Opera 11.10 "Barracuda" Alpha Available for Downloads, It’s Really Fast

After releasing Opera 11, the team at Opera are working hard to push for the next release touted as Opera 11.10 "Barracuda"; named after a fish known for its large size and fearsome appearance. Today, the team have released the first snapshot of the latest version.

Opera 11.10 Barracuda

Don’t get put off by the large size of the fish though. My first impression was something that I have hardly seen with browsers. The installation of Opera 11.10 "Barracuda" was blazing fast, it hardly took 10 seconds, this is not the case for other browsers.

Opera 11.10 Alpha

Other than that I found an improved experience in browsing webpages and watching videos including videos. There aren’t any more visible changes with this build and it does support Opera extensions as in Opera 11.

In this release, Opera has upgraded Core from version 2.7.62 to 2.8.99 which includes the implementation of the Web Open Font Format (WOFF) which is a font format for use in web pages. The new format hasn’t been ratified by the W3C yet, but once it is done, it will become the interoperable font format which will be supported by all browsers.

In addition to that, there are several other changes in this build, which include:

  • Disable Cookie2 by default, with an option to enable it again
  • Send more compatible Accept header on second request
  • Disable TLS 1.1 and 1.2 by default
  • Make sure redirects from http to https are labeled secure
  • Remove the use of master password for client certificates
  • Added a preference to disable cross-network protection

The Alpha release of Opera 11.10 "Barracuda" is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux/FreeBSD. You can download the files from the links below.

Alpha software is usually not advisable to install for regular users, however, unlike other browsers, you can install multiple version of Opera on your PC. Each version has their own profile, better still you can just install Opera as a Portable Software. I am still using the browser to find what improvements have been made over Opera 11. Will do a review of the Alpha release soon.

Download Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate

After the release of the Windows 7 service pack 1, Microsoft has made available the release candidate of Internet Explorer 9 to users, albeit unofficially yet.

Internet Explorer 9

Win Rumors spotted the downloads for the Internet Explorer 9 and posted links to the downloads before Microsoft made them available officially. Internet Explorer 9 includes tracking protection which was also recently included by and . Using this privacy feature, users can opt-out of advertising tracking cookies and analytic software tracking.

Internet Explorer 9 will most likely see a full public release by the end of February and it might roll out after the service pack 1 has been made available to users.

You can download the Internet Explorer 9 RC from the links below, courtesy Win Rumors.

Note: Microsoft will not be making Internet Explorer 9 for Windows XP users.

Flash 10.2 Adds Stage Video and Dual Monitor Support

One of the most used video software in the world just got a major update today. Adobe has released the new version of Flash; Flash 10.2 for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

Adobe Flash

Flash 10.2 has been in development for a while now and addresses several issues in the software. Flash has traditionally been one of the major reasons for browser crashes in and , and hopefully this new version should tackle many of the issues.

Flash 10.2 has also added support for full hardware acceleration through a new feature called Stage Video. Hardware acceleration will allow Flash to play high quality videos while using less processing power thus enhancing user experience providing users with longer battery life. According to Adobe, Flash 10.2 is 34 time more efficient than the previous versions.

Flash Player using Stage Video can effortlessly play beautiful 1080p HD video with just 1-15% CPU usage on a common Mac or Windows computer* working across platforms and browsers, it will enable the best video experience for the most people. Many millions of additional PCs, from netbooks to desktops, can now become slick HD home theaters on the web.

One of the biggest problems I have faced while using Flash on a dual-monitor setup is the inability to play full screen videos on one screen while you work on another screen. Flash 10.2 addresses this issue and allows users to play full-screen videos on one screen while you continue working on another.

For the entire list of new features in Flash 10.2 visit the official blog post. You can also download Flash 10.2 for Windows, Mac and Linux from here. Google Chrome already seems to be using some variant of Flash 10.2, the next update would include the newer version.

Microsoft: Take That Google, We Just Added H.264 Support For Chrome Users

Yesterday would have been a very eventful day at Google and Microsoft after Google accused Microsoft of stealing their search results and displaying it in the competitive search engine Bing. The day was filled with accusations and defense galore and lot of Google-and-Microsoft haters had a really big field day.

Day 2: Microsoft just did something that would irk Google even more, they rolled out a new Windows Media Player plugin for Chrome which supports the H.264 code. In a blog post, Microsoft said that they are rolling out these plugin which is also part of Internet Explorer so that Google Chrome customers on would be able to continue to play the H.264 video in spite of Chrome not supporting it.

Today, as part of the interoperability bridges work we do on this team, we are making available the Windows Media Player HTML5 Extension for Chrome, which is an extension for Google Chrome to enable Windows 7 customers who use Chrome to continue to play H.264 video.

We believe that Windows customers should be able to play mainstream HTML5 video and, as we’ve described in previous posts, Internet Explorer 9 will support playback of H.264 video as well as VP8 video when the user has installed a VP8 codec.

