Opera 12.1 beta brings SPDY, Retina support

With its next browser version, the Norwegian company emphasizes performance along with better support for high-resolution Macs and touch-screen Windows machines.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise processors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science Credentials
  • I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
Stephen Shankland
3 min read
Chrome has carved a niche in the browser market but hasn't squeezed Opera off the charts. Yandex.Browser is the next new contender.
Chrome has carved a niche in the browser market but hasn't squeezed Opera off the charts. Yandex.Browser is the next new contender. Data by Net Applications;chart by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Norwegian browser maker Opera Software has released its 12.10 beta version, designed for faster Web communications by supporting technologies including Google's SPDY and the Web Socket standard.

The new browser version, which had been known in earlier testing as version 12.50, adds some clout to Google's SPDY effort to make Web pages load faster. That effort got started with Chrome and arrived next in Mozilla's Firefox. SPDY is a variation on the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and its features are under consideration for a new version of the HTTP standard.

"Opera has always been about speed, so the new release incorporates the new SPDY protocol, which makes Web pages load faster on SPDY-enabled sites such as Twitter, Gmail, WordPress and (soon) Facebook," said Opera Web evangelist Bruce Lawson in a blog post today.

Web Socket is another communication technology, but it's designed for fast links between Web browsers and Web servers. Microsoft had raised security concerns, delaying Web Socket's arrival, but it's now spreading across browsers. "Now that security concerns with the Web Sockets spec are addressed, we've turned on this functionality by default in Opera 12.10 beta," Lawson said.

Also in the new beta is integration with Apple's OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and Microsoft's Windows.

On Macs, Opera 12.10 supports Apple's Retina displays, notification system, and services for sharing information on social networks. Safari and Chrome have Retina support, and Mozilla is adding it.

On Windows 7 and 8, Opera 12.10 supports the pinch-to-zoom gesture and inertial scrolling, in which Web page content will appear to continue to move with its own momentum.

The moves are essential to keep Opera relevant in what's become a fiercely competitive browser market. Opera has clung to its 1.6 percent of usage on personal computers, according to Net Applications' statistics, but it's lost out in the mobile market more significantly with the rise of Apple and Google browsers.

As Google proved that the right product can carve a niche in the browser market, other competitors are jumping in, too. Yahoo launched its Axis browser for iOS earlier this year, for example. And now Russian search and portal site Yandex is trying as well with Yandex.Browser.

This browser is based on Chromium, the open-source foundation of Google's Chrome, but also draws on Opera's Turbo feature. That can speed Web performance in areas with slow or spotty networks by using Opera servers to boil down pages into smaller versions.

Yandex points to the combination search and address bar, a feature that Chrome brought to the mainstream. It's a natural feature for any search engine to like: browsers can drive a significant amount of search traffic. And when that traffic comes directly from a company's own browser, it doesn't have to share resulting ad revenue with another Web site or software maker that was responsible for the traffic.

Opera Software logo

Also supported in Opera 12.10:

• The page visibility interface, which lets Web pages that aren't visible on the screen go into a power-saving idle state.

ICC v4 color profiles, which can make photos look better.

• CSS styling effects -- transitions, transforms, gradients, and animations -- invoked by Web programmers without using a prefix. Prefixes take the form of such -o for Opera and -webkit for browsers like Chrome and Safari based on the WebKit browser engine, and the prefixes let programmers use features that may not be standard. Those CSS features now are, though, so browser makers are letting programmers use the simpler unprefixed versions.

• Webkit prefix support for some CSS effects. This controversial step is geared to handle Web pages coded as if the CSS feature is available only for WebKit browsers.