Secure password synchronization, Speed Dial extensions, and an easier way to get Opera's developer's builds graduated from alpha to beta today, as the Norwegian browser maker upgraded its latest alpha to beta status. Opera 11.50 beta 1 (download for Windows, Mac, and Linux) adds the long-missing password syncing to Opera's syncing component, Opera Link, along another long-missing feature: the ability to customize the new tab landing page layout known as Speed Dial with extensions.
Opera revealed in a blog post at the beginning of May a simplified take on how the password security works. Basically, Opera generates a long, random encryption key the first time you send your passwords to Opera Link. On the user side, this key then gets used to encrypt all the data sent to the Opera Link servers. The key is also sent to the servers, with a twist: it's encrypted with your Opera Account password. So, by tying the Account password to the encryption key, Opera is essentially setting up a two-step verification process.
Opera recommends to existing Opera Link users that they change their Opera Account passwords once they begin using the new feature to ensure that it's a strong password.
The Opera 11.50 beta itself represents a stabilization of the improvements that debuted in Opera 11.50 alpha about a month ago. Another debut at the same time as the alpha gave users the ability to stay on top of cutting-edge Opera changes with Opera's version of a developer's build, called Opera Next. These three changes will place Opera on a similar feature level as Firefox 4 and slightly ahead of Chrome 11, assuming that the password synchronization makes it to Opera's mobile versions.
You can test the Speed Dial extensions with one that Opera wrote, which puts real-time weather data in one of the dial windows.
Opera 11.50 does more than introduce new features. It also expands support for the still-in-development HTML5 standards, including datalist, session history, navigation, classlist, and the element. The full Opera 11.50 beta changelog can be read here.