Opera (web browser)


Opera 37.0 displaying the Speed Dial on Windows 10
Developer(s) Opera Software
Initial release April 1995 (1995-04)[1]
Stable release 42.0.2393.85 (December 13, 2016 (2016-12-13)[2]) [±]
Preview release
42.0.2393.78 (December 8, 2016 (2016-12-08)[3]) [±]
43.0.2431.0 (December 5, 2016 (2016-12-05)[4]) [±]
Development status Active
Written in C++[5]
Operating system Windows, macOS, Linux
Engines Blink, V8, Presto (Version 12 and before)
Available in 42 languages
Type Web browser
License Freeware
Website www.opera.com

Opera is a web browser developed by Opera Software. The latest version is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems, and uses the Blink layout engine. An earlier version using the Presto layout engine is still available, and additionally runs on FreeBSD systems.

Opera siblings – Opera Mobile, Opera Mini and Opera Coast – work on devices running Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Symbian, Maemo, Bada, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile operating systems, while Opera Mini runs on Java ME-capable devices.[6][7]

According to Opera Software, the browser had more than 350 million users worldwide in the 4th quarter 2014.[8] Total Opera mobile users reached 291 million in June 2015.[9] 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.[10][11][12]


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.[13] Opera was first released publicly with version 2.0 in 1996,[14] which only ran on Microsoft Windows.[15] 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.[15] Opera 4.0, released in 2000,[14] included a new cross-platform core that facilitated creation of editions of Opera for multiple operating systems and platforms.[16]

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.[17] 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).[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

Also in 2006, Opera Software ASA released Internet Channel and Nintendo DS Browser for Nintendo's DS and Wii gaming systems.[21][22][23][24]

A new JavaScript engine called Carakan, after the Javanese alphabet, was introduced with version 10.50.[25] According to Opera Software, Carakan makes Opera 10.50 more than seven times faster in SunSpider than Opera 10.10.[26][27][28] On 16 December 2010, Opera 11 was released, featuring extensions, tab stacking, visual mouse gestures, and changes to the address bar.[29] Opera 12 was released on 14 June 2012.[30]

On 12 February 2013, Opera announced it would drop its own Presto 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.[31] On 3 April 2013, Google announced that it would fork components from WebKit to form a new rendering engine known as Blink; the same day, Opera confirmed that it would follow Google in implementing Blink.[32]

On 28 May 2013, a beta release of Opera 15 was made available,[33] the first version based on the Chromium project.[34][35] Many distinctive features of the previous versions were dropped, and Opera Mail was separated into a standalone application derived from Opera 12.[36]

On 20 April 2016, Opera announced that free VPN is integrated in the developer's browser to support the private network.[37]

In July 2016, the Opera browser was sold to Qihoo for $600 million.[38] On 4 November 2016 Golden Brick Capital (Qihoo included) completed the acquisition.[39]


Opera includes built-in tabbed browsing, a bookmarks bar, add-ons, and a download manager. Opera 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.[40] 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.[41]

When the Opera Turbo mode is enabled, Opera compresses requested web pages (but not HTTPS secure pages) by up to 80%, depending upon content, before sending it to the user.[42] This process reduces the total amount of data sent and is particularly useful with slower Internet connections, making pages load faster, or when there are restrictions or costs dependent upon the amount of data transferred.[42] This technique is also used in Opera Mini for mobile phones[43] and for smartwatches.[44]

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.[45] 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.[45] The browser checks the website that is being visited against blacklists for phishing and malware, and displays a warning page if it matches any of these lists.[45]

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 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).[48] With the adoption of the Blink layout engine, web standards support of Opera should be similar to Google Chrome.

Development stages

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, progress to the beta version and eventually released.[49]

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 enables advanced users to try out new features still under development, without affecting their normal installation of the browser. New versions are released frequently, generally a few times a week.[50]

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.[51]

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 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 microbrowser began as a pilot project in 2005.[52] After limited releases in Europe,[53][54] it was officially launched worldwide on 24 January 2006.[55] 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.[52][56] This compression process reduces data transferred by up to 90% (depending upon content), increasing loading speed,[57] and the pre-processing smooths compatibility with web pages not designed for mobile phones.[58]

Opera browser for Android (Opera Mobile) is a browser for mobile phones and tablets which have the Android operating system. It uses the Blink engine. Opera for Android was released on 21 May 2013.[59] It has the following features:[60]

Opera Coast is an Opera edition for iPhone and iPad.[63] It was released on 9 September 2013.[64]

Opera TV browser is a browser for TV-sets and television set-top boxes.[65]

Market adoption

Desktop/Laptop browser statistics
Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox
Internet Explorer
Microsoft Edge
Desktop web browser market share according to StatCounter for September 2016.[66]

In 2015, Opera was the fifth most popular desktop browser worldwide, according to StatCounter.[67] In Q3 2016, Opera's usage share across all platforms was 5.67%.[68]

Opera was the fifth most popular browser for mobile phones worldwide in 2015 with 11.00% of the market, according to StatCounter.[69] 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.[70][71] Opera is the most popular browser for mobile telephones in most African countries and in several Asian countries.[72][73]

In 2005, Adobe Systems opted to integrate Opera's layout 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.[74][75] Opera's layout engine is also found in Virtual Mechanics SiteSpinner Pro.[76] The Internet Channel is a version of the Opera 9 web browser for use on the Nintendo Wii created by Opera Software and Nintendo.[77] Opera Software is also implemented in the Nintendo DS Browser for Nintendo's handheld systems.


Versions with Presto engine have been positively reviewed,[78][79][80] although they have been criticized for website compatibility issues.[81][82] Because of this issue, Opera 8.01 and higher had included workarounds to help certain popular but problematic web sites display properly.[83][84]

Versions with Blink engine have been criticized by some users for missing features such as UI customization, and for abandoning Opera Software's own Presto engine.[85][86][87][88] Despite that, versions with Blink 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 interface.[89][90][91]


Over the years, Opera for personal computers has received several awards. These awards include:[92]

  • About.com Best Major Desktop Browser - 2012[93]
  • About.com Best Major Desktop Browser - 2010[94]
  • Webware 100 winner, 2009[95]
  • Webware 100 winner, 2008[96]
  • 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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