Opera has always been seen as a browser for users who do not trust IE and want something faster and lighter than Netscape. The Opera browser was started in 1994 as a research project in Norway’s telecom company Telenor. Two engineers from the same company developed the browser Opera for the company’s intranet. On July 14th 1996, Opera’s co-founder Jon von Tetzchner made the first public announcement of Opera on UseNet and Opera came into being for the general public.
Opera Series 1 was not released for the public and was called MultiTorg Opera. This version was used for the Telenor Intranet. The first public version of Opera was the Series 2. The first version is a Norwegian demo version of Opera 2.0 that was included with a PC Magazine and loaded only local Norwegian pages. Series 3 was the first coming in terms of acceptance for Opera worldwide. Version 3.62 was the first version of Opera in terms of features, stability and speed. CSS support was exceptional in this version of Opera.
Opera Beta 4 was released in March 2000 and had support for most of CSS2, all of CSS1, HTML4, XML, and WML. This version was based on a cross-platform core and facilitated the release of Opera for different Operating Systems. A new integrated email client was also included in this version. The first versions of Opera 4 were quite stable and buggy and it was after the release of 4.02 that the browser actually became useful.
The Opera 5 release was noticed by the general public, since this time the browser was not on a 30-day trial period but was adsupported hence people could use the browser long after the 30- day period. New features that were added to this release were mouse-gestures, Instant Messaging features hot list panels and an integrated search. In fact, many users are still using this version of the browser till date.
The long awaited Unicode support was introduced in the Opera 6 release and a new SDI MDI interface was also introduced in the same release. The Opera 6 series was one of the most stable and it was with this release that Opera garnered its own fans and a cult following, but was still miles away from making a dent in either Netscape’s or Internet Explorer’s market shares.
Opera 7 was released in early 2003 and featured a brand new rendering engine called Presto. This engine enhanced and expanded its support for standards and included W3C DOM and the Small Screen Rendering technique for handheld devices. The interface was redone entirely with a custom cross-platform skinning system which significantly reduced resource usage, keyboard shortcuts, mouse gestures, menus and toolbars.
Other new features that were included in this release were features such FastForward,Notes and Slideshow, which made the user experience even more enjoyable. A new news and mail client called M2 was introducedin this version as well as a RSS news reader and an IRC chat client.Opera 8 was released in early 2005 and is currently in version 8.0.1. The major reason for Opera being accepted publicly was not because of its compliance in standards with other browsers, but because of the non-standard browsing enhancements that were absent in its competitors. It is light weight and has its own cult of fans. It has innovative features and is one of the most used browsers on mobile devices.
Currently, Opera has started making inroads in other embedded systems platforms as well. Opera’s market share is starting to make a bit of a dent with users sticking to this alternative browser rather than using Internet Explorer or Netscape. Plus, many of Opera’s innovative features are finding their way into other browsers as well. One of them is FireFox, the browser that we will be talking about next.