The latest version of Opera’s lightweight, speedy mobile browser — not to be confused with the much more full-featured Opera Mobile — adds a new feature, the “Smart Page,” for what Opera calls “social snacks.”
The new Smart Page is a social media and news aggregator, offering one-stop access to your friends’ updates from Facebook or Twitter, as well as news from the websites you visit most frequently.
Because Opera Mini proxies your internet connection through Opera’s servers, making page downloads considerably smaller and faster, the company can use the sites you’ve visited to compile what amounts to ad hoc feeds for your most visited sites. As with all things automated, the more you use Opera Mini the better your news results will be.
Opera Mini is also available for iOS and other platforms, but so far this latest version is only available on Android. An Opera spokesperson declined to comment on when other Opera Mini releases might be updated.
To see the new Smart Page feature in action, check out this video:
Opera software has made good on its controversial decision to support the -webkit CSS prefix. The browser maker has released a preview version of Opera 12.50 with support for a dozen -webkit prefixed CSS properties, including transforms, transitions and border-radius.
If you’re curious and want to see how Opera handles -webkit prefixes, head on over to Opera and download the latest version of Opera Next for Windows 32-bit, Windows 64-bit, Mac or Linux. (Keep in mind that 12.50 is still a very early release and contains some known bugs.)
Opera’s decision to support another browser’s CSS prefix code has caused considerable outcry among web developers and members of the CSS Working Group, which created vendor prefixes.
CSS vendor prefixes were designed to help web developers by giving them a way to target CSS to specific browsers and use proposed standards before they were finalized. The idea was to move the web forward without rushing the CSS standards process. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always worked out that way. In fact, web developers fell in love with the -webkit prefix and often forget that there are other prefixes as well: -o for Opera, -moz for Firefox and -ms for Internet Explorer.
The problem, in Opera’s view, is that instead of writing code that will work in any web browser, some of even the largest sites on the web are coding exclusively for WebKit (the rendering engine that powers web browsers on the iPhone, iPad and Android phones). Web developers have, the argument goes, created the same sort of monoculture that used to exist around Internet Explorer, with websites proudly proclaiming they “work best in WebKit.”
Opera decided that, in order to remain competitive, it needed to support -webkit in addition to its normal -o prefix.
Naturally the -webkit prefix support isn’t the only thing new in Opera 12.50. This release also manages to pack in an implementation of the Clipboard API, and Mac Opera users will find that Opera 12.50 uses Mac OS X 10.8’s coming Notification Center.
SPDY, pronounced “speedy,” is a replacement for the HTTP protocol — the language currently used when your browser talks to a web server. When you request a webpage or a file from a server, chances are your browser sends that request using HTTP. The server answers using HTTP, too. This is why “http” appears at the beginning of most web addresses.
The SPDY protocol handles all the same tasks as HTTP, but SPDY can do it all about 50 percent faster.
SPDY started life as a proprietary protocol at Google and worked only in the company’s Chrome web browser. SPDY has since won support elsewhere, with Firefox and Chrome already shipping with SPDY built-in.
Opera hasn’t announced when SPDY support will arrive in the stable release, but when it does the majority of browsers on the web will support the SPDY protocol. The major missing player is Microsoft, which has proposed a slightly different take on the same ideas behind SPDY. Which one becomes an official standard is up to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which is in the process of creating HTTP 2.0, a faster, modern approach to internet communication.
To notice any SPDY-related speed improvements in the latest version of Opera Labs you’ll have to connect to SPDY servers. Although not yet widespread, SPDY is already enabled on some very large sites, including Google’s main search page, Gmail and Twitter among others. Also, note that you don’t need to type spdy://somesite.com. When the browser uses SPDY it all happens transparently behind the scenes.
If you’d like to get your own site serving over SPDY, check out mod_spdy, a SPDY module for the Apache server (currently a beta release) or read up on Nginx’s preliminary support.
