Opera (web browser)

Template:Infobox Software Opera is a cross-platform internet suite consisting of:

Opera is in active development by Opera Software of Oslo, Norway and its core layout engine ("Presto") is licensed by business partners such as Adobe and is integrated into Adobe Creative Suite. Opera has gained a leading role in browsers for smartphones and PDAs with its Small Screen Rendering technology. Opera is also used in iTV platforms, and a special voice controlled multimodal browser is in co-development with IBM.


History and development

Around 1992, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsy were part of a research group at Televerket (the Norwegian state phone company now called Telenor). The group took part in developing ODA, a standards based system for storage and retrieval of documents, images and other content. The ODA system never got any wide-spread usage despite its effectiveness and has since died. The research group also established the first Norwegian Internet server and 'home-page' in 1993, but they felt the current Mosaic browser had a too 'flat' structure for it to be used effectively in browsing the web. In the light of this, the group took interest in building a new document browser from scratch. Inspired by the ODA project, they saw potential in building a browser better adapted to the many-faceted structure of the web. The mother company Televerket gave the group a green light, and by late 1993 the first prototype was up and running. Televerket faced a challenge though: The telemarket was destined for full deregulation in 1998 which meant they would have to prepare for competition. They were not sure if this browser program would fit in with their core business. In 1994 Televerket became a state-owned stock company, and J. S. von Tetzchner and G. Ivarsy were allowed to continue development on their own in the offices of Televerket. By the end of 1995 Televerket was renamed Telenor, and the company Opera Software was created, still in the same offices. Their product was initially known as MultiTorg Opera and was quickly recognized by the Internet community for its multiple document interface (MDI) and its 'hotlist' (sidebar) which made browsing several pages at once much easier.

In January 2003, Opera 7 was released and introduced a new layout engine "Presto". This had greatly improved CSS, scripting, and DOM support.

In August 2004, Opera 7.6 began limited alpha testing. It had more advanced standards support, and introduced voice support for Opera, as well as support for Voice XML. Opera also announced a new browser for iTV, which included the fit to width option Opera 8 introduced. Fit to Width is a proprietary technology which combines the power of CSS with internal Opera technology. Pages are dynamically resized by making images and/or text smaller, and even removing images with specific dimensions to make it fit on any screen width, improving the experience on smaller screens dramatically. Opera 7.6 was never officially released as a final version.

On April 19, 2005, version 8.0 was released. Besides supporting SVG Tiny, multimodal features and User JavaScript [1] (http://www.opera.com/support/tutorials/userjs/), the default user interface has been cleaned up and simplified. The default home page is an improved search portal [2] (http://portal.opera.com/). This suggests that the browser is marketed more toward general users, rather than just power users. This, however, is not welcomed by some of the existing users, as some advanced settings are now hidden [3] (http://operawatch.blogspot.com/2005/04/get-back-old-preferences-dialog.html).

Release history

Table of Releases: http://www.markschenk.com/opera/history.html

Latest release versions

Note: The latest version number may differ from language to language; these numbers are for the original English (US) version. Release versions are available at: http://www.opera.com/download/

Latest preview versions

Early test versions (internal alpha versions) of Opera are tested only by Opera employees, before Internal betas for the desktop platforms (Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS X) are tested by a select number of people called 'the Elektrans (http://my.opera.com/community/dev/elektrans/life/)'. Technical preview versions are released in Opera's beta newsgroup, forums (http://my.opera.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=31) and the mailing-list, so the public can test and discuss new features. Opera's download page only offers release versions and public betas. Preview versions are available at: http://snapshot.opera.com/


Main article: Opera browser features


Opera has always been designed for low footprint and very high browsing speed to make it more suitable for low-end computers. Accessibility has always been important, for users who may have visual or mobility impairments. Interestingly, J.S. von Tetzchner is the son of professor Stephen von Tetzchner (University of Oslo), who specializes in children's development, language development, and communication disorders.

Opera was the first browser to integrate mouse gestures as a way to navigate pages. It is also possible to control every aspect of the browser using only the keyboard. The default keyboard shortcuts can be modified to suit the user. Since version 7.0, Opera also support access keys.

Voice control was codeveloped with IBM and introduced in version 8. Voice control lets you control the browser with the same commands and customizability as the keyboard or mouse. It can also read pages and marked text. IBM has a multi-modal browser (http://www-306.ibm.com/software/pervasive/multimodal/) based on Opera.


