Opera 9 Released -- Opera Software has released Opera 9, the latest version of its traditionally quirky Web browser. In a world where browsers are included with the operating system (Internet Explorer under Windows, and Safari on Mac OS X) or available for free (the open-source Firefox), you might think it's crazy for a third-party company to develop a competing Web browser. However, Opera has managed to make inroads on all platforms, from Windows to Mac OS X to cellular phones. The release of Opera 9 also shows that you need to innovate to survive.
For example, this version adds built-in support for file sharing using BitTorrent (a peer-to-peer technology for more efficiently sending very large files over the Internet); a content blocker that enables you to choose which types of items are blocked from viewing (such as ads); the capability to add search engines to the search field; and a new widgets feature that can run small Dashboard-like programs within Opera (although not as exciting under Mac OS X 10.4, this feature is seen more as a preemptive strike under Windows against the similar widget functionality of the upcoming Windows Vista operating system). Lastly, taking a cue from OmniWeb, Opera 9 can display a thumbnail preview of an open Web page by hovering the mouse pointer over the page's tab. Opera 9 is free, with the option of paying $30 for a one-year Premium Support service. It's a 13.1 MB download. [JLC]