On Tuesday, Opera Software hit a new milestone with the final release of Opera browser for Windows and Mac. Highlights of this release include a complete migration over to the Chromium engine, as well as some new tools for improved content discovery.
Opera's move to WebKit and later embracing Chromium signals a new, much more competitive push by the Scandinavian browser-maker to keep up with speedier demands, yet still maintaining some of the classic signature features of previous versions.
All under the hood improvements aside, Opera has been branding itself as more of a discovery engine, rather than just another Internet browser. According to Opera Software CEO, Lars Boilesen, "The world of fascinating Web content is expanding faster than space, and we've delivered a browser that helps you to truly discover it."
Indeed, when you open the browser, you'll find a new Discover tab sitting on the welcome page. Opera will curate various news articles around the world. The left drop-down will list various topics and categories tailored around your interests. The right drop-down menu lets you discover content from around the world in various languages. The Discover feature may sound a bit like fancy branding at first for a news aggregator, but it's well executed and appropriate for Opera's trajectory of being more than just a Web browser.
Off-Road mode also makes its way into the desktop browser, which strips extraneous content from Web pages to give you just the bare-bone parts of a site, while reducing data and memory consumption. Though this probably makes more sense for mobile users, I'd imagine this is one of many features that'll be incorporated as Opera starts to roll out user account syncing.
After a few days of use, we are already really impressed with its offerings. Speed Dial and Stash are both very fluid, well-executed takes on bookmarking. Using Speed Dial is similar to organizing apps on a touchscreen, so it's no coincidence that Opera has designed this browser to be touch friendly with large containers. You can reorder and reorganize your saved pages or drag them into another to create a folder.
Stash is another take on saving pages and reading them later, but functions more like Pocket in that it's meant for pages to be read later. Again, these are features that can be achieved via extensions and Web apps, but having them conveniently built into the browser and working natively brings its own advantages. And this makes sense: earlier in the year, Opera released its mobile version to complement the desktop browser and maintain a consistent user experience much more seamlessly across devices than it has ever really done before.
Opera has maintained a consistent but small fraction of the browser market, with a noteworthy hold on the mobile market with Opera Mini on lower-end devices. Version 15 reflects a refocused initiative on performance, design, and surprisingly--content curation. It's still a long, uphill battle when facing heavyweight titans like IE, Firefox, and Chrome, but if users are looking to embrace an alternative take without sacrificing performance, then we highly recommend taking Opera out for a spin.