The announcement could just be a right hand jab from Microsoft on Google’s chin after they had earlier declared to drop support for the H.264 codec in because of lack of openness and could fuel a much more deeper war amongst these two tech giants.

It also gives consumers of Google Chrome a chance to view the videos encoded with H.264 codec which they could not have done otherwise. In a battle of browsers Google Chrome, and have openly said that they would not support the H.264 codec because of royalty issues and would instead rely on the WebM codec, which is still not the best codec out there. Currently, it lacks hardware support and there is still a lot of work to be done with it. Microsoft and Apple on the other hand support the H.264 codec in the Internet Explorer and Safari browsers.

The said plugin is also available for Firefox but the main jabs taken by the article was at Google Chrome which is rapidly gaining more users from both Internet Explorer and Firefox.

So will this war continue to rage along? Will these competitors try to go down the throats of each other in the future too? Well, as per me they will. They will not let go off a chance to bring each other down. The wars had already begun, someone just put more fuel in the fire. What do you think?

Opera 11.01 Released, Fixes Critical Security Vulnerability

Opera Opera’s customary point release to tidy things up is here. Opera 11.01, which was released earlier today, includes critical security patches, much needed stability updates, and a few other minor changes.

This build closes the security hole discovered by Vupen that could allow hackers to gain control of a user’s system. Another critical vulnerability that could be exploited to load files (with potentially confidential information) from the user’s computer as web page resources has also been patched. The security fixes in Opera 11.01 affect Windows, UNIX as well as Mac.

One of the major new features introduced in Opera 11 was visual mouse gestures. While the idea behind the feature is excellent, Opera tweaked the mouse gesture sensitivity to accommodate users unfamiliar with gestures, which peeved several experienced users. Opera 11.01 restores the old sensitivity settings for mouse gestures, while retaining the intuitiveness of visual gestures.

The nagging crashes that plagued Opera 11 also seem to have disappeared in this version. There are dozens of other minor improvements. For a detailed overview of what is new in Opera 11.01 check out the change logs for Windows, UNIX, and Mac.

[ Download Opera 11.01 for Windows, UNIX and Mac ]

How To Import Facebook Contacts To Gmail

I know that there are several ways to import your contacts to , one of which includes first importing them into Yahoo, and then exporting the address book, and then importing it into Gmail. However, that process is pretty long.

If you really want to import your Facebook contacts to Gmail, a   will come in pretty handy. The Chrome extension  called Facebook Friends Exporter provides users with an option to export their friends information from Facebook as a CSV file. The information you can export includes your Friend’s name, emails, phone numbers, screen names and websites. The good part about the extension though is that it also allows you to import these contacts into Gmail in a single click.

Export Facebook Friends

Once you have installed the extension, you will see an addition menu item called "Export friends!" in Facebook. Clicking the link will advice you to go to your friends page, however, the extension can also do that automatically for you.

On the next page, you will be shown a message about Facebook owning your friends and disclaimers which you have to accept. Once you do that, you can Get started with importing your friends and storing it locally.

Import Facebook Contacts to Gmail

The extension will then cache all your friends in and start importing them one by one. The process might take a while if you have a lot of friends and takes breaks in between (after it has accessed 60 of your friends profiles, otherwise Facebook will start displaying images for email address). Once the entire import process has been completed, you will be given an option to import your Facebook contacts into Gmail.

Facebook has been very strict about any script accessing contact information about your friends and have even banned users, so you might want to tread with caution here. Nevertheless, the script works and it’s hassle free, so go ahead and try it out if you really want to import your Facebook contacts to Gmail.

Download Facebook Friend Exporter

Google Chrome Now Includes Down For Everyone Or Me Notifications

Have you ever visited a website on a browser to be shown a message that the website cannot be loaded? Well, I have been through that several times. It could be due to a DDoS attack or due to a website suffering from heavy user traffic. However, the browser message is not always useful to end users.

That said, if you are a user (dev version for now), there is some cloud intelligence being used to determine why a website is down, whilst providing users with an option to still surf the webpage through a Cached copy available on Google.

Google Chrome Down for Everyone or Just M

Here is a recent page not loaded message displayed to me on the Chrome developer version when I visited Dropbox forums to take part in their treasure hunt.

As you can see from the screenshot above, Google Chrome is now including a message saying that "Other users are also experiencing difficulties connecting to this site, so you may have to wait a few minutes". I found this message to be quite useful since I usually rush to http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ to figure out whether a website is just down for me or everyone else too.

Kudos to the Google Chrome team for creating such informative messages for error pages. It always helps because people usually want to know what is wrong, rather than having to deal with a stupid error page.

*This feature is currently only available in dev builds of Google Chrome, you might not see it in the stable build.

