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Opera (browser)

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The Opera web browser was created as an alternative to the popular Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator browsers. It is developed by a Norwegian company, Opera Software. It is available for BeOS, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, MacOS, OS/2, QNX Realtime Platform, Symbian OS, and all 16-Bit and 32-Bit versions of Microsoft Windows.

In December 2000, Opera changed from a demoware business model with a 30-days-of-use trial version to offering a freely downloadable version of the browser that displays ad banners. These banners can be eliminated by paying a registration fee, and have been shown not to exhibit the privacy problems of some adware. The source code of the application is not available to end users.


Opera 7.03 displaying the Wikipedia homepage

The browser has been developed with different priorities from Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator/Mozilla. Specifically, it has been designed for low footprint and very high browsing speed. Notably, Opera displays cached pages much faster than competitors, and also opens new windows faster. Opera was the first browser to integrate mouse gestures as a quicker way to navigate pages. Opera also has some other original features, including background loading of pages, batch opening of bookmark folders, fast forward and rewind functions (which predict where you would surf next), notes, skins and session management (i.e. you can close the browser and re-open it with all the opened pages automatically restored). Other browsers have (as of late 2001) begun to imitate many of these features.

Opera became famous (and somewhat notorious) for its Multiple Document Interface (MDI); that is, all browser windows were opened in the same parent window. This was later complemented with a taskbar that showed the currently opened windows. Version 6.0 brought a major philosophical change for Opera, with the addition of a Single Document Interface (SDI) Mode. Ironically, this happened when many other browsers, like Mozilla and Galeon, started using "tabs" (similar to Opera's MDI+taskbar, but without assigning individual window sizes to each page) to make navigation of multiple pages at the same time easier. Opera gives the user the choice to use either MDI, SDI or tabbed mode in version 6.0 and is thereby the first browser to support all three modes. Opera also has a presentation mode which allows the use of a single source document for large-screen presentations and web browsing (document parts relevant for the presentation are marked up in a special fashion).

The browser also includes a mail client, and a news client. An ICQ-compatible instant messaging client was briefly available but ceased to function after the ICQ protocol was altered. Each of these three utilities lacks the functionality of its counterparts in competing web-browser "suites", but provides quick access to the most relevant features.

Opera 6.0 supports most common web standards (including Cascading Style Sheets), Netscape plugins and some other recent standards such as WAP and WML for wireless devices. However, as of early 2002, its implementation of ECMAScript with the HTML DOM still leaves a bit to be desired, especially on highly dynamic pages.

In November 2002, a public beta release of Opera 7 was made. Opera 7 offers a new rendering engine with greatly improved scripting and DOM support, a rewritten user interface and a new and radical mail and news client called M2.

Analysis of Success

Since its first release in 1996, the browser has met with limited success. Its availability on many platforms has given users access to a highly functional browser where this choice did not previously exist. Opera Software was one of the first companies active in the area of mobile devices, where it has gained significant market share.

On the Windows platform, Opera has not been able to gain significant market share over its gratis competitors, Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. StatMarket is the primary source for international browser usage statistics. On December 4, 2001, StatMarket released data assigning a global usage share of 0.67 per cent to the Opera browser. However, the press release states:

Although still far behind Microsoft and Netscape, Opera's global usage share has more than doubled since January 2001, when it was less than 0.3 percent. [...] Opera usage share has been growing at a faster rate in certain European countries since January 2001. For instance, its usage share in Russia as of November 29, 2001 was 5.88 percent, up from about 1.5 percent at the beginning of the year, StatMarket reported. And in Germany and Sweden, Opera was at 3.37 percent and 1.8 percent respectively, having grown from a 1.3 percent and .5 percent usage share in January 2001.
With regard to Europe, the differing success mirrors the development of other browsers, for example, according to StatMarket, in October 2001 Netscape Navigator still held about 20% usage share in Germany, whereas its global usage share was about 13%.

This differing success can be explained by a variety of factors. A skeptical attitude toward Microsoft, maker of Internet Explorer, is likely to be relevant. Also, in countries with less copyright enforcement, the wide availability of cracks and serial numbers to remove Opera's banners may increase the adoption of the browser by end-users.

The generally low rate of adoption can certainly in part be attributed to the fact that the browser was at first only available in trial-versions and commercial versions, and only became available in an ad-sponsored version as of version 5.02, whereas Netscape and IE include neither permanent animated advertising banners, nor do they have to be paid for (although, arguably, the Windows version of IE is already paid for with the purchase of the Windows operating system; however, the version for Mac OS is still gratis). Microsoft's bundling of its own browser with its Windows operating system (and into Mac OS by contract with Apple Computer), which requires an extra effort to install any other browser, has also been cited as a main cause for Internet Explorer's domination of the browser market.

Latest Versions of the Opera web browser

  • Microsoft Windows: 7.11 (Windows 95 and later); 3.62 (Windows 3.x)
  • Mac OS: 6.02 (Mac OS X), 5.0 (Classic)
  • GNU/Linux: 7.11 (x86), 6.12 (PowerPC), 6.12 β1 (SPARC)
  • FreeBSD: 6.12
  • QNX: 6.0 β1
  • OS/2: 5.12
  • Symbian OS: 5.14
  • Solaris: 6.12 β1
  • BeOS: 3.62

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All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

 
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