Every time you start Opera it starts a session. A session is saved in a file periodically while running, so that whenever you close Opera (or it crashes), it is possible to resume browsing exactly where you left off the next time. Sessions can also be saved separately for recall later, even on a different computer. This feature also preserves the history of each window.


Opera became famous for its multiple document browsing, and at the same time somewhat notorious since it wasn't always easy to keep track of all the windows without pulling up a separate menu. A task- or rather window -bar was later (version 4.0) introduced to make this easier. Version 6.0 brought a change on this front, introducing the choice of surfing with either MDI or single document interface (SDI) Mode. Ironically, this happened at a time when many other browsers like Mozilla and Galeon, started using the (limited) tabbed document interface. Opera 6.0 gave the user the choice to use either MDI, SDI or tabbed mode and became the first browser to support all three modes.


Opera has supported CSS since version 3.5 [4] (http://www.meyerweb.com/eric/articles/webrev/199906.html). Up to 6.0 opera supported most common web standards, Netscape plugins and some other recent standards such as WAP and WML for wireless devices, but its implementation of ECMAScript with the HTML DOM always left a bit to be desired, especially on highly dynamic pages.

Opera has a presentation mode called Opera Show, which allows the use of a single HTML or XML document for large-screen presentations, and web browsing. The appearance of the web-page in full screen is changed with CSS when specific code for 'projections' is in place.


Opera 7 also included rather original email and news client called M2 using a database approach to storage (You can show the same mail in multiple folders etc). In May 2004, Opera 7.5 was released. It included an (RSS) reader and an IRC client, both tightly integrated with the M2 mail and contact system.

While M2 is able to display HTML mail, it is not capable of composing mail with HTML formatting.

Mobile devices

Quotes from Opera for Mobile [5] (http://www.opera.com/products/smartphone/):

Mobile phones are becoming more data-centric and evolving into what the industry calls "smartphones", while PDAs are becoming commonplace among business people and students. The two categories are converging into a new hybrid, providing powerful computer power and a phone in your shirt pocket.
Equipped with Opera's Small-Screen Rendering™ technology, these small Internet devices can display full HTML-enabled Internet without any horizontal scrolling.

Opera can dynamically reformat any webpage for narrow tall viewports, such as smartphones and PDA displays. This can also be used with Panels. The technology is based in part on CSS which means both web-page authors and Opera users can affect the formatting.

Opera is available on a number of smartphones and PDAs including those produced by Nokia, BenQ, Sony Ericsson, Sharp Corporation, Sendo, Kyocera, Motorola, and Psion.


Opera is commonly criticized for being ad-sponsored, whereas most browsers are available for free. This has different concerns with users.

Google Adwords

With version 5.0 in December 2000, Opera changed from a 30-day demoware business model to offering a freely downloadable version of the browser that displayed banner advertisements in the top of the browser window which were removed when paying a registration fee. Google AdWords, contextual text-based ads were introduced in version 7.2. Adwords display content targeted to the current page by use of Google's relational databases.

When browsing with these "Relevant text ads" enabled, Opera will send to Google the address of the page visited so that Google can return a related advertisement. For example, a user browsing a page about pianos may be presented with an ad for a business selling or servicing pianos. If the page is not already in Google's index, it is likely that it will attempt to index the page. (See below)

This automatic indexing of pages visited by Opera leads to privacy issues when you do not want anyone to know about a page. To ensure that genuinely private pages are not known to Google, Opera will detect and not send these kinds of information:

  • Usernames and passwords in the format http://user:pass@www.example.com
  • URLs with CGI arguments (e.g: http://www.example.com/?formsdata)
  • Forms data in POST requests
  • Secure pages (E.g: https://bank.example.com)
  • Protocols other than HTTP (e.g. FTP, NNTP, etc.)
  • Internal IP addresses according to RFC 1918 (e.g: 10.*, 192.168.*, 172.16-172.31.*)
  • No ads are downloaded when in fullscreen mode

It is unclear how and if pages indexed in this way appear in the public Google index, but it is certain that Google visits the page minutes after the Opera user has been there, although not with its normal spider. For more information on how AdWords are used in Opera, see Opera Browser Google Ads (http://www.opera.com/adsupport/). For some users' concerns about Ad words, see details on Adsense spidering [6] (http://www.sidhe.org/~dan/blog/archives/000267.html).