Google Gets Aggressive About WebM, Decides to Drop H.264 Support from Chrome

WebM Google has announced that it will be dropping support for H.264 in future versions of Chrome, and instead focus on high quality open codecs. Although Google’s announcement is surprising, it’s not completely unexpected. Last year, Google spent a fair amount of cash to acquire On2, the startup behind VP8. Later, Google unveiled its own open source codec called WebM, based on On2’s VP8. Now that WebM has begun to witness increasing amounts of hardware support, as well as improvement in performance, Google obviously feels that the time is right to put its foot down.

The core issue with H.264 has been that it is proprietary. Last year, MPEG-LA made H.264 royalty free forever for free web broadcasts, in an attempt to counter WebM. However, even that move was deemed insufficient since it didn’t include applications that encode and decode video, as well as commercial broadcasts. It also didn’t alleviate the threat that some other patent holding body might come calling.

Chrome will now join Opera and Firefox as browsers supporting only open video codecs, i.e. Theora and WebM. Microsoft had earlier announced that it will be supporting both H.264 and WebM in Internet Explorer 9, provided that the codec for the latter is installed on the system. Apple, which has been pushing for HTML5 <video> as an alternative to Flash, has been a steadfast supporter of H.264. It will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future as hardware decoding support (which is crucial for portable devices like the iPod and the iPhone) for WebM is still fairly limited.

Although Google’s decision to drop H.264 support from Chrome represents a major setback for H.264, don’t expect it to disappear immediately. Apple’s dominance over the mobile devices segment, and the lack of WebM support in tablets and phones is something Google will have to contend with.

Zynga Acquires Flock; May Take Social Gaming To A New Level

While is getting billions of dollars as investment, one of it’s success stories Zynga (which is worth $5billion too) is ramping up it’s offerings and buying Flock, the social web browser.

flock_logo

Flock, which was initially written on the Gecko engine from Mozilla and later shifted to Chromium which powers was one of the first browsers which was created specifically for social networking and connecting with people. It now looks like Flock will be a part of Zynga and possibly convert into more of a social and social gaming experience.

TechCrunch has reported the deal and also said that both Google and were interested in buying Zynga, however, not for the browser but for the engineering talent behind it.

Nevertheless, Flock has not been a huge success, so the idea of Zynga buying it does not makes much sense, unless that Zynga is either planning to integrate their social gaming experience into the browser or are going to use the engineering team to build more social games for users.

Zynga is the company behind popular Facebook games such as Farmville and Cityville. The details of the deal is not known, but it should be anywhere between $50-$200 million. We’ll update when more information becomes available.

Why Is Opera Not Popular?

Lets get this straight. Even though I find browser quite  feature rich when I compare it to other browsers, it is not one of the most popular browser as you know it. As a matter of fact it only has 2% of browser market share. I have been closely following topics related to Opera on Quora (my new love! but more on that later) and found few interesting topics about Opera!

Opera Logo

But let’s discuss Why is Opera not popular?

Xudong Yang, a Web Developer, has jotted down exactly my thoughts in a blog post. To Quote him:

Poor advertisement: IE is the default on Windows, Safari the default on Mac, Firefox/Chromium the default on several Linux distributions. Moreover, we see IE9 ads, Chrome ads, and (rarer these days) Firefox with Google Toolbar ads. I’ve practically never seen Opera ads. Whether this is due to poor finance or bad marketing strategy I’ve no idea, but Opera sure could be much better off if it were in the first place more widely known.

I won’t quote his entire blog post as I’m only interested to concentrate on the advertisement part. But I really suggest you read his blog post. He makes a lot of good points.

Recently, I had a once in lifetime opportunity to meet the founder of Opera; Jon Von Tetzchner, during his Mumbai Meetup. I had always wanted to ask Opera why they did not spend money on advertising and what’s better than asking the man himself. So I did.

Jon Von Tetzchner explained that for spending money, Opera needed money, which they didn’t have. And that word of mouth publicity has worked for them. Bullshit I say. Opera recently announced that Opera had reached a new milestone of 150 million users and here’s the breakdown of it.

For the uninitiated, Opera, for the major part, earns from the search bar on the browser when you make a search query. Assuming 75% of Opera Desktop users use the search bar  at least once a day it’s freaking 37,500,000 searches a day. Now we know that users do not search that freely on their mobile device than they do on desktop. So let’s consider 25% of Opera Mobile and mini users use the search bar daily. That’s again 25,000,000. That makes it a total of 62,500,000 searches EACH DAY! So, don’t tell me you don’t make money!

And if you remember, Mozilla’s Firefox initially rose to popularity because Google promoted it. It has come to the point that Firefox has actually overtaken Internet Explorer as Europe’s dominant browser.  As much as I like Opera browser it really hurts to see the other below standard browsers winning more market share. Opera really needs to do more than Potato videos when it comes to marketing and be more visible to internet users.