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Opera 9: The other, other browser

Opera today announced the availability of Beta 1 of version 9 of its browser. New features include AJAX-based components called 'widgets', a BitTorrent search engine, and updated content blocking.
Other new features include changes to shortcuts to enhance compatability with other browsers, a new storage file format, and an internal source viewer.

Opera's free version is still advertisement driven, which has likely helped drive Firefox's popularity. Opera's new 'widgets', AJAX-based funtionality, sound scarily close to plug-ins, something Firefox users have had for some time and which only add to the platform's popularity. The difference between widgets and Firefox plug-ins appears to be that Opera widgets run outside the browser, on the desktop, while Firefox plug-ins run within the browser. Both can be written by third-party developers, so there's potential for Opera to gain some fans with such a feature, but it will be hard to catch up to the established base of developers of Firefox.

IE, of course, doesn't have the readily accessible mechanisms for buildilng plug-ins of either of its top two competitors, but we're still waiting to see whether IE 7 can just catch up to Opera and Firefox in terms of features like tabbed browsing and, dare we say, compliance with W3C standards (we're not holding our breath on that one).

According to, market share for Opera has remained fairly stable for the past 6 months. Firefox and Opera have a market share of 11.2 and 0.77 percent respectively, according to the January 2006 figures from Web traffic measurement company. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still the dominant browser, accounting for 85.5 percent.

Statistics aren't everything, however, as it's sometimes hard to identify the true identity of an Opera browser, since Opera is configured (by default) to identify itself as Internet Explorer (IE). Similarly, many FireFox users purposefully force the browser to identify itself as IE in order to access poorly coded web sites.

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