Opera is a free, award-winning web browser, developed by Opera Software. It works in much the same way as other browsers on the market, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome, and includes a number of features that have made it especially popular with security and privacy conscious users.
The web browser is distributed under a freeware license, meaning there is no monetary cost for the user. Originally, the browser operated on a trialware basis, requiring purchase after the expiration of a free trial period, however that practice came to an end in 2000. For several years after that, a free version featured sponsored adverts, which could only be removed by paying. However, all versions of Opera has been entirely free since 2005.
The browser is safe to use and, in fact, includes a number of advanced security and privacy features, including VPN support and phishing and malware protection, which make it safer than many other web browsers.
The browser is supplied with its own built-in ad-blocking technology, meaning no add-ons, plug-ins or additional installations are required. To make use of this feature, users simply need to turn the ad-blocking function on from within the browser's main settings. Exceptions and custom blocking lists can also be managed from the same place.
The 'Turbo' feature uses compression technology to improve browsing speeds. Pages are fed though the Opera severs, which identify pieces of the page that can be compressed, resulting in faster speeds and lower data usage. It is especially useful for those on slow connections, or those who pay depending on the amount of data used.
The browser offers a built-in VPN feature, which stands for Virtual Private Network. It refers to an option where users can connect to the internet via a server operated by the VPN provider. This then creates a private network from a public internet connection, allowing the user to establish a secure, encrypted connection.
Benefits of using a VPN when browsing the internet are numerous, but include hiding the user's IP address, shielding their browsing history from prying eyes, allowing encrypted access to blocked or censored websites and the provision of an added layer of security when utilising public Wi-Fi connections.
Unfortunately, for security reasons, it is not possible to use both features at the same time. The Turbo function feeds data through the Opera servers and, for customer support purposes, some information is then logged and retained for up to six months. Although done in a way that respects user privacy, this impedes upon the absolute privacy provided by the VPN feature, meaning the two options are incompatible with one another.
Aside from the Windows version, the browser is also available on the Android and Mac platforms.
The browser is updated regularly, in order to add new features, increase security and improve performance. Over recent years, there has been an established pattern of eight updates each year.