Some webmasters think of the embedded Google ads as a threat to their own revenue from ads. When Opera's google ads were introduced, one would from time to time find that the ones in Opera were the same as the google ads on a web page the user visited. As a result, some webmasters took to blocking Opera users from entering their sites. For a discussion about the issue, see [7] (http://my.opera.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=35902). In related issues, the use of AdWords to index pages visited has been used as a form of Search Engine Optimization. Many people will use the free version of Opera, ads intact, and will proceed with visiting web pages in order to boost that page's Google popularity. Some people, because of this trick, are claiming that Google is basically slitting their own throat.


While Opera may be considered technologically superior, the software did not gain as much attention as other "alternative browsers", noticeably Firefox. An Opera fan, Lawrence Eng, has written an article that suggests improvements of the current Opera branding, like the use of a mascot and a change of their slogans [8] (http://www.cjas.org/~leng/opera.htm). In fact, several Japanese artists then created pera-tan shortly after knowing Lawrence's suggestion.

Perceived and actual incompatibility

A common problem online is that many websites are not based on standards, but either use outdated browser sniffers (a popular method for addressing different browsers bugs and quirks, Opera included) or use nonstandard or simply incorrect code. These essentially broken websites are often only tested in Internet Explorer. The intended display therefore relies on undocumented complex error recovery methods used by Internet Explorer, methods which have been proven to be nearly impossible to emulate perfectly in other browsers. Impatient and uneducated users may falsely believe it is Opera's fault that a certain webpage is not rendered as they expect, even though the most common cause of site incompatibility problems in Opera is browser sniffing.

Until recently, Opera users could not empty their Hotmail trash can, due to server-side browser sniffing (http://people.opera.com/howcome/2005/msft/02-hotmail.html) which specifically excluded Opera from receiving the necessary JavaScript code.

When Google released Gmail in April 2004, Opera was locked out. Gmail employs the use of XMLHttpRequest, a non-standard protocol implemented in some web browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Opera 8, released a year (April 18, 2005) after the initial Gmail launch, now fully supports Gmail, but the long interlude between unofficial (through beta releases and hacks) and official support has hurt its potential popularity.

Market adoption

Statistics reference: Usage share of web browsers

Over the years, the global usage share of the Opera browser was believed to be around 1%. But it is known to be more widely used in the European countries. Due to Opera's aggressive caching, it does not make as many requests to servers as many other browsers, which means that browser stats may be misleading if they count hits (web pages, images, style sheets, and so on) rather than visitors.

Early days

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

On the Microsoft Windows platform, Opera was not able to gain significant market share over its free competitors, such as Internet Explorer, Netscape and Mozilla Application Suite. 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%.

Opera can identify itself as Internet Explorer (the default setting) and various versions of Mozilla/Netscape. This has led some counting measures to fail identifying Opera and an under reporting of market share.

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 in part be attributed to the fact that almost all users have a competing browser on their desktops as soon as they acquire a computer. Even the small minority who do not use Windows, and hence do not have Internet Explorer, have browsers provided by Mac OS X (Safari) or by Unix variants (Netscape, Mozilla, Konqueror, and others). Against this competition, Opera was at first only available in trial-versions and commercial versions, and only became available in an ad-sponsored version as of version 5.0. As noted below, recent free (advert supported) versions of Opera have offered more static Google Ads as an alternative to their animated banner ads, reducing screen space in a bid to win more users. Still, the browsers bundled with operating systems do not have ads at all (at least, once the user chooses a home page other than the default).

Opera and MSN

The Microsoft-owned MSN website http://www.msn.com/ has caused several problems for Opera users:

In October 2001, the MSN web page was changed to serve different HTML to different browsers while maintaining the same web content, shortly after the launch of Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6. Opera users were served broken pages when visiting the new msn.com. Microsoft boldly said the reason for this was that browsers other than Netscape 6 and IE 6 did not support XHTML. Confronted with a press-release about the issue from Opera, coded in XHTML which IE was unable to show (but Opera displayed just fine) because it didn't properly support XHTML, MSN fixed the browser detection that caused Opera to get the broken page.


In February 2003, Opera Software employees discovered that the MSN home page sent a different style sheet to Opera users than it sent to Internet Explorer. The two most popular browsers, Internet Explorer and Netscape each got a style sheet tailor made to them. Opera on the other hand was served a generic style sheet that worked only in old and buggy Netscape browsers. Since Opera does not have these bugs the page did not appear correctly.

