SiliconFilter

Opera Launches Opera Mobile 12 Browser for Android and Symbian, Opera Mini 7 For iOS

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Opera just announced the next version of its mobile browser for Android and Symbian, as well as a developer version of its more stripped-down Opera Mini browser. While the update doesn't feature any major changes in the user interface, the Opera team has made numerous changes underneath the surface. Most importantly, Opera added support for its advanced HTML5 parser Ragnarok, which should make running web apps on your mobile phone quite a bit faster. This will also allow developers to create more sophisticated web applications that can run in your phone's browser.

Another feature that should speed up the browsing experience is Opera's newly announced support for using your phone's or tablet's graphics hardware to accelerate 3D content in your browser.

In addition, Opera added support for using an Android device's camera in the browser, as well as support for web standards like CSS3 and CORS.

Even if you don't own an Android or Symbian phone, you will soon be able to use Opera's web-based and desktop emulators to try it out yourself. If you have Opera 12 installed on your phone or tablet, also have a look at the company's demo site.

Opera Mini: Version 7 for iOS and a New Developer Version

As for Opera Mini, Opera today launched the final version of Opera Mini 7 for iOS, as well as a developer version – Opera calls these 'Opera Next.' The Next version is Opera's way of beta testing new features before they are officially released. So if you want to get an early look at some of the browser's features (this version brings smoother scrolling and a new bookmarking interface, for example, give Opera Mini Next a try. It's available for feature phones using Java, as well as Android, Blackberry and S60 phones.

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3:44 am


It’s Time for Apple to Allow Real Browser Competition on iOS

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Yesterday, Google launched its redesigned search app for the iPad. It features a smart, innovative design and could, with just a few extra features like bookmarks, easily become the best browser alternative to Safari on iOS. The reality, though, is that while Apple allows browser apps like the Dolphin Browser that use iOS’s built-in WebKit framework or Opera, which renders all the content on its own servers to get around Apple’s rules, none of these can be used as the default browsers on iOS. Whenever you click on a link in an email, for example, you can’t set iOS to open Opera instead of Safari. Because of this, there is almost no incentive for users to even try a third-party browser on iOS, as the system will constantly route them to Safari anyway.

Apple’s Own Browser: Adequate but not Innovative

Apple’s own browser is perfectly adequate, but as the Google app shows, users are missing out on innovations on all levels, including interface design and faster access to modern web standards on their mobile devices.

Safari on the iPad, for example, uses the same way to handle tabs as on the desktop instead of using a design that really makes use of the iPad’s touch features.

Third-Party Browsers Can’t Compete Unless Users Can Make them the Default Choice

The Google search app shows that interesting, touch-centric browser interfaces are possible. For Google, of course, search is the central metaphor for browsing the web, but you could just replace the current search screen at the center of the app with bookmarks and links to web apps and have a great browser app.

Mozilla was late to the mobile browser game, but now it’s doing a few creative things with Firefox on Android (and lets you use plugins, for example). Opera, too, is constantly pushing the envelope with its mobile browsers. iOS users, however, are more or less cut off from all of this innovation. Sure, you can install interesting apps like Dual Browser or Atomic Browser, but chances are, you will never use them because unlike Android, you can’t switch the default browser away from Safari on iOS.

Will Apple Ever Relinquish Total Control over the OS?

Apple, of course, wants to keep total control over your iOS experience. For most apps that are alternatives to built-in iOS apps (email, streaming music, to-do lists etc.), it doesn’t really matter that other apps can’t be set as the default. For browsers, though, it’s really the only way they will ever get widespread use.

Locking the browser down made sense for Apple in the early days of iOS, when apps weren’t even on the roadmap yet. Now, however, this policy feels more like it stifles innovation than that it protects users.



4:57 pm


Opera: It’s Time to Rethink How We Publish Texts Online

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The way we publish and read text in our browsers today is not that different from the way Egyptians used scrolls over 3,000 years ago. In the real world, though, the scroll gave way to the codex a long time ago, but on the web, we’re still mostly wedded to the idea of scrolling through text. Opera, the developers of the popular desktop and mobile browser of the same name, just released Opera Reader, a prototype of a concept they call “native pages,” which is meant to bring the ideas of a more book-like publishing layout back to the web. The result, which developers can achieve with just a few lines of codes, looks more like the New York Times Skimmer interface than a regular website.

