opera-logoOpera Software just released the final version of Opera 10, the latest revamp of its pioneering-but-not-terribly-popular web browser.

Could this be the breakthrough Opera needs to reach a big audience in the United States?  Opera is doing all right financially, but in the US, it accounts for only 1.18 percent of the browser market, according to the W3Counter. (Opera is used by a slightly higher percentage of VentureBeat visitors, but not much higher.) The company will need to make a big splash, or strike some big deals with computer makers, if it wants to grow much beyond that. I’m not sure there’s anything earth-shattering enough about Opera 10 to do that.

Still, Opera has also as led the way for other web browsers with some features — it was one of the first to adopt tabbed browsing, and also created the “speed dial” now also available in Chrome and Safari. So even if you don’t plan to download Opera 10 yourself, you may want to check out the company’s list of things you have to try (copied below), if only to see what features may be added to your browser of choice a few years down the road.

  1. Opera Turbo, a new compression technology that solves the pain of slow connections. Whether you are an on-the-go business traveler, you rely on 3G cards in your netbook, or you find yourself stuck on a sluggish Wi-Fi connection Opera Turbo gives you a major browsing boost. If your network speed slows to a crawl, simply enable Opera Turbo to browse the Web at broadband-like speeds. Opera Turbo will automatically detect when network speeds will enable you to benefit. Once you turn it on, Opera Turbo instantly compresses pages, so less data needs to be transferred over a limited connection. Take the Opera Turbo test today. In our laboratory trials, Opera Turbo gives up to eight times faster Web surfing over slow connections than other browsers.
  2. A sleek and beautiful interface. You have never seen an Opera browser that looks like this. For Opera 10 we gave the browser a streamlined and elegant new interface. The world-class design complements Opera’s world-class features that help you get even more out of your Web browsing.
  3. Better tabs, from the original pioneer. Opera continues pioneering new ways to use tabs. In Opera 10, resize your tab bar by pulling down on it or double-clicking the handle, revealing a surprise: Opera now shows you full thumbnails of all your open tabs.

I’ve only had a copy of Opera 10 for a couple of hours, not enough to form any kind of informed opinion. But combine the features list, my limited experience playing with the browser so far, and some of my frustrations with Firefox 3.5’s bugs, and I’m intrigued. So I’m definitely going to continue giving Opera a try.

It’s also worth remembering that the Norwegian company’s hopes aren’t just invested in its PC web browser. It also has mobile browsers including Opera Mini, supposedly the most-downloaded app ever, and is developing Opera Unite, a service that’s supposed to turn your computer into a server.

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