New Opera 12 Snapshot Introduces Boatload of Changes Including 64 Bit Versions

Opera 12Opera 12, also known as Wahoo, lost several of its features to Tunny (Opera 11.6), which was an interim release meant to give hardware accelerated graphics more time to become fit for primetime. Tunny came out in December with a revamped mail client and several interface tweaks. Standards support was beefed up in a big way with a new HTML5 parser, ECMAScript 5.1 support, and support for CSS3 radial gradients. The latest Opera 12 snapshot continues this focus on standards with a host of goodies for web developers. HTML5 drag and drop – a technology that enables dragging of elements from one page to another or files from the operating system to a web page, makes its first appearance, as does support for CSS animations. CSS transition support has also been improved.

While including of support for the latest and greatest web technologies is always welcome, users often don’t feel their impact immediately as adoption of new standards invariably takes time. The good news is that the new snapshot has a couple of exciting changes whose benefit users should be able to feel immediately. The new snapshot introduces out of process plugins (OOPP) and 64 bit builds, which have been among the most requested features for a long time. OOOP increases stability of the browser by detaching it from plugins. So the next time your flash plugin crashes, it won’t bring down Opera with it. OOPP is also how Opera can manage to support 32 bit plugins in its 64 bit version.

You can goahead and download the snapshot from here. As always, the snapshot will be installed as an Opera Next build, and won’t affect your stable Opera installation.

Opera Acquires Two More Mobile Advertising Networks

The Norwegian browser maker Opera Software, which had an excellent Q4 2011, has acquired two mobile advertising networks – Mobile Theory Inc. and 4th Screen Advertising, Ltd. The company expects the new purchases to “significantly expand its offering to advertisers and mobile publishers”.

Opera-Ad-Network

Back in 2010, Opera entered the booming mobile advertising arena with the acquisition of AdMarvel for $8 million in cash. Soon after, Opera launched Open Mobile Ad Exchange, which helps monetize Opera Mini and Opera Mobile by inserting ads into partner websites.

AdMarvel is already having a significant positive impact on Opera’s bottom line. By the end of 4Q11, mobile advertisements delivered by AdMarvel reached more than 130 million consumers across more than 7,000 mobile applications and websites around the world. This represents an impressive 134% year-on-year increase. During the same period, Opera’s revenue in the mobile publisher (Opera Mobile Store) and advertiser area (AdMarvel and Opera Mobile Ad Exchange) grew over 200%.

The new acquisitions will help Opera sign up more publishers and advertisers by increasing the reach of its mobile ad network. 4th Screen Advertising is focused on UK and other European countries, and its advertiser clients include Coke, Barclaycard, Direct Line, Green Flag, Disney, Natwest, Warner Bros, Nokia and more. On the other hand, Mobile Theory is more US oriented, and has clients like Microsoft, Chevrolet and Coca-Cola.

“This is yet another important step in Opera’s quest to create even more economic value in the mobile ecosystem. Two years ago, we announced the acquisition of AdMarvel – which has grown to become the global leader as a supply-side platform (publisher platform) for mobile advertising. Last year, Opera helped generate well over $200 million in revenue for our publishers globally,” said Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera Software.

Opera will shell out $5 million in cash upfront to each of the companies, with $16 million being put in escrow ($13 million for Mobile Theory and $3 million for 4th Screen). Amount from the escrow will be paid out to the sellers in 2012 and 2013 based on revenue performance targets. Additionally, MT and 4th Screen can earn up to $32 million and $6.5 million respectively in earn-out cash for fulfilling aggressive 2012 and 2013 revenue and EBIT targets.

Opera 11.60 Tunny with New HTML5 Parser Released

Opera 11.60 or Tunny is now available for download. Tunny is an interim release that is meant to deliver many of the new features that were originally planned for Opera 12 or Wahoo, which got delayed as hardware acceleration is not yet ready for prime time.

Opera 11.60 has a fairly impressive changelog for a point release. It beefs up Opera’s standards support in a big way. Besides a brand new HTML5 parser that is expected to improve interoperability and website compatibility, Opera Tunny ships with a new version of Carakan (JavaScript engine), full ECMAScript 5.1 support and support for CSS3 radial gradients.

Opera-Tunny-Mail-Feed

The user interface has been refined further. The address bar has been streamlined. As a result, it looks a lot better and simpler, but is also somewhat less useful. The single click bookmark option (“Star button”) that has been a standard feature in most other browsers for quite some time also makes its appearance in Tunny. However, the biggest visible change is in the Mail component. The Mail client, which is used for both reading mails and RSS feeds, now operates by default in a three-column mode and features automatic grouping and pinned messages. Check out our earlier coverage for more on the improved Mail client.