The basic concept behind native pages/Opera Reader is to make it easy to split pages into paged media by using what Opera calls “an innovative new set of CSS constructs.” Opera things that this idea “has the power to dramatically improve the way in which web content is consumers, by presenting it in a much more compelling fashion.”

opera_reader_on_the_web

Instead of scrolling through pages, using a few basic CSS constructs will turn your scrolling articles into more codex-like sites with columns and multiple pages. The idea here is to make these texts easier to read and to make better use of the widescreen monitors that now adorn most of our desks. Browsers that don’t support this technology will just continue to display the same pages as before. Those that do support it, however, will be able to flexibly adjust the layout of the pages multi-column layout on the fly and have users use touch gestures and/or keyboard commands to flip pages.

Whether you are using a tablet, phone, desktop or a laptop to read this right now, chances are you are using a widescreen display. On a desktop and laptop, these are great for watching video, but leave a lot of unused space if you are just reading text online. At least on a tablet or phone, you can just tilt the device and use your screen more efficiently. If successful, the ideas behind Opera Reader could make it easier for publishers to make their texts available for mice-less devices like tablets and on the desktop, where readers would benefit from a better layout of the texts they read.

An Idea Worth Pursuing?

It’s worth noting, though, that online publishing as we know it today is driven by pageviews and the ad sales that come with them. It’s unlikely that existing publishers would quickly flock to this idea, but as a proof of concept, Opera Reader does hold some interesting promises.

As a reader, though, I have to say that I really like sites like the NYTimes Skimmer that let me focus on the text and use a multi-column layout to let me read more text before I have to scroll again.

I can see a few reasons why this idea wouldn’t work, though, as well. On tablets, for example, the scroll metaphor actually works quite well and actually feels more efficient than paging through articles. I also haven’t heard too many people complain about having to scroll through articles and for many, I would guess scrolling now feels more natural than leaving through a virtual book-like environment.

Unlike Opera then, I don’t think this idea of a codex-like page works for every site and every article, but I can imagine sites that focus on long-form content move towards this or a similar technology. I’m not sure it has to be build into the browser, but I think Opera is right to reopen the discussion about how we display our written content on the web.

How to Use it Today

The only way to see Opera Reader in action right now is by installing a special alpha version of Opera 12 (available for Mac, Windows and Linux). Once installed, you can find a number of demos of the native page technology here.

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9:09 pm


The Internet Explorer IQ Hoax and the State of Tech Blogging

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Last Friday, the tech blogosphere was enamored by a study that claimed that Internet Explorer users had a lower IQ than users of other browsers. The study by AptiQuant found that the average IE6 user only scored just over 80 on its IQ test – a test score that is, in terms of real-life accomplishments, generally associated with elementary school dropouts and unskilled workers. The study was a hoax.

The Hoax

A hoax like this one obviously capitalizes on the inherent anxiety we all feel about our own intelligence and the prejudice that nobody in their right mind would ever use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. It also allowed those who use fringe browsers like Opera and Camino to feel especially smug, as the average score of their cohort was supposedly around 125 (that’s close to the level of most neurosurgeons). Safari users (who are most likely to use Apple products) were also supposedly among the most “intelligent.”

Overall then, this was a well thought out hoax, though there were tons of red flags, as Wired’s Tim Carmody points out. The huge difference in scores, for example, doesn’t really make sense and the average Opera user – while making a fine browser choice – isn’t likely to be a genius either. A quick Google search would have shown that AptiQuant never really existed before it released this report (even though it claimed to have data from 2006). The data itself also isn’t exactly trustworthy, as it relies on online IQ test – likely delivered through spammy pop-ups – and carries little to no scientific relevance.

Why?

If this was so obviously a hoax then, why did virtually everybody in the tech world run with this story?

