Opera (web browser)

Opera (web browser)
Opera logo
Opera Web Browser.png
Opera 11.51 displaying Wikipedia on Windows 7.
Developer(s) Opera Software ASA
Initial release December 9, 1996 (1996-12-09)[1]
Stable release 11.52 (Build 1100)  (October 19, 2011; 34 days ago (2011-10-19)) [+/−]
Preview release 11.60 Beta 1  (November 10, 2011; 12 days ago (2011-11-10)) [+/−]
Written in C++[2]
Operating system FreeBSD
Mac OS X
Microsoft Windows
Solaris until v. 10.11
Engine Presto
Available in 51 languages[3]
Development status Active
Type Web browser and Internet suite
License Proprietary (Freeware) with open source components
Website www.opera.com

Opera is a web browser and Internet suite developed by Opera Software with over 200 million users worldwide.[4] The browser handles common Internet-related tasks such as displaying web sites, sending and receiving e-mail messages, managing contacts, chatting on IRC, downloading files via BitTorrent, and reading web feeds. Opera is offered free of charge for personal computers and mobile phones.

Opera does not come packaged with any desktop operating system. However, it is the most popular desktop browser in some countries, such as Ukraine.[5] Opera Mini, which is the most popular[6] mobile web browser as of May 2011, has been chosen as the default integrated web browser in several mobile handsets [7] [8] [9] by their respective manufacturers.

Features include tabbed browsing, page zooming, mouse gestures, and an integrated download manager. Its security features include built-in phishing and malware protection, SSL/TLS encryption when browsing HTTPS websites, and the ability to easily[citation needed] delete private data such as HTTP cookies.

Opera is known for originating many features later adopted by other web browsers.[10][11]

Opera runs on a variety of personal computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD. Editions of Opera are available for devices using the Maemo, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile, Android, and iOS operating systems, as well as Java ME-enabled devices.[12][13][14] Approximately 120 million mobile phones have been shipped with Opera.[15] 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.[16][17]



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.[18] Opera was first released publicly with version 2.0 in 1996,[19] which only ran on Microsoft Windows.[20] 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.[20] Opera 4.0, released in 2000,[19] included a new cross-platform core that facilitated creation of editions of Opera for multiple operating systems and platforms.[21]

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.[22] 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).[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

Also in 2006, editions of Opera were made and released for Nintendo's DS and Wii gaming systems.[26][27][28][29] Opera for the Wii, called the Internet Channel, was free to download from its release on 12 April 2007[30] until 30 June 2007. After that date, Wii users had to pay 500 Wii Points (about US$5[31]) to download it.[32] As of 2 September 2009, it is again free to download. Users who previously paid to download are offered a NES game of their choice of the same value.[33][34] 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.[35]

A new JavaScript engine called Carakan, after the Javanese script, was introduced with version 10.50.[36] 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.[37][38][39] Also introduced was Opera's vector graphics library, Vega, which handles all of the browser's rendering. This allows platform specific rendering code to be replaced with code for Vega, which makes it easier to deploy across platforms; aids Opera's implementation of some advanced CSS3 properties, such as backgrounds and borders; and also allows hardware acceleration with optional OpenGL and Direct3D backends.[40]

The initial release of Opera 10.50 was for Windows only, in order to allow the development team to focus on a timed release with the EU browser ballot offered to European Economic Area users of Microsoft Windows.[41] The Mac version reached final status with version 10.52 and the release of Opera 10.60 brought Windows, Mac, Linux and FreeBSD back into sync for the first time since Opera 10.10.[42]

On December 16, 2010, Opera 11 was released, featuring extensions, tab stacking, visual mouse gestures, and changes to the address field.[43] The new address field hides some of the whole URL, such as the protocol and query strings, but this can be turned off.[43] Within the first 24 hours of release, Opera 11 was downloaded 6.7 million times.[44]


As of version 10.5, Opera features a new JavaScript engine, as well as a new vector graphics library, which together significantly increase Opera's overall rendering speed.[37][45]

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.[46]

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.[47]

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,[48] and as of Opera 11, third-party extensions. However, Opera limits what plug-ins can do.

Usability and accessibility

Sample mouse gestures in Opera
Opera back mouse gesture.svg Back: hold down right mouse button, move mouse left, and release.

Alternative: hold the right button down and click the left button

Opera forward mouse gesture.svg Forward: hold down right mouse button, move mouse right, and release.

Alternative: hold the left button down and click the right button

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,[49] and the default keyboard shortcuts can be modified to suit the user.[50][51] It is the only major browser to include support for spatial navigation. Opera also includes support for mouse gestures,[52] patterns of mouse movement that trigger browser actions such as "back" or "refresh".[53]

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.[54]

Voice control, co-developed with IBM, allows control of the browser without the use of a keyboard or mouse.[55][56] It can also read aloud pages and marked text.[46]

Opera Turbo is a feature intended for slower internet connections; when enabled, Opera's servers act as a proxy which compresses the requested web page by up to 80% before sending it to the user. This process reduces the total size of the data being sent, and thus shortens the amount of time necessary for the page to load. This technique is also used in Opera Mini.[57]

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.[58]

When visiting a secure web site, Opera encrypts data using either SSL 3 or TLS,[59][60] 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.[61]

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.[62] 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).[63]

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.[64] Opera responded to these accusations the next day.[65]

Standards support

Opera was one of the first browsers to support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), now a major building block of web design.[66] 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, TLS 1.2,[67] Unicode, SVG 1.1 Basic, SVG 1.1 Tiny, GIF89a, JPEG, and full support for PNG, including alpha transparency.[68] 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)[69] and the first Windows browser to do so. Opera 10.5+ achieves a score of 100/100 on the Acid3 test[70] which is primarily focused on DOM and JavaScript standards compliance.

