Opera  11.6 gives businesses reason to switch browsers

Web browsers are in the news: Google’s Chrome is poised to overtake Firefox as the number-two browser as Firefox struggles with market share and revenue. IE9 is increasing its market share, but mostly at the cost of other versions of IE. On Tuesday, Opera announced a new release. Does Opera have good news, and more importantly, a reason for your business to consider using it?

Opera Innovation
First available in 1994, Opera has never been among the topthreebrowsers, but it has made significant contributions to the features wenow take for granted. The first version of Opera incorporated tabbedpages within one window, now found in IE, Firefox, and Chrome. In 2000,Opera added an integrated search bar and pop-up blocking, both againnow common in most browsers. In 2007 Opera introduced “Speed Dial”,which showed previews of specially bookmarked pages, similar to theApps page that Google Chrome uses.

Recent Efforts
More recently, Opera has continued adding features. Opera Unite allowsusers to share content with friends. Though the same functionality isfound in numerous online social services like Facebook, Unite allowsusers to skip the Web service and share directly through the browser.Unfortunately, this requires your colleagues to be using Opera, andwith its market share below 5 percent, this is unlikely to happenunless you standardize it in your office.

Opera Turbo is another new feature not seen on mainstream browsers.Turbo speeds up your browsing experience by using Opera’s servers tocompress the Web pages you request, allowing them to load up to fivetimes faster. Amazon is using a similar technique for its Kindletablets. Unfortunately, encrypted pages, the type youprobably use fora large part of your business day, are not able to be compressed, soits usefulness may be limited.

11.60 Update
Version 11.60 of Opera isn’t a major release, so new features arelimited. The only four to note are:

    • Opera now uses the Opera Presto 2.10 rendering engine,which undoubtedly brings some speed improvements, but is unlikely toaffect your daily use noticeably.
    • A new interface for the built in Opera Mail, which whilepossibly interesting to home users, is unlikely to be used in abusiness with an established email system.
    • Adding a “Star menu” to the address field to simplifycreating bookmarks and adding items to Speed Dial.
    • Added HTML5 parsing, which promises tobring increasedWeb page compatibility as more browsers support it, especiallyimportant for a business moving its website to HTML5.

Looking back to the last major release of Opera, 11.00, Extensions werea big addition, but Firefox and Chrome have had themfor ages. TabStacking can make your work a bit simpler, but generally thisfunctionality is available on other browsers through extensions. Mostother new features were underwhelming, or already available on otherbrowsers as well.

Do Businesses Need Opera?
Opera has demonstrated innovation since its start. Lately, however,Chrome is the browser making a difference, with Opera playing catchup,Internet Explorer trying to retain market share, and Firefox scramblingto stay relevant. When it comes to usefulness in business, there are afew features like Opera Unite that could prove useful if standardized,but overall, there’s little reason to consider Opera unless you can’tstand Microsoft, don’t trust Google, andfear the fall of Firefox.

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