Here are a few reasons why I think this story was able to get so much play:

Pressure to be fast, write more stories and get more pageviews: This “report” was published on a Friday and while most people associate that day with fun, fun, fun, fun, writers still have to pump out a few stories and news is generally slow on that day (and that Friday was indeed a very slow news day). (That pressure, by the way, is even stronger for writers who are paid by story.)

Stories about statistics can be written quickly and get pageviews: Indeed, the constant pressure to write more stories that get as many pageviews as possible is one of the reasons why we writers love stories about statistics: they are easy and fast to write, generally come with some pretty graphics we can use and do well in terms of pageviews. I’ve written my fair share of those and there is a legitimate role for those stories that boil down lots of data into an interesting story. What often happens, though, is that writers will just believe anything they see in these studies and run with it, without ever questioning the study’s methodology.

Indeed, there is very little reward for those writers who spend a lot of time going through the methodology section of a report and then find that their time was wasted because the report turned out to be untrustworthy. Writing a story about how IE users are dumb makes for a good headline and lots of pageviewsafter all. A subtler story just wouldn’t get the kind of pageviews and rewards that “IE users are dumb as a bag of hammers” can get.

Microsoft sucks, doesn’t it?: There is also a general undercurrent of anti-Microsoft sentiment on most blogs that makes it even easier for a story like this to get through without even an ounce of fact checking (something most blogs don’t do anyway: you publish first, edit later and then update the story as necessary). If the story had claimed that Safari users were significantly dumber than Chrome users, chances are we would have seen a bit more pushback and less glee.

It’s worth noting that quite a few of the companies that create these studies also face a lot of pressure to get publicity and acquire new customers. Why they often risk their credibility by putting out statistics that are obviously wrong is beyond me, though. It’s up to the press, though, to examine this data and decide whether to trust it or not.



4:04 pm


Opera Dials it up to 11.50: Faster, Lighter and Prettier

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Opera has long been the underdog in the desktop browser wars, but it’s easy to forget that a lot of the browser design and features we take for granted today were actually pioneered by the Norwegian company. Opera 11.50, which launched for Windows, OS X, FreeBSD and Linux today, offers a few interesting new features, as well as a more streamlined design that make it worth another look. Among the new features are password synchronization with other Opera browsers and extensions for the browser’s Speed Dial feature. Opera’s new core rendering engine is now also noticeably faster and developers will find some new tools for HTML5 development in this new version.

While Opera highlights the new sleeker look of the browser, the differences between this new version and the last are actually relatively subtle. There can be no doubt, though, that Opera 11.50 looks more streamlined and actually feels significantly faster than the last version.

The most interesting new feature, though, is definitely the new extension architecture for Opera’s Speed Dial. If you’re not familiar with Speed Dial, just imagine Chrome’s new tab button on steroids. Speed Dial is now configured to automatically resize its previews to accommodate as many shortcuts as you want and developers can actually write little widgets that can live in these previews. Among today’s launch partners are Read It Later, Webdoc, music service The Hype Machine and StockTwits.



3:38 pm


Opera Mini for iOS: Brilliant on the iPhone, Frustrating on the iPad

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Opera today released the latest version of its Opera Mini mobile browser for iOS. This is Opera’s debut on the iPad. On the iPhone, this new version marks a huge step up from Opera 5, which was virtually unusable due to they way it displayed the rendered text. This new version has none of these issues and feels incredibly fast and smooth. On the iPad, however, it’s generally unusable, though this is not necessarily Opera’s fault: most websites automatically switch to a stripped-down mobile view when they see a request from Opera Mini, no matter the size of the screen the site is rendered on. This means lots of screen estate simply goes wasted and usability suffers.

The ‘Mini’ versions of Opera, which are also available for a wide variety of other operating systems, doesn’t actually render the sites on the mobile device. Instead, every website you request passes through Opera’s servers, is compressed and then sent to your phone or tablet. This makes it very fast, but in the first iPhone version, Opera was a bit too aggressive about how it compressed text and images.

