web design.[48] Today, Opera supports many web standards, including CSS 2.1, HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.1, XHTML Basic, XHTML Mobile Profile, XHTML+Voice, WML 2.0, XSLT, XPath, XSL-FO, ECMAScript 3 (JavaScript), DOM 2, XMLHttpRequest, HTTP 1.1, Unicode, SVG 1.1 Basic, SVG 1.1 Tiny, GIF89a, JPEG, and full support for PNG, including alpha transparency.[49] Since version 9, Opera passes the Acid2 test, a test of whether or not a browser properly supports certain web standards. Opera was the second or fourth web browser to pass the test (depending on opinions regarding hiding the scrollbar)[50] and the first Windows browser to do so. Opera 10 supports TLS 1.2[51] and gets a score of 100/100 on the Acid3 test, which is primarily focused on DOM and JavaScript standards compliance.

Opera Unite

Opera Unite Logo

Opera Unite is an extensible framework that allows for several web services (referred to as "Applications"[52]) to be hosted from the user's computer, including a web server for hosting a site, file and photo sharing, a chat room, and streaming media. Opera ASA has released an API to create new or improved applications for the Opera Unite Platform, and many have already done so. An Opera Unite user's applications run on a domain associated with their Opera Community account, and are accessible from any web browser. For these applications to be accessed, the computer, and the Opera Browser hosting the applications, must both be running.

The included API uses HTML, CSS, client-side ECMAScript and a new server-side JavaScript technology with local file access and persistent storage. Unite Applications are packaged according to the W3C Widgets 1.0 specification. Opera also provides a vetted facility for developers to upload these user-created applications.[53]

Unite has been included standard since version 10.10.[54]

Other editions

Aside from the main edition of Opera for personal computers, editions of Opera are available for a variety of devices. All are based on the same core,[55] but there is some variation in the features offered and the design of the user interface.

Smartphones and PDAs

Opera Mobile can be used on smartphones such as the Nokia 6630.

Opera Mobile is an edition of Opera designed for smartphones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). The first version of Opera Mobile was released in 2000 for the Psion Series 7 and NetBook, with a port to the Windows Mobile platform coming in 2004.[56][57] Today, Opera Mobile is available for a variety of devices that run the Windows Mobile, S60 platform, or UIQ operating systems.[58]

Users may try Opera Mobile free for 30 days, but beyond that it costs US$24.[59] Devices that use the UIQ 3 operating system, such as the Sony Ericsson P990 and Motorola RIZR Z8, come pre-installed with Opera Mobile, the price of Opera Mobile being included in the price of the phone.[58]

One of Opera Mobile's major features is the ability to dynamically reformat web pages to better fit the handheld's display using small screen rendering technology.[60] Alternatively, the user may use page zooming for a closer or broader look.[61] However, like previous versions of Opera for personal computers, Opera Mobile's user interface has come under fire for being difficult to use or customize.[62][63]

Mobile phones

File:Opera mini.png
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.

Opera Mini, offered free of charge, is designed primarily for mobile phones, but also for smartphones and personal digital assistants. It uses the Java ME platform and consequently requires that the mobile device be capable of running Java ME applications. The browser began as a pilot project in 2005.[64] After limited releases in Europe,[65][66] it was officially launched worldwide on 24 January 2006.[67]

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.[64][68] This compression process reduces bandwidth use by up to 90%[69] and the pre-processing smooths compatibility with web pages not designed for mobile phones.[70]

Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS Browser is an edition of Opera for the Nintendo DS handheld gaming system. The Nintendo DS Browser was released in Japan on 24 July 2006,[71] in Europe on 6 October 2006,[72] and in North America on 4 June 2007.[73] It is sold as a physical game cartridge for US$30.[23]

The Nintendo DS Browser includes the same small screen rendering and page zooming technology present in Opera Mobile.[15][61] It also includes handwriting recognition software and an on-screen keyboard to enable user input. Additionally, Nintendo partnered with Astaro Internet Security to provide web filtering for the Nintendo DS Browser. The technology is simply a professionally maintained proxy server that blocks web sites related to pornography, discrimination, security hacking, software piracy, violence, gambling, illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, dating, weapons, abortion, and other content that Nintendo deems objectionable.[74] Users can configure the Nintendo DS Browser to receive web pages through this proxy server, and this setting can be password-protected (by a parent, for example) to prevent circumvention.[75]

