This year could prove to be a seminal one in Web browser development, as the browser wars heat up once again.
The Mozilla Foundation will release Firefox 2.0 within the next few months. And, by the end of the year, Microsoft is expected to release Internet Explorer 7, arguably the first real upgrade to the companys browser in several years.
But the first major shots in this round of browser battles are being fired not by these vendors but by one that tends to get overlooked in the market—namely, Opera Software.
With the release of Opera 9 on June 20, the Opera browser has once again claimed its well-deserved spot as the most innovative Web browser available.
From tabbed browsing to integrated security controls to intuitive keyboard and mouse controls, nearly every "new" feature found in todays Web browsers was first introduced in Opera. And, if history is any guide, many of the features in this latest version of Opera—such as widgets, seamless content blocking and excellent search engine integration—will probably make their way into competitors products in a year or two.
For many years, the Opera browser was hurt by the fact it cost actual money in a world where most browsers are available for free. The change to a model in which a free version of Opera was made available—but encumbered by advertising—didnt help much, either.
But now Opera is completely free to use. And if browsers were chosen strictly on quality, Opera would be among the market leaders. Operas market share is well behind Firefox, never mind Internet Explorer, but maybe if more people try the free Opera 9 (available at www.opera.com) that will change.
Read my full review of Opera 9 here.
Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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