File Under: Browsers

Opera’s Next Act: Add-ons, Hardware Acceleration, Android

Opera Software has announced that the next version of its desktop web browser, Opera 11, will include support for hardware acceleration and browser extensions. The company also has plans to port its popular Opera Mobile browser to Android phones.

It’s the next version of Opera for the desktop that will see the most enhancements. The first Opera 11 alpha will be available soon, but the company already showcased the new extensions framework in a demo at its Up North Web event in Oslo, Norway. Opera’s new extensions framework is much like those pioneered by Chrome and Firefox, and later by Safari — using HTML, CSS and JavaScript to create lightweight add-ons.

When Safari jumped on the bandwagon and offered extensions earlier this year, Opera was the last browser that did not have a system in place for third-party add-ons. While Opera has long been a major source of browser innovation — it was the first browser to offer tabbed browsing, visual tab navigation, mouse gestures, SVG graphics and page zooming, all since copied by other browsers — add-ons were one place Opera trailed the browser pack. But not any more.

Opera’s extensions will be based on the W3C Widget specification (which defines a “widget” as a downloadable and locally stored web application) and, according to the company, it should be relatively easy to port existing Chrome and Safari extensions to Opera’s platform.

Also coming in Opera 11 is hardware acceleration. Hardware acceleration allows the browser to offload intensive tasks like image scaling, rendering complex text or displaying scripted animations to your PC’s graphics card. It has the benefit of freeing up the PC’s main processor and speeding up page load times.

Firefox, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome will all add varying degrees of hardware acceleration to their next versions, and with Opera joining in, that means only Apple’s Safari will be missing GPU capabilities.

Opera’s hardware acceleration won’t be limited to the desktop version of Opera either. The company has announced plans to build Opera Mobile for Android. The mobile version of Opera is a full-fledged web browser (unlike Opera Mini, which is available for the iPhone and countless other mobile devices) and will feature hardware acceleration and pinch-to-zoom support for Android.

Opera hasn’t set a date for the release of either Opera 11 or Opera Mobile for Android, though the company did say the latter will available within a month.

See Also: