The biggest change to Opera's browser in 17 years has debuted, with code for Opera Next released today for Windows and Mac.
Opera Software today announced the beta availability of a completely re-engineered version of its browser that rips out the old plumbing in favour of Chromium, the open-source code that's the basis for Google's Chrome, and the WebKit layout engine, used in Apple's Safari and in Chrome*.
Opera Next is using Chromium to provide what Opera Software called a "standards-compliant and high-performance browser."
Opera Software's browser has been around for nearly two decades, and has always enjoyed modest worldwide market share ranging from 1 to 2.5 per cent.
Among the changes in Next 15 is Opera's "Off-Road mode", which now sucks on Google's SPDY application layer protocol to speed up the loading of web pages. SPDY has already been adopted by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for use in the HTTP 2.0 standard. Off-Road, incidentally, is the rebranded Opera Turbo.
Another Googly feature is a combined search and address bar. Other changes include improvements to existing features like Speed Dial and the addition of features to help with activities such as online shopping. A new website comparison gadget has also been tacked on.
Opera announced its plan to embrace Chromium and WebKit instead of its home-brewed Presto rendering engine back in February.
Opera Software's chief technology officer Håkon Wium Lie said in a statement at the time that it made more sense to have the company's engineers working with the open-source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium, rather than developing its own rendering engine further.
Despite the decision to throw in its lot with Google, Opera said on Tuesday it reckoned it was bringing its own "craftsmanship, 17 years of hands-on experience and a passion for the web" to this new version of its browser, adding that it was introducing a lot of improvements and new technologies. ®
* Later versions of Chrome - and of Opera's browser - will contain a forked version of WebKit called Blink.