In August 2007, the Nintendo DS Browser was quietly discontinued in North America,[23][76] although it is still available from Nintendo's online store.[77] Instead, Opera is available on the Nintendo DSi through the DSi Shop.[78]


File:Wii Wiimotew.jpg
Nintendo's Wii console

On 10 May 2006, the Opera Software company announced that it was partnering with Nintendo to provide a web browser for Nintendo's Wii gaming console.[14][15][16][17] Opera for the Wii, called the Internet Channel, was free to download from its release on 12 April 2007[18] until 30 June 2007. After that date, Wii users had to pay 500 Wii Points (US$5[19]) to download it.[20] However, in late August / early September of the year 2009, the Internet Channel was once again available to download for free and those who paid for the service had their Wii Points returned in the form of a free NES virtual console game[79].

Scott Hedrick, an executive of the Opera Software company, explained that the Wii browser was designed to suit a "living room environment".[80] In contrast to Opera's appearance on computer monitors, fonts are larger and the interface is simplified for easier use.[80] Notwithstanding the changes in design, the Wii browser supports the same web standards as the desktop version of Opera 9,[80] including passing the Acid2 test.[81]

Market adoption

File:Web browser usage share.svg
The usage share of web browsers.
Source: Median values from summary table.      Internet Explorer (58.69%; Usage by version number)      Mozilla Firefox (28.04%; Usage by version number)      Google Chrome (5.63%)      Safari (4.97%)      Opera (2.05%)      Other (1.32%)
Statistics reference: Usage share of web browsers

As of July 2009, usage data on English-language sites show Opera's share of the browser market as being just around 2%.[82] The browser has seen more success in Europe, including about 20–25% market share in Russia,[83][84] 25-30% Ukraine,[85] and 5–9% in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic.[86]

In September of 2009, Opera broke its previous download records when Opera 10 was released and was recorded to be downloaded 10 million times during the first week of release. [87]

Since its first release in 1996, the browser has had limited success on personal computers. It has had more success in the area of mobile browsing, with product releases for a variety of platforms.[88] Approximately 40 million mobile phones have shipped with a copy of Opera pre-installed.[89]

In addition to mobile phones, smartphones, and personal digital assistants, Opera has found a place with Nintendo's Wii and DS gaming systems. It is used on some television set-top boxes as well.[90] In 2005, Adobe Systems opted to integrate Opera's layout engine, Presto, into its Adobe Creative Suite applications. Opera technology is now found in Adobe GoLive, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, and other components of the Adobe Creative Suite.[4][5] Opera's layout engine is also found in Virtual Mechanics SiteSpinner Pro.[91]


Critical reception of Opera has been largely positive,[92][93][94] although it has been criticized for website compatibility issues.[95][96] According to one of Opera's competitors, this is partly because developers do not test web sites with Opera due its lack of market share.[96] Because of this issue, Opera 8.01 and higher have included workarounds to help certain popular but problematic web sites display properly.[97][98] Notwithstanding other criticism, when Nintendo chose in 2006 to adopt Opera as the web browser for its Wii and Nintendo DS gaming systems, a Nintendo representative explained:

For our Wii console launch in 2006, we required a browser that was fast and secure with support for the latest standards including AJAX. Opera proved perfect for our purposes and is an exceptional addition to both the Nintendo DS and the Wii console.
Genyo Takeda, senior managing director and general manager, Integrated Research & Development Division , Nintendo[16]


Over the years, Opera for personal computers has received several awards. These awards include:[99]

  • Webware 100 winner, 2009[100]
  • Webware 100 winner, 2008[101]
  • PC World World Class Award, 2004 and 2005
  • Web Host Magazine & Buyer's Guide Editors' Choice
  • PC Magazin 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

Future development

A new JavaScript engine called Carakan, after the Javanese script, will be used in a forthcoming version of Opera (codenamed Evenes).[26] According to Opera Software, Carakan is more than seven times faster in SunSpider than Opera 10.10 with Futhark on Windows, which has since been more or less confirmed by other sources after its official pre-alpha release in December 2009.[27][102][103] Also in development are improvements to Opera's vector graphics library, Vega, that enable it to be used for all of the browser's rendering, allowing platform specific rendering code to be replaced with code for Vega. This will help Opera implement some advanced CSS3 properties, such as backgrounds and borders. The new version of Vega will also allow hardware acceleration with optional OpenGL and Direct3D backends.[104]

See also


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