Opera Software has released Opera 12, a major update for the company’s flagship desktop web browser.
If you’d like to take Opera 12 for a spin, head over to Opera’s download page. Current Opera users will be automatically updated.
Opera 12 packs in dozens of new features and is considerably snappier than its predecessors. Part of that speed comes from Opera 12′s 64-bit support on Windows and Mac. Startup and shutdown times have been reduced as well thanks to what Opera calls “smarter tab loading.”
As we mentioned in our beta review, Opera 12 offers experimental WebGL hardware acceleration. Opera’s plans for hardware acceleration go beyond just web content, using your graphics processor to boost the rendering speed of the browser’s user interface as well. While the hardware acceleration is available in this release, you’ll still need to turn it on yourself. See Opera’s earlier guide to enabling hardware acceleration, which also has some good reasons why you might want to wait until it’s finalized before you make the leap.
Opera 12 puts Flash and other plugins out to pasture. All plugins are now “out-of-process,” which means that Flash and other plugins now run in separate processes from the browser itself. That way, should Flash crash, it won’t cause the entire browser to crash with it. Like Chrome and Firefox before it, Opera 12′s isolated processes feature applies to plugins like Flash, Silverlight and Java, among others.
This is first Opera browser to support themes. There’s a new themes gallery you can check out if you’d like to customize Opera’s look.
Opera has long been a pioneer of web standards and this release continues that tradition, bringing support for a wide variety of emerging web standards like CSS 3 Animations and Transitions, and HTML5 Drag-and-Drop. Opera 12 also supports the Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) standard. Opera has set up some demos to show off the new WebRTC features, including a series of apps that pull images (with your permission) from your webcam. Be sure to visit Photo Booth, Polaroid, and the very cool FaceKat — a driving game you steer with your head — to see the WebRTC support in action.
Opera 12 is also notable for some things it doesn’t include, namely Opera Unite and Opera Widgets. Widgets are easily replaced with add-ons, but Unite has no successor. Unite, which allowed you to host a simple website directly on your own computer, is no longer available by default and the company is no longer actively developing it.
The desktop version of Opera is not the most widely used browser on the web by any measure, but it is responsible for much of the innovation we’ve seen in web browsers over the years. If you’ve never used Opera, Opera 12 makes a good introduction. For more details on everything that’s new in this release, check out Opera’s release notes.
Opera’s numbers were gathered in conjunction with mobile research firm On Device Research and are pulled from some 34,000 users in 22 different countries across four continents over the course of one year (Nov. 2010 to Nov. 2011).
There are two lessons for web developers in this report. First, globally, mobile is not the future of the web — it’s the now of the web. And second, hiding content on the mobile version of a website means a significant number of users will never see that content at all since they only access sites via a mobile device. Consider your hidden-from-mobile content non-existent content.
Naturally every website’s audience and needs are different. If your site is U.S.-centric then Opera’s report may have very little bearing on your users, but for those who’d like to expand to, or are already serving a global market, clearly making sure your site works well on mobile devices is key.
It’s one thing to know that building sites that only support the -webkit browser prefix is bad form, it’s another thing to realize it may be costing you money.
Not only are Opera Mobile and Mini the most widely used mobile browsers worldwide — which means not supporting them excludes the majority of mobile users from your site — according to Opera’s white paper, 55 percent of Opera users make purchases on their mobile devices. Only 43 percent of people without Opera installed do the same. In other words, websites that don’t support Opera on mobile may well be losing money.
Unfortunately, Opera is going forward with its plan to support -webkit, so possibly WebKit-only websites may work in Opera Mobile at some point in the future. But if you want to support Opera (and other browsers) today be sure to use all the various browser prefixes when writing your CSS. You can even take advantage of automated prefixing solutions to do all the hard work for you.
For more info on Opera’s data be sure to check out the actual white paper (.pdf) which also provides some more country-by-country data for those interested in what mobile trends look like in specific parts of the world.