It’s been a dramatic year for browser maker Opera.
After hitting 300 million users in February, the Norwegian company announced that it would be dumping its Presto browsing engine for WebKit — specifically, Google’s Chromium WebKit variant. A few months later, Google announced Blink, a WebKit fork that would give it more control over the development of Chromium — and Opera followed along.
So now we have Opera 15, a Chromium- and Blink-powered browser that’s radically different than Opera’s past entries, which is now available for download on Windows and Mac.
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Opera aficionados will recognize the new browser’s design and features from Opera Next, which served as a sort of beta test for the company’s new direction. Now Opera resembles most other modern browsers: It sports a clean design, you can search from the address bar, and it offers some innovative ways to keep track of interesting sites.
Opera 15 also includes an “Off-Road mode,” which compresses webpage data for when you’re on spotty connections (a feature that likely takes advantage of the company’s $155 million purchase of Skyfire). That’s reminiscent of Opera’s mobile browsers, which route traffic through the company’s servers for faster performance.
The company ended up cutting more than 90 jobs to make the transition to Chromium, but it could be worth it. Opera has struggled for years to remain relevant in the browsing world, but at this point it simply doesn’t make sense for it to develop its own browsing engine.
In my brief time testing the web browser, I found that it works … like a web browser. It feels faster than any of Opera’s previous releases, and info-hoarders will likely appreciate its capability to take snapshots of websites. For the most part, though, it’s a good move for the Opera faithful, who’ve stuck with the company even when faster competitors appeared.