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Template:Infobox Software Opera is a web browser and Internet suite developed by the Opera Software company. Opera handles common Internet-related tasks such as displaying web sites, sending and receiving e-mail messages, managing contacts, IRC online chatting, downloading files via BitTorrent, and reading web feeds. Opera is offered free of charge for personal computers and mobile phones, but for other devices it must be paid for.

Features of Opera include high performance, 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 cookies and browsing history by simply clicking a button.

Opera runs on a variety of personal computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris.[1] But even though evaluations of Opera have been largely positive, Opera has captured only a fraction of the worldwide personal computer browser market. It is currently the fourth most widely used web browser for personal computers, behind Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.

Opera has a stronger market share, however, 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. In fact, approximately 40 million mobile phones have shipped with Opera pre-installed. Furthermore, Opera is the only web browser available for the Nintendo DS and Wii gaming systems. Some television set-top boxes use Opera as well, and Adobe licensed Opera technology for use in the Adobe Creative Suite.

HistoryEdit

Main article: History of the Opera web browser

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File:Håkon Wium Lie.jpg

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.[2] Opera was first released publicly with version 2.0 in 1996,[3] which only ran on Microsoft Windows.[4] 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.[2] Opera 4.0, released in 2000,[3] included a new cross-platform core that facilitated creation of editions of Opera for multiple operating systems and platforms.[5]

Up to this point, Opera was trialware and had to be purchased after the trial period ended. But 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.[6] 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).[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

Also in 2006, editions of Opera were made and released for Nintendo's DS and Wii gaming systems.[10][11][12][13] Opera for the Wii, called the Internet Channel, was free to download from its release on April 12, 2007[14] until June 30, 2007. After June 30, Wii users had to pay 500 Wii Points (about US$5[15]) to download it.[16] The Nintendo DS Browser is likewise not free; it is sold as a physical DS game cartridge.[17]

FeaturesEdit

Main article: Features of the Opera web browser

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The Opera Software company claims that Opera is "the fastest browser on Earth."[18] Third-party speed tests showed that Opera 9.01 performed faster than any other browser in four out of seven speed tests on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X and three out of seven on Linux. Its strongest point by far was JavaScript execution, performing about twice as fast as the other browsers.[19]

Opera includes built-in tabbed browsing, pop-up 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.[20]

Opera includes a "Speed Dial" feature, which allows the user to add up to nine links to the 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. Once set up, this feature allows the user to more easily navigate to the selected web pages.[21]

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, including Greasemonkey scripts. Opera is extensible in a third way via plug-ins, relatively small programs that add specific functions to the browser.[22] 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.[23]

Usability and accessibilityEdit

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

Opera was designed with a commitment to computer accessibility for users who have visual or mobility 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,[24] and the default keyboard shortcuts can be modified to suit the user.[25][26] Opera also includes support for mouse gestures,[27] patterns of mouse movement that trigger browser actions such as "back" or "refresh".[28]

Page zooming allows text, images and other content such as Macromedia Flash, Java and Scalable Vector Graphics to be increased or decreased in size (20% to 1000%) 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.[29]

Voice control, co-developed with IBM, allows control of the browser without the use of a keyboard or mouse.[30][31] It can also read aloud pages and marked text.[20]

Privacy and securityEdit

Opera has several security features visible to the end user. One is the option to delete private data, such as 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.[32]

When visiting a secure web site, Opera encrypts data using either SSL 3 or TLS,[33][34] 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 of 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.[35]

To catch security flaws and other 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.[36] According to Secunia, a computer security service provider, 14 security vulnerabilities have been publicly identified in Opera 9.x as of June 2008, zero of which remain unpatched.[37] This stands in contrast to Firefox 3.x (one out of one known vulnerability unpatched),[38] Internet Explorer 7.x (10 out of 29 known vulnerabilities unpatched),[39] and Safari 3.x (one out of three known vulnerabilities unpatched).[40]

However, in January 2007, Asa Dotzler of the competing Mozilla Corporation criticized the Opera Software company for downplaying information about known security vulnerabilities in Opera. Dotzler claimed that users were not clearly informed of security vulnerabilities present in older versions of Opera, and thus they would not realize that they needed to upgrade to the latest version or risk being exploited.[41]

Standards supportEdit

Opera was one of the first browsers to support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), now a major building block of web design.[42] 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.[43]

Since version 9, Opera also passes the Acid2 test, a test of whether or not a browser properly supports certain web standards. Opera was the fourth web browser to pass the test and the first Windows browser to pass the test.[44]

Active efforts are also underway to pass the Acid3 test. The latest stable release, version 9.5, scores an 83/100, and a developmental build scores 100/100, although it still fails the performance aspect of the test.

Other editionsEdit

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,[45] but there is some variation in the features offered and the design of the user interface.

Smartphones and PDAsEdit

File:Nokia6630.jpg
Main article: Opera Mobile

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.[46][47] Today, Opera Mobile is available for a variety of devices that run the Windows Mobile, S60, or UIQ operating systems.[48]

Users may try Opera Mobile free for 30 days, but beyond that it costs US$24.[49] 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.[48]

One of Opera Mobile's major features is the ability to dynamically reformat web pages to better fit the handheld's display using Small-Scale Rendering technology.[50] Alternatively, the user may use page zooming for a closer or broader look.[51] 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.[52][53]

Mobile phonesEdit

File:Opera mini.png
Main article: Opera Mini

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.[54] After limited releases in Europe,[55][56] it was officially launched worldwide on January 24, 2006.[57]

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.[58][59] This compression process makes transfer time about two to three times faster[60] and the pre-processing smooths compatibility with web pages not designed for mobile phones.[61]

Nintendo DSEdit

File:DSOnWhite.jpg
Main article: Nintendo DS Browser

The Nintendo DS Browser is an edition of Opera for the Nintendo DS handheld gaming system. The Nintendo DS Browser was released in Japan July 24, 2006,[62] in Europe October 6, 2006,[63] and in North America June 4, 2007.[64] It is sold as a physical game cartridge for US$30.[17]

The Nintendo DS Browser includes the same Small-Scale Rendering and page zooming technology present in Opera Mobile.[65][51] 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 objectionable content.[66] 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.[67]

In August 2007, the Nintendo DS Browser was quietly discontinued in North America,[68][17] although it is still available from Nintendo's online store.[69]

WiiEdit

File:Wii Wiimotew.jpg
Main article: Internet Channel

On May 10, 2006, the Opera Software company announced that it was partnering with Nintendo to provide a web browser for Nintendo's Wii gaming console.[12][70][71][72] Opera for the Wii, called the Internet Channel, was free to download from its release on April 12, 2007[14] until June 30, 2007. After June 30, Wii users had to pay 500 Wii Points (US$5[15]) to download it.[16]

Scott Hedrick, an executive of the Opera Software company, explained that the Wii browser was designed to suit a "living room environment". In contrast to Opera's appearance on computer monitors, fonts are larger and the interface is simplified for easier use.[73] Notwithstanding the changes in design, the Wii browser supports all the same web standards as the desktop version of Opera 9,[73] including passing the Acid2 test.[74]

Market adoptionEdit

Statistics reference: Usage share of web browsers

As of February 2008, usage data gives Opera's overall global share of the browser market as being about 1%[75][76] although Opera's usage share is about 16-19% in Russia[77][78][79][80] and Ukraine,[81] and 5–6% in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic.[82]

Since its first release in 1996, the browser has had limited success on personal computers. It is currently the fourth most widely used web browser for personal computers, behind Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.[75] Opera has had more success in the area of mobile browsing, with product releases for a variety of platforms.[83] Approximately 40 million mobile phones have shipped with a copy of Opera pre-installed.[84]

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.[85] And in 2005, Adobe 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.[86][87]

Critical receptionEdit

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Critical reception of Opera has been largely positive,[88][89][90] although it has been criticized for website compatibility issues,[91][92] partly because many web sites do not adhere to web standards as diligently as Opera.[93][94][95] Because of this issue, Opera has since version 8.01 included workarounds to help certain popular but problematic web sites display properly.[96][97]

Notwithstanding other criticism, when Nintendo chose in 2006 to adopt Opera as the web browser for its Wii and DS gaming systems, a Nintendo representative explained: Template:Cquote

AwardsEdit

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Over the years, Opera for personal computers has received several awards. These awards include:[98]

  • Download.com top rated, 5 out of 5
  • 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 developmentEdit

Template:Seealso Template:Future software

As the Opera Software company works on upcoming versions of Opera, they are releasing snapshot builds about once a week for testing and feedback.[99]

Opera version 10, codenamed Peregrine (after the Peregrine Falcon), will have new features, an improved user interface, increased standards support, bug fixes, performance improvements, and new tools for web developers.[100][101] Also, a development build of Opera's layout engine, Presto, scores 100/100 on the Acid3 standards compliance test and renders the test correctly. However, it does not actually pass the test due to slow performance.[102]

See alsoEdit

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ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit


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