Tunny isn’t a game changer, but brings forth an impressive list of improvements. Opera made a smart call by not letting a single feature hold back numerous other promising enhancements. Wahoo or Opera 12 will still be the release to look out for. However, Tunny provides enough reasons to be a must update for existing Opera users.

[ Download Opera 11.60 ]

New Opera Tunny Snapshot Introduces Major Mail Changes

One of the least appreciated features of Opera is its mail component. Opera uses the mail component for both email communications and RSS feeds. While Opera’s mail component might not have all the bells and whistles of some of the stand-alone RSS feed readers or email clients, it is more than powerful enough for most users. Yesterday, Opera Software released a new snapshot of Opera 11.60 that introduces some pretty major improvements to Opera’s Mail client.

Opera now uses the three column mode, with the list on the left and message on the right, as the default mode. This mode is undoubtedly the best mode to read mail or feeds, especially on widescreen monitors. However, if you want to go back to the old display style, with list on top and message at the bottom, you can still do so by clicking on the wrench icon, which replaces the confusing View’ menu with a simple Settings’ menu.

Opera-Tunny-Mail-Feed

Opera has also introduced automatic mail grouping, whereby messages are automatically clubbed together by date. You also have the option to group items by unread status, by pinned status, or not at all.

The stylesheet and icons for Mail have been redone. As a result, everything looks a lot cleaner, lighter, and fresher. Other changes include a new pinned messages feature and a couple of mail bug fixes.

You can download the latest Opera snapshot from the Desktop Team Blog. Since this is a snapshot, all the usual disclaimers apply. In fact, you need to be extra cautious while installing Opera Tunny builds, as they are not Opera Next releases and install over stable versions.

Opera Announces Change of Plans, Releases First Snapshot of Opera 11.60 Tunny

Opera-TunnyOpera Software has just released the first snapshot of Opera 11.60, codenamed Tunny. This release marks a departure from the Norwegian browser developer’s previously announced plans of following up Opera Swordfish (Opera 11.5) with Wahoo (Opera 12). According to the new roadmap, Opera will release Tunny within a few weeks, and will follow it up with Wahoo when it is ready. The prime reason for the new roadmap is that Opera’s hardware acceleration feature is still not ready for primetime. “Our ambitions for hardware acceleration are very high and we consider it more important to do it right, than to do it fast”, explained Opera’s Ruarí Ødegaard.

Opera 11.60 will aim to deliver all the features showcased in the first Opera 12 alpha, which was released last month. This includes a new HTML5 parser (Ragnarök), a new version of Carakan (JavaScript engine), full ECMAScript 5.1 support, CSS3 radial gradients, and a new featherweight address field with bookmark star menu. This snapshot also features support for HTML5 custom scheme and content handlers.

Unlike Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, Opera doesn’t follow a rapid release cycle. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of the rapid release schedule. One of the arguments put forth by Mozilla in favor of the new fast paced release cycle is that it ensures that crucial features that are ready for mass consumption don’t get held up due to other unfinished enhancements. By being flexible about its release schedule, Opera is successfully tackling one of the potential disadvantages of a feature driven release cycle, while avoiding all the annoyances of a rapid release cycle.

Opera 11.60 snapshot can be downloaded from the Opera Desktop Team blog. Unlike other preview builds, the snapshot will not be available as an Opera Next download. It will overwrite the stable installation. Hence, it is reccomended that you backup your existing profile before installing this build. Opera has announced that it will continue publishing Opera 12 snapshots, which will be available as an Opera Next download.

Top 3 Opera Extensions to Enhance Your Google Plus Experience

The jury is still out on Google Plus; however, Google’s phenomenal reach coupled of a refreshing take on privacy has ensured that it is off to a promising start. If you are amongst the millions who have already jumped ship to Google Plus, here are three Opera extensions to enhance your Google Plus experience.

Google-Plus-Notification-Bar-Opera Google+ Injector: One of the best features of Google Plus is the notification bar, which allows you to track what’s happening on Google Plus and instantly respond to new events without leaving the current page. Unfortunately, Google was too lazy to develop a truly cross-browser solution, and the notification bar just doesn’t work in Opera. Fortunately, there is a simple extension called Google Plus Injector that adds the missing CSS, HTML, and JavaScript code into Google Plus to add the missing options to the web toolbar for Opera users.

