Opera launches turbocharged Opera 10

Adds tab thumbnail previews, omits Unite P2P technology

Opera Software released Opera 10 today, a major update to its desktop browser featuring built-in page compression and a revamped tab bar that automatically shows thumbnails of open pages.

The free browser can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux in more than 40 languages from the Oslo, Norway-based company's Web site. The browser works in Snow Leopard, Apple's newest operating system.

Opera Turbo, the name for the browser's on-the-fly compression engine, can speed up slow connections, such as ancient dial-up or balky broadband, said the company, claiming that its tests shows an eight-fold performance improvement over rival browsers. "Opera Turbo is our newest innovation, and one we think everyone should try, because we all will face a slow connection at some point," Jon von Tetzchner, Opera's CEO, said in a statement today.

At the top of the visible change chart is a retooled tab bar, which can be resized with a click and drag. More importantly, Opera displays thumbnails of each tab's contents. Users can also move the tab bar to the side of the browser window -- ideal for wide-screen monitors -- rather than leave it at the default top position.

One of the most notable missing pieces in the update is Opera Unite, a technology platform introduced in mid-June that adds a compact Web server to Opera and lets users share files, photos and music without using third-party peer-to-peer services. Opera Unite remains in the company's labs, and although it requires Opera 10, it has not yet been baked into the browser.

Opera did not immediately respond to questions about Opera Unite's timetable.

The browser has an uphill battle convincing users to switch, even with the features debuting in version 10. Overall, Opera currently accounts for just 2.1% of the global browser market, according to U.S. Web metrics company Net Applications. (Irish measurement firm StatCounter measured Opera's August share somewhat higher, at 2.7%.) That puts Opera in the No. 5 spot, behind Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome, all of which trail Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) by large margins.

In fact, Opera has been in the news more often this year for its part in the European Union's (EU) antitrust case against Microsoft than for any technology move it's made.

Opera's December 2007 complaint to EU regulators that IE's dominant position hurt the Web sparked an investigation resulting in the January 2009 EU charges that Microsoft illegally shields IE from competition by including it with Windows. This summer, after several previous concessions, Microsoft told regulators it would include a "ballot screen" in Windows that will let users choose their browser from at least five applications, including Opera.

The EU has not made a final decision on Microsoft's proposal.

Opera 10 can be downloaded from the company's Web site.

For more on Opera 10, check out Preston Gralla's review of the new browser.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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