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Extensions coming to Opera 11

The big news coming out of DevCon at the end of 2010 was that the Opera web browser would be adding support for extensions – software enhancements which are crafted using languages like Javascript and HTML5 that extend the browser’s functionality. These languages are part of an open standard which allows developers to use a consistent framework when developing extensions for the Opera web browser. The added functionality that an extension-enabled browser would give to new Opera users could signal a renaissance for the company whose browser on the desktop usually ranks far below the popular stalwarts of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox in browser popularity.

The first browser to adopt extensions was Firefox from the Mozilla Foundation, and the thousands of extensions already available for Firefox could be ported to Opera rather easily, if press releases are to be believed. Sources have quoted Opera executives as saying that new extensions to Opera could be easily translated over by developers from their Firefox extensions as the Opera team has “tried to make it easy to port extensions from certain browsers.” Extensions have generally been very well received by web users as they allow them to interact with the web in ways that make their experience more personalized to their preferences. For instance, there are many sharing extensions which, when a button is clicked on the browser toolbar, will share the current page with their friends on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The LastPass extension, which currently is compatible for all major browsers, allows users to automatically login to sites, as well as save different profiles when online shopping, including different credit cards or shipping addresses which can be recalled at a click of the button. Extensions also allow one to interact with the web page they’re on in ways which are highly tailored to the web browser’s needs. For instance, someone with vision impairment can use the Firefox Text to Voice extension, which permits a user to select text on a page and click a status bar icon to have the text read aloud to you.

Although Opera is near last on the desktop in terms of popularity, it is the leading browser in the portable phone market. Opera has announced improvements on their mobile version of the Opera browser as well. The Android version of Opera now does the pinch to zoom trick which many will know from users who perform it on their iPhones. Opera Mobile will also take advantage of hardware acceleration, allowing for a more fluid browsing experience on mobile phones.

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