The code to blame for the most apparent incorrectness is this, which can be used to "fix" an old Netscape bug.

ul {list-style-position: outside; margin: -2px 0px 0px -30px;}

Testing showed that Opera was served with this old style sheet only when it was possible to discern that it was Opera being used to fetch the page. If one used something like oprah, you would get a more up to date stylesheet. Opera claimed that this was a deliberate action to make them look bad. Microsoft denied the claims, blamed it on a coding error, and fixed it.

Regardless of the truth behind the story, Opera went public with the story, and created a "Bork" edition of their browser, which "translated" www.msn.com into the speech of the Swedish Chef. This, says Opera, was a joke to show how easily a web-page can be changed if one actually wants. In the press-release, they reiterated its mantra that the web should be open to all.

Yet another incident occurred in May 2003, when an apparent coding error at MSN's servers caused Opera users who had altered their preferred languages for websites to get a "server error" message. Although the error also affected users of some old versions of Internet Explorer, Opera makes it easier for users to change languages, so it was speculated that this was another attempt by MS to make Opera look bad. One can of course argue that since it is so hard to change the settings in Internet Explorer, MSN had overlooked this in the testing of its servers. See the CNet news story (http://news.com.com/2100-1032_3-1008869.html).

Opera Software have used the above incidents to claim that Microsoft has an anti-competitive agenda because Opera Software, as publishers of the Opera web browser, are a competitor to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. (It is easier to step on small players than bigger ones like Netscape and get away with it.)

In May 2004, an unknown entity made a USD $12.75 million payment to Opera Software. Opera CTO Hkon Wium Lie said the settlement "Resolved an issue close to his heart", but no admission was made regarding who payed these money, or why. Many speculate that it was Microsoft paying to avoid embarrasement in court over the MSN issues. CNet news story (http://news.com.com/Microsoft+behind+%2412+million+payment+to+Opera/2100-1032_3-5218163.html)

Free educational license

On January 12, 2005 Opera Software announced that it would offer free licenses to higher education institutions [9] (http://www.opera.com/pressreleases/en/2005/01/12/). This is a change from the previous cost of 1000 USD for unlimited licenses. Schools that have opted for the free license include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, University of Oxford, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Duke University.

The 1 million download challenge

Upon the release of Opera 8, company CEO Jon S. von Tetzchner promised that if Opera 8 were downloaded 1 million times in its first four days that he would swim from Norway to the United States of America making only one stop in Iceland to drink his mom's now famous hot chocolate. On the third night after the release downloads reached 1 million, and by the fourth morning downloads were at 1,050,000, with an average download rate, at some points in time, of 120 per second. Though Tetzchner claims he made his promise out of joy and excitement, he said he would in fact swim across the Atlantic Ocean. If it were not for Opera's Communications department making his statement public he probably would not have swam to the US.

On April 25, 2005 Jon stepped into the icy Oslo fjord donning a Hydra Dive Center wet suit, beginning his journey from Norway. On the first day of swimming, he travelled to the southern border of Norway, before there was an accident. Phanton, the company's inflatable raft was punctured. Eskil Sivertsen, who was riding in the raft, began sinking, and in a heroic feat of stamina, Jon saved his life. Amazingly, a farmer looking out his window managed to take high resolution pictures with a zoom lense. Jon pushed the raft back, with PR Manager Eskil still inside, to the shore. Upon arrival he was proclaimed a hero, but he seemed sad that he now would not be able to complete his journey. While the cause of the damage remains unclear, the journey was discontinued, possibly saved for a future release of Opera 9.

And what did Eskil have to say about his dramatic rescue? "It was cold and wet and horrible and I was really, really scared," says Eskil Sivertsen, Opera's PR Manager. "The night had been crisp and starlit, and we had fallen asleep in the raft to the gentle movement of the waves. In the morning, I gave Jon two chocolate bars and some of those mini carrots he likes so much before he jumped back into the water. He had only been swimming for an hour or so when the raft suddenly punctured in open sea. I owe my life to Jon, and I can only hope that he doesn't fire me for ruining his dream of swimming to America."

See also

External links

Official links

Unofficial Opera links

da:Opera (browser) de:Opera et:Opera es:Opera (navegador) fr:Opera ko:오페라 (웹 브라우저) it:Opera (browser) he:אופרה (דפדפן) ku:Opera (gerok) hu:Opera (böngésző) nl:Opera (webbrowser) nds:Opera ja:Opera nb:Opera (nettleser) nn:Nettlesaren Opera pl:Opera (program) pt:Opera ru:Opera simple:Opera (browser) sk:Opera (web browser) fi:Opera sv:Opera (webblsare)


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