With regards to features, Opera can hold its own with other third-part iOS browsers like Atomic Web and Perfect Browser. The browser does, for example, feature Facebook and Twitter sharing, full-screen view and support for bookmark syncing with Opera Link.

What’s missing, though, is the ability to switch the user agent so Opera Mini can identify itself as a desktop browser on the iPad.

As all other third-party iOS browsers, Opera also suffers from the fact that users can’t set it as the default browser. Even if you love Opera, the iPad will still open Safari when you click on a link in an email.



7:02 pm


Next: Opera Browser Gets a Dev Channel, Too

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Blame Chrome. Ever since Google started releasing self-updating developer versions of its browser, other browser developers have been following suit. Mozilla now uses the same concept for releasing early (and potentially unstable) versions of Firefox. Starting today, Opera will use the same concept to give early adopters a sneak peek at upcoming versions of its browser, too. Dubbed Opera Next, users can install this self-updating version in parallel to the stable version of Opera to check out new features before they become widely available (the Next and stable versions will remain two completely separate installs).

Unlike Chrome and Firefox, though, Opera will not develop multiple versions at the same time, instead, the Next channel will keep users updated from early snapshots to alpha, beta, release candidates and stable versions as Opera releases these. Once a stable version is released, the process will start over with the snapshots of the next version.

Also New: Live Speed Dial

The latest preview version of Opera also features the company’s new “Live Speed Dial extensions.” Just like in Chrome (though it’s worth noting that Opera pioneered this), whenever you open an empty tab, a number of icons appear in the browser that represent the sites you visit most often. Now, developers and publishers who want to make use of this new feature can also show small live previews of a site or other interactive experiences.

By default, the speed dial only shows the top left corner of a site (where the site’s logo can typically be found), but once it’s set up correctly, publishers can use Opera’s new Speed Dial extension to easily create small interactive widgets. Opera is currently featuring a few of these on its extension page here.



9:51 am


WebGL 1.0: Google, Opera and Mozilla Team Up to Bring Hardware-Accelerated 3D Graphics to Your Browser

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WebGL – a standard for running 3D graphics in the browser – has been around for a while, but the Khronos Group, which has been chaperoning the process of finalizing the WebGL standard, just announced the final version of the new standard. WebGL brings hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to browsers without the need for plugins and should enable developers and designers to create rich 3D-enabled experiences in the browser. The WebGL working group includes industry heavy-weights like Google, Mozilla, Opera, Apple, Qualcomm, AMD and Nvidia.

Both hardware manufacturers like Qualcomm, which will integrate WebGL into its Snapdragon platform and browser vendors are embracing WebGL. According to Opera’s lead graphics developer Tim Johansson, “WebGL will finally free web developers from the confines of 2D without the need for a plug-in. Once WebGL becomes pervasive, we can look forward to a new era in creativity on the Web. Opera is excited to be part of the WebGL initiative. We intend to support WebGL in our browsers, whether on computers, mobile phones or TVs.”

A WebGL demo.

 

 

As WebGL leverages the OpenGL standard that is already supported by the vast majority of graphics cards, developers don’t have to worry about hardware compatibility. Most browser vendors are also on board. WebGL is already supported by nightly versions of Apple’s WebKit and Firefox, as well as in Google Chrome and in a preview version of Opera which the company announced just a few days ago. To see how well your browser supports this standard, just head over to the Khronos Group’s demo repository. Google’s impressive Body Browser, too, uses the WebGL standard.

Where is Microsoft?

The one company that is missing here, though, is Microsoft, which is just about to release the next version of its Internet Explorer. As of now, Internet Explorer 9 is not scheduled to include WebGL support.



1:18 pm


Afraid the Government is Spying on You Online? You're Not Alone [Infographic]

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Today is Data Privacy Day and the good folks at Opera used this as a chance to commission a survey of 1,000 web users each in the U.S., Japan and Russia and ask them about how worried they are about online privacy.

