Opera is Reborn! No, literally, the new version of Opera is called Reborn.
The Norwegian browser maker, which was acquired by a Chinese tech company in 2016, has decided that Opera Reborn should focus on an intriguing new feature: the ability to pin Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram messaging apps to the left side of the browser. So, instead of tabbing to another browser window to respond to a friend or colleague, the chat window is right there in front of you. There are keyboard shortcuts to switch between multiple chat apps, too.
Opera Reborn has received a rather attractive new lick of paint, with refined tabs and a slightly more lively sidebar. The new tab page wallpaper can be changed to a variety of pretty images—though it doesn’t automatically cycle like Bing or the Windows 10 lock screen, alas. About 15Technica readers will be very excited to learn that Opera Reborn comes with a “dark theme,” too.
Opera’s new features from last year—built-in ad blocking and VPN functionality—have also made it over to Reborn. Ancommenter notes that Opera’s VPN is more like an HTTP proxy than a true VPN with packet-level redirection, meaning it’ll work for some things (like bypassing geoblocks) but it won’t necessarily improve your security or privacy.
Curiously, if you turn on Opera’s ad blocker, four sites are automatically whitelisted: Facebook, Google, Yandex, and Baidu. The last three are all search engines, which might be a coincidence—or it could be related to the fact that Opera generates a lot of its revenue from having a search engine box on the new tab page. As for why Facebook is whitelisted… well, we’ve asked Opera and will update this story if we get a response.
An Opera spokesperson toldthat “none of these sites have paid to appear in Opera’s exception list. We picked out these sites because they offer a good experience to users with ads on.” The same spokesperson also confirmed that it generates revenue from a Google or Yandex search box on the new tab page.
Other than that, Blink (a fork of WebKit used by Chrome) still powers things under the hood. On Windows at least, Opera Reborn will apparently “send more videos to the GPU for decoding,” improving performance and battery life. There are also some inline warnings if you start typing sensitive details on a page that isn’t secured with HTTPS.
All in all, Opera Reborn sounds like a decent update, and I think pinned chat apps might be enough to pull a few users away from Firefox and Chrome.
Vivaldi, which was created by Opera’s co-founder and former CEO, continues along its own path, focusing on privacy, security, and interesting enhancements to tabbed browsing. Vivaldi hit version 1.9 last week and now lets you “plant trees as you surf.”