Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Freebie - Another Way To Thumb Your Nose At Internet Explorer

Last week, we took a look at Mozilla Firefox, an up and coming alternative to the internet's least favorite (yet most popular) browser, IE. This week, we'll continue that theme with yet another browser. Yeah, I know. Now you've got two - what could you possibly need a third browser for? Well, they're all free, so what are you complaining about? And they each have their own set of features, so one may appeal to you more than another. So this week's freebie is Opera:

No, not the Italian music sung by fat chicks. This is a free browser alternative to the more mainstream IE and Firefox. Opera has a very small following, even in comparison to Firefox, but it's a devoted group. And thanks to some good marketing and innovation, people are finally starting to recognize the name.

Despite their small market share, Opera has actually been around since 1994, although they didn't have software available to the public until 1996. If you want proof of their longevity, just take a look at the browser's current version number: 9.2. In contrast, IE is only at 7, and Firefox a mere 2. But it wasn't easy for Opera in those early days. Unlike its main rivals of the time, IE and Netscape Navigator, Opera wasn't free - you had to pay for the software. For many, this was a deal breaker.

Some web users wanted more features and a streamlined browsing experience, however, and were willing to shell out for a browser. This kept Opera in the game, and their business model allowed them to innovate. Eventually, they were able to switch to an ad-supported business model (the browser actually contained a permanent banner ad), and this helped increase their market share. It wasn't until recently, though, that the Opera became completely free.

To this day, Opera continues to set itself apart from other browsers with innovations such as "Speed Dial", an interface that allows you to choose from a thumbnail preview of your favorite websites. And that's not all - Opera is also the browser of choice for Nintendo. Wii owners can access the Internet through a custom Opera browser available on the Wii shop channel (free until June 30, 2007), and in Japan, the Opera browser is sold for use on the DS portable system. Opera also makes a browser for web-enabled cell phones and PDAs, making them a one stop browser shop.

If you'd like to give this puppy a try, you can download the browser here. Just about every OS is covered, so you don't have any excuse to pass this one up. And don't worry - no fat chicks will try to jump out of your browser and sing to you, unless you're into that kind of thing.

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