In the U.S. – far more so than in Russia and Japan – Internet users tend to think that the government has too much insight into their online behavior (35%). Surprisingly, only 9% are worried about what search engines know about them (guess most people never check their Web History page on Google) and 5% think shopping sites are the worst offenders here. When it comes to social networking sites, 15% of U.S. Internet users and a whopping 38% of Russians think these sites know too much about them.

In the U.S., the majority of users (54%) also feel that they themselves are responsible for their online safety and privacy. About a quarter of U.S. Internet users thinks the ISPs and other companies operating on the web should ensure their privacy and 10% think the government should be in charge.

To protect themselves, most use antivirus software (80%) and safe passwords. Interestingly, 47% say that they regularly delete their surfing history to ensure their online privacy, which generally doesn’t do much good when it comes to being tracked online.

Around 15% of U.S. Internet users also claims to just use sites and software that does not collect information. We can only assume that these users just use DuckDuckGo as their search engine and have never encountered a cookie online…



11:26 am


Opera Previews Touch-Optimized Browser for Tablets and Netbooks

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Opera, the Norwegian browser developer, just announced a touch-optimized version of its browser that it will demo at CES. This new browser, which is optimized for tablets and netbooks with touchscreens. In its demo, Opera is showing off a first demo of the software on an Android device.

Details about the new browser are quite sparse and the demo doesn’t offer any additional details, but it’s good to see that the company is investing in this market as well. Opera already has lots of expertise in developing for touch-enabled phones, so making the move to tablets is a logical next step.

According to Christen Krogh, the company’s chief development officer, “In 2011, tablets are a new must-have. […] Opera for tablets brings the same trusted Internet experience to tablets and netbook PCs as users have come to love on their mobile phones and desktops.”

Opera has been through somewhat of a renaissance in the last year.



11:40 am


5 Reasons Why You Should Give Opera 11 a Try

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Opera just released the 11th version of its desktop browser for Mac, Windows, FreeBSD and Linux. For a while, Opera was just an also-ran as Firefox and Chrome battled for the speed crown and additional market share in the browser business. Over the last year or so, however, Opera staged quite a comeback in the desktop arena and version 11 is the current culmination of this work. Here are the top 5 new features that make Opera 11 worth another look.

Tab Stacking This feature is huge. With Tab Candy/Panorama, Firefox was the first to test new ways for organizing tabs visually, but for me, this feature never quite felt right and was too much of a hassle to use. Tab Stacking is Opera’s attempt to rein in tab overload, but while Mozilla tries to do this with a very visual interface that can quickly get confusing, Opera simply allows you to drag multiple tabs on top of each other and then see their content and select different tabs in a pop-up window that appears as you hover over the combined tabs. If you use a lot of tabs at the same time, using this feature is quickly going to become second nature.

Extensions With this latest version, Opera finally fully embraces extensions. There are currently about 200 add-ons for Opera 11 in the company’s gallery, ranging from ad blockers to password managers, with all the usual suspects in between.

Mouse Gestures This takes some getting used to, but with mouse gestures, you can control your browser with “small, fast movements of your mouse” that quickly become second nature and allow you to speed up your browsing session. To see which gestures are available, just hold down your right mouse button and follow the on-screen guide.

Speed Opera used to be able to claim that it was the fastest desktop browser. Over the last few years, other browsers sped past Opera, but with this latest version, Opera is back on track. Indeed, in most tests it is right up there with Chrome at the top of the list. In our own benchmarks, it was only a little but slower than Chrome, though in daily usage, this difference wasn’t noticeable and pages generally rendered just as fast as in Chrome.

Opera Turbo This has been in Opera for quite a while but never gets the credit it deserves. If you are regularly stuck on slow WiFi connections in hotels or airports (or even on planes – though some WiFi providers block the proxy mechanism that makes Turbo work), Opera Turbo can turn your browsing experience from miserable to perfectly acceptable by compressing your data (especially large images) and thereby reducing the amount of data you have to transfer.

Other noteworthy features: This, of course, isn’t all. Opera also features cloud-based syncing between machines, a built-in mail and RSS client, as well as some surprisingly useful developer tools with Opera Dragonfly. You can download Opera 11 here.



11:21 am