Google-Plus-Notifications-Opera

The extension works as promised for Google Plus; however, it would have been even better, if it worked across different Google services (such as Google Search). Currently, even with this extension, notifications aren’t available on Google properties other than Google Plus.

DownloadSupport for Google+: Google Plus’ excellent media integration support has made it a popular platform to share images and videos. This extension enables one click download of images and videos from Google Plus. You can either use album and batch download for images, or selectively download images from your Google Plus stream. For YouTube videos shared on Google, one click download option is available.

Google+ Notif: This extension displays a snapshot of the latest Google Plus notifications on Opera’s speed dial. Google’s global web bar doesn’t function properly in Opera; however, this is a nice alternative to stay on top of activities in your Google Plus stream.

Google-Plus-Speed-Dial-Extension

If you are an Opera user who can’t stay away from Google Plus, these three extensions are must haves. However, there are a couple of more Google Plus extensions for Opera, including the Simple Google Plus Access extension that provides quick access to the social networking website through the toolbar. Feel free to explore Opera’s extension gallery to discover more handy extensions.

Opera Browser Vulnerable to Memory Corruption Exploit

In the raging browser wars, features, security and stability are paramount to competing. Opera might want to get a serious handle on things with the next release they push.

There is a memory corruption bug that has been present in Opera 10, 11 and the pre-release of 12 on Windows XP SP3. The vulnerability exists within SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) layout handling. By nesting SVG functions within XML calls, an attacker is able to crash Opera. While crashing a browser might not seem like a huge deal to some, couple it with code injection and you have an exploit that can lead to complete remote code execution, and then it’s game over.

The exploit, which was discovered over a year ago, was reported to Opera but never fixed. Jose Vasquez, the original author, has published full details on the vulnerability as well as written and released a complete Metasploit module. Metasploit is a security framework for penetration testing, allowing a large number of security professional to collaborate on software and service vulnerabilities.

What might seem like a benign crash of your browser, might turn out to be an attacker positioning themselves to take control of your computer and network. Although it’s been previously broken, Jose also indicates it may be possible to bypass DEP, which is an active security feature provided by Microsoft,  specifically made to prevent unwanted code execution.

In an interview, Opera’s co-founder,  Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner indicated their number of users grew from 50 million in 2009 to over 150 million in just one year. There are a lot of users who are potentially vulnerable to exploitation of this bug. When Opera 11.51 was released, major security and minor stability issues were the reason for the update. If we consider that  this bug has been present since 10.50, disclosed to Opera over a year ago, and still left unfixed — many users may want to look at switching to the very popular Chrome  or Firefox 7  until Opera fixes this issue.

Opera 12 Alpha Introduces Hardware Acceleration and HTML5 Engine

Earlier this week, Opera Software released the first alpha of Opera 12. The first preview build of Opera 12 Рcodenamed Wahoo, was released in July. However, the Norwegian browser maker had been saving the goodies for October. As expected, and earlier predicted by me, Wahoo introduces support for hardware acceleration and WebGL. It also includes the Ragnar̦k HTML5 engine that Opera had been working on for a year.

Opera-12-Alpha

Opera is a late entrant as far as hardware acceleration and WebGL support are concerned. However, it laid the groundwork for hardware acceleration through its Vega graphics backend as far back as 2009. Vega enables Opera to use hardware acceleration for everything from displaying fonts and CSS animations to the user interface itself. Hardware acceleration on Opera should work on all modern hardware running Windows XP or newer, Mac, and Linux. Opera maintains a blacklist of old and buggy drivers that are known to cause trouble. In case, hardware acceleration doesn’t work, Opera will switch to the highly optimised Vega software acceleration mode. Open opera:gpu in Opera 12 to find out if it is using hardware acceleration. If the Vega backend is specified as software, then try updating your graphics drivers. Opera 12 also supports WebGL, which is based on a stripped down version of OpenGL. WebGL enables browsers to run graphics intensive 3D games and animations that redefine what browsers can do.

Like hardware acceleration, Ragnarök is also something that Opera had been working on for a long time. The biggest advantage of switching to a HTML5 parser is compatibility. “The HTML5 specification defines a set of parsing rules for all markup, whether valid or invalid,” explained Bruce Lawson in an earlier blogpost. “Once all browsers have HTML5 parsers, the same markup will produce the same DOM across all conforming browsers”.

