Opera last made headlines when it became the first Windows browser to past the demanding Acid3 test of internet compatibility. Hot off the release of Opera "Kestrel" 9.5 and this good news, Opera is preparing to roll out its latest major release: 9.6. The beta of the upcoming browser went live today.
The news is likely largely overshadowed by the release of Google's Chrome browser. The Norwegian team behind Opera, however, is not worried at all about Google's entry into the market. In fact they're excited.
Opera's PR manager, Thomas Ford caught up with DailyTech with news of the release. He states:
I'd also like to give a short update regarding the browser upstart from Mountain View. When Google announced Chrome, many experts predicted the death of Opera. Google is too big, Opera too small. At the time we said our numbers would grow and we would continue to innovate. We're doing both.
After looking at the numbers since last week's release of Chrome, Opera's own usage worldwide grew 3% (and 10% in the last four weeks). With more than 25 million people using Opera on their PCs, it proves the awareness of alternative browsers opens more people to discovering all their browsing options.
Opera's continued growth in the face of a more crowded market is a reassuring sign for the company. However, their continued growth will be dependent on whether they can keep up with the quality of the Firefox 3, IE8, and Chrome browser, all of which are throwing much larger teams and more financial resources against the problem of developing the perfect browser.
With that in mind, Opera 9.6 is shaping up rather nicely with improvements to its Opera Link browser synchronization service. You can now carry custom search engines and typed history from browser to browser, handy for users on the go. Users on dialup or unreliable wireless connections will appreciate the new low-bandwidth mode for the email client, which allows optimal operation on slower networks.
RSS feeds now are visually previewed. There's also new mechanics for dismissing unimportant messages and flagging important messages for attention. Overall the general speed is improved as well.
While Opera will certainly have a tough road ahead competing with Firefox, Google, and a revitalized Internet Explorer, its developers are hard at work, to continue providing users with an independent solution. As Mr. Ford states, "We (promise) to keep innovating. Opera 9.6 is just one step in that direction."
Opera is available for Windows, Linux, and OS X.