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Opera 9.5 Takes Aim at Browser Market Share

In the four-ring circus that is the current browser market, each of the major vendors is doing their best to amaze users with new features and new releases. Today it's Norway-based Opera Software's turn under the big top with its latest browser release, Opera 9.5.

The Opera 9.5 release, which comes two years after its 9.0 predecessor, has a new look and adds security, search and synchronization features, which are freely available to Windows, Mac and Linux users. The latest release comes as Mozilla gears up for its Firefox 3 release next week, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 is looming on the horizon.

So what sets Opera apart?

"Beyond it being a choice of personal preference, it's a choice of labor, security and even of support," Michelle Valdivia Lien, communications manager at Opera, told InternetNews.com.

According to Lien, Opera features built-in tools that increase speed and productivity while browsing. She added that the new version offers in built-in security and is part of the company's commitment to open standards and Web accessibility.

In terms of features, Opera 9.5 isn't too skimpy either. The new Opera Link synchronization enables users to synchronize their browser data, including bookmarks and notes across both desktop and mobile browsers.

In addition to Opera 9.5 for the desktop, Opera also a mini version for mobile devices. Opera also powers the browser for the Nintendo Wii gaming console.

"Opera for Wii is a separate browser," Lien explained. "But the technology, for example the zooming feature, is the same in both products. Our Opera for Wii users benefit from our tested-and-tried desktop flagship product."

Opera 9.5 also include a new Quick Find feature that lets users type any word in their address bar to get possible site matches based on a user's browser history.

Lien explained how a user searching for a vacation package could find information without remembering a site visited the week before. "Instead of opening your history and scrolling through, you can type a word you remember, and it will list all the sites that you have visited with that term featured," she said. "It actually shows you the relevant content or surrounding text as well as the URL."

Firefox 3 will offer a similar capability when released next week, in a feature that developers have dubbed the "awesome bar."

On the security front, Opera 9.5 includes antifraud protection against both phishing and malware.

While Opera may trail Mozilla, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in the number of users, that's not to say that Opera doesn't have a lot of users. Lien noted that Opera has on average 20 million to 25 million active users each month.

In contrast, Mozilla claims Firefox has approximately 170 million active users.

[cob:Special_Report]"We have more than doubled the amount of users since 9.0, and we expect our numbers to continue to climb as we innovate and improve the browsing experience," Lien commented.

To continue to grow its user base, Opera has a few barriers to overcome. "The biggest barrier continues to be that IE comes pre-installed on the operating system with the highest volume for desktop," Lien commented.

"But with millions of people choosing better browsers for their needs and with the Web itself growing and becoming more relevant in all types of devices, the barriers are bending and allowing Opera to empower and mobilize the Web and its users," she said.