Traditionally, Opera’s alpha builds introduce engine improvements, while the beta introduces the more user facing features. Wahoo maintains this tradition by updating Presto (Opera’s rendering engine) to 2.9.220 and adding support for CSS3 radial gradients, in addition to the features detailed above. There are only a couple of user-oriented new features. A new lightweight skinning system that is pretty much identical to Firefox Personas is now the preferred skinning technique for Opera, and the bookmark star found in Firefox and Chrome has found its way into Opera. Besides this, the interface has been tweaked slightly to make the Featherweight skin appear more native to the OS you are using.

You can download Opera 12 alpha from opera.com/next. As you might expect, the alpha build has some bugs, including a particularly annoying one that makes it incompatible with Aero Snap on Windows. However, since all preview builds belong to the Opera Next stream, installing Wahoo won’t overwrite your stable Opera installation.

Opera Releases First Snapshot of Opera 12, Codenamed Wahoo

In keeping with its tradition of fast paced development, Opera Software has released the first snapshot of the successor to Swordfish just eight days after its release. Swordfish or Opera 11.50, which was released last week, has so far been downloaded more than 32 million times, making it the most successful launch ever.

Opera-12-Wohoo

The successor to Swordfish is being codenamed Wahoo, which is one of the fastest tropical fishes in the world. The first snapshot only features bug-fixes and minor enhancements. New features will be introduced at a later stage. Since Opera Software is numbering Wahoo as Opera 12, there should be a fairly meaty changelog by the time it reaches the beta phase. One feature which seems to be a no-brainer is the addition of cross-platform support for WebGL and hardware accelerated compositing. This is something Opera has been working on for quite some time, and was demoed earlier in the year in an Opera Labs build. Moreover, Opera recently began to work on a HTML5 port of Emberwind, a popular indie game. That could very well be something that Opera Software intends to use to highlight the performance benefits of hardware acceleration.

You can download the first snapshot of Opera 12 from the Desktop Team blog. A pre-alpha build can and probably will have usability issues. However, you can safely try it on your system since it will be installed separately from your main Opera installation.

Opera 11.50 Introduces Speed Dial Extensions and Featherweight Skin

Opera Software has unleashed Swordfish, its latest and greatest offering. Unlike a couple of its competitors, the Norwegian browser maker has stuck to the old school release cycle, and as you might expect from a significant version bump such as this, this release has its fair share of new features.

The highlight of Opera 11.50 is speed dial extensions, which we had previewed earlier. Until now speed dials were simple static thumbnails of your favorite websites. However, speed dial extension allows you to run little web apps within your new tab page.

My favorite speed dial extension is the weather extension, which embeds live weather information in the speed dial itself. Opera is also highlighting speed dial extensions from Read It Later, Webdoc, The Hype Machine, and StockTwits.

Opera has also tweaked the speed dial layout. It features an enhanced zoom slider, and suggests new speed dials based on your most visited websites, and popular speed dial extensions. However, the suggestion feature could do with some tweaking, as sometimes it ended up suggesting extensions that I had already installed.

Opera 11.50 also features a significantly retouched skin called Featherweight. Featherweight sports brighter, softer colors for backgrounds and borders, a new borderless icon set, and a new tab fold attention state. On the whole, featherweight further enhances the visual appeal of Opera, at least on Windows. Check out my earlier coverage for a more in-depth look at Opera’s new skin.

Opera-Featherweight
Opera on Windows, Linux and Mac

The final big change is the inclusion of password synchronization. This was a feature that was in the works for a long time, and has finally been deemed to be secure enough for inclusion in Opera. Using Opera Link you can now sync you passwords across operating systems, platforms, and systems.

Swordfish also has significant under the hood improvements. It uses the new Presto 2.9 rendering engine with better standards support. The new release boasts of improved CSS parsing speed, cookie sharing between the browser and extensions, and 10-15% faster on SVG rendering.

To be honest, of late, Opera seems to have lost a bit of its touch when it comes to developing insanely cool and innovation features. Google has been the main driving force behind a lot of the innovation over the past few years. Whether it is user oriented features like automatic translation and chrome applications, or technical stuff like desktop notifications API and speech API, Chrome has been the browser that has been getting geeks all over the world excited. On the other hand, Opera was late with Carakan, its JavaScript engine capable of native code generation. It was late with its geolocation support. Now, it will again be late with WebGL and hardware compositing support. Hopefully, Opera will be able to integrate the cross-platform hardware acceleration features that it had demoed earlier in the next major release.

Opera Swordfish is a handsome improvement over Barracuda, and is definitely worth checking out. Opera still has features like Notes, Tab Stacking, and Visual Tabs that other browsers lack. You can download the latest release from opera.com, which is also hosting a live download counter.