On Ecma International's ECMAScript standards conformance Test 262[71] (version 0.7.2), Opera version 11.10 scores 3840/10872. Lower scores are better, as the figure represents the number of failed tests out of the total number of tests. A pre-release build of Opera 12 scores 1/10927 on Test 262[72], the one failed test being invalid.

On the official CSS 2.1 test suite by standardization organization W3C, Opera's rendering engine Presto passes 89,37% (77.44% out of 86.65%) of covered CSS 2.1 tests.[73]

Opera Unite

Opera Unite Logo

Opera Unite is an extensible framework that allows for several web services (referred to as "Applications"[74]) 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 Software 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 My 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.[75]

Unite has been included standard since version 10.10.[76] Opera Unite competes with services like Tonido.[77]

Other versions

In addition to the versions of Opera for personal computers, there are versions for a variety of devices, all based on the same core,[78] with some variation in the features offered and the user interface.

Portable version

In Opera 11, the installer gives you the option to install the browser as a "Standalone Installation (USB)." [79] There are also 3rd-party portable versions of the browser available for Microsoft Windows.[79]

Smartphones and PDAs

Opera Mobile can be used on smartphones such as the Nokia 5800.

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.[80][81] Today, Opera Mobile is available for a variety of devices that run Android, the Windows Mobile, S60 platform, or UIQ operating systems.[82]

Users may also try Opera Mobile free.[83] 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 former price of Opera Mobile being included in the price of the phone.[82]

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.[84] Alternatively, the user may use page zooming for a closer or broader look.[85] 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.[86][87]

Mobile phones

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. Versions up to 4 used the Java ME platform, requiring the mobile device to be capable of running Java ME applications. The browser began as a pilot project in 2005.[88] After limited releases in Europe,[89][90] it was officially launched worldwide on 24 January 2006.[91]

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.[88][92] This compression process reduces bandwidth use by up to 90%, with a consequent speed increase,[93] and the pre-processing smooths compatibility with web pages not designed for mobile phones.[94]

In March 2010, Opera Software launched a new beta version of Opera Mini for mobile phones running on Google's open source Android platform.[95]

From version 5, there is a native version of Opera Mini 5 for Windows Mobile 2003, 5- and 6-based handsets which does not require Java;[96] it implements the same features as the Java version.

On April 13, 2010, Opera Mini was officially approved as a free download for iPhone (and iPod Touch) on Apple's App Store.[97]


An iPad specific version of Opera was demonstrated at Mobile World Congress 2011,[98] and released with Opera Mini 6 for iOS on May 24, 2011.[99] An Android version of Opera for tablets is coming soon.[100] No dates have yet been announced.

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,[101] in Europe on 6 October 2006,[102] and in North America on 4 June 2007.[103] It is sold as a physical game cartridge for US$30.[35]

The Nintendo DS Browser includes the same small screen rendering and page zooming technology present in Opera Mobile.[27][85] 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.[104] 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.[105]

In August 2007, the Nintendo DS Browser was quietly discontinued in North America,[35][106] although it is still available from Nintendo's online store.[107] Instead, Opera is available on the Nintendo DSi through the DSi Shop, and pre-installed on newer devices.[citation needed]


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.[26][27][28][29] Opera for the Wii, called the Internet Channel, was free to download from its release on 12 April 2007[30] until 30 June 2007. After that date, Wii users had to pay 500 Wii Points (US$5[31][clarification needed]) to download it.[32] 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.[33]

Scott Hedrick, an executive of the Opera Software company, explained that the Wii browser was designed to suit a "living room environment".[108] In contrast to Opera's appearance on computer monitors, fonts are larger and the interface is simplified for easier use.[108] Notwithstanding the changes in design, the Wii browser supports the same web standards as the desktop version of Opera 9,[108] including passing the Acid2 test.[109]

Market adoption

Wikimedia browser share pie chart.png

As of July 2011 Opera has a 1.65% worldwide usage share of web browsers, according to Net Applications.[110]

The browser has seen more success in Eastern Europe, including about 47% market share in 2009 in Georgia, 43% in Ukraine, 36% in Russia, and 8-11% in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic.[111]

In July 2011, Opera broke its previous download records when Opera 11.50 was released and was recorded to be downloaded 35 million times during the first week of release.[112]

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.[113] Approximately 40 million mobile phones have shipped with a copy of Opera pre-installed.[114]

It is used on some television set-top boxes as well.[115] 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.[16][17] Opera's layout engine is also found in Virtual Mechanics SiteSpinner Pro.[116]


Critical reception of Opera has been largely positive,[117][118][119] although it has been criticized for website compatibility issues.[120][121] According to one of Opera's competitors, this is partly because developers do not test web sites with Opera due to its lack of market share, as well as the fact that Opera renders HTML standard compliant code.[121] Because of this issue, Opera 8.01 and higher have included workarounds to help certain popular but problematic web sites display properly, but website compatibility is still perceived by some as a significant issue in more recent versions.[122][123] 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[28]


Over the years, Opera for personal computers has received several awards. These awards include:[124]

  • About.com Best Major Desktop Browser - 2010[125]
  • Webware 100 winner, 2009[126]
  • Webware 100 winner, 2008[127]
  • 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

See also


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