Opera Browser: More Stunning Innovations

eWeek’s Jim Rapoza and I agree mostly on browser performance but  share a common admiration for  the Opera browser. We both credit Opera  for a large amount of the innovation being done  in the  world of browsers. Think gestures, CSS adoption, tabs, SVG support, Carousel, fast+simple dowload thru install – Opera has consistently lead in options that make the browser better and  easier to use.  But of late there is cause for alarm for 3 reasons:

1)As IE’s market share inevitably declines as Microsoft continues to foist an underperforming and least standards compliant browser on the market– the beneficiary appears to be primarily Firefox and not Opera;
2)Opera browser speed as seen here and in other tests is clearly better than IE8 but lags behind by a factor of 2 from Chrome, Firefox and Safari browser;
3)The number of innovations had been deflected towards the very  strong mobile phone thrust by Opera but away from the desktop browser.

Well Opera developers have changed at least the latter point (and hopefully more)  with a whole slew of recent announcements.
Opera Unite Services – incorporates a Web server into your browser so now you can share files and services directly with other users. Its Google Gears on steriods.

It is a Web Server embedded in a browser yet the size of the browser remains less than 7MB on download 20MB fully expanded with 6 Opera Unite Services included. As always with Opera, the code runs in Linux/Unix, MacOS, and Windows. Remember you have a Web server and a developers API at your disposal. The Alpha code is remarkably stable. This is as groundbreaking as Apples iPhone App API.

Opera Face Gestures – I almost laughed myself silly when I first saw this demo-ed. But then I was reminded a) that  every new laptop and smartphone has a Web camera, b)some face movement and gestures are natural and c)for the handicapped – face gestures may  be a real boon. So watch the video and don’t laugh:

Opera FingerTouch
This a GUI extension that works in Opera Mini for but hopefully will be available for the new Touch-enabled tablets and Notebooks due down the pike in the next year. Again check the video out to see how useful this can be.

Opera Speed-up – Turbo and then Carakan

Opera Turbo works very well on slow connections – like the crowded shared WiFi connection I am in at the Public Library in Cobourg ON. Turbo says it is speeding things up by a factor of two, I am convinced that it feels even greater than that => 3-5 second waits come up instantly. Tghis is still in beta … hope can be ported to Opera Mini – the mobile phone version of Opera.

Carakan is the code name for the new JavaScript engine that Opera is working on. This is important because Opera 9.6 gets blown away by Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari – see tests here. But the Opera gals and guys are claiming twice the speed for the current version and are looking for 5 times. It sort of makes you wonder how IE8 can be so slow – 1/2 the speed of Opera 9.6 in JavaScript tests.

Opera Widgets
These are browser based widgets similar to Yahoo Widgets – they are freestanding programs that perform useful functions. Yes, there is an API and and App Library. Opera Widgets are made using standard web technologies, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SVG, AJAX.Again this is very nice stuff because they run on PCs as well as mobile phones.

Summary

By far Opera Unite [and Operas support for Google Gears] is the most interesting web technology not only here but even eclipsing Google Wave in the long term. Turbo and Carakan show that Opera is serious about speeding up their browsers. And the rest is great cake icing. Browser wars just heated up again – and companies like IBM or Oracle, looking to advance their Cloud Computing technology and credentials have to consider Opera as the the real divas in browsing.

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