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Opera Welcomes Widgets in Beta 9

Opera Software on Thursday announced the first public Beta of Opera 9. Opera has been testing the free browser software since last October.

The Norwegian software company’s latest version includes widgets, small Web programs that run in their own windows on users’ desktops. The Opera 9 Beta also features support for BitTorrent, a popular file downloading technology, in addition to a content blocker and thumbnail previews of tabbed sites.

“We’re proud to release this Beta of Opera 9 to Web users around the world,” said Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software. “Opera 9 brings powerful new features to enhance the Web browsing experience and empower Web 2.0 developers. Opera 9 unlocks new levels of productivity for the Internet ecosystem.”

New Features

Widgets are a key new feature in Opera 9, and include multimedia Web applications, newsfeeds and games intended to make the desktop experience more fun. Any Web developer can create their own widgets and share them, regardless of operating system.

“Everybody should love widgets. You can get just what you want and nothing else,” JupiterResearch analyst Joe Wilcox told TechNewsWorld. “In some ways, the programming is going back to the old days when software was lean and mean and more modular. Widgets are very small and they serve a specific purpose.”

Opera’s Widget Rendition

Most widgets are informational in nature. There are widgets to collect stock prices, widgets to tell you the local weather and widgets to scan for song lyrics on the Web. Konfabulator was an early widget developer. Yahoo snapped up the company and presented the technology as Yahoo Widgets. Even Microsoft is getting into the widget game.

“Opera is looking at widgets with respect to the browser. Microsoft is taking a similar approach with Live.com with widgets there. Widgets are part of your personalized Web site,” Wilcox noted. “But with respect to browsers, Opera is usually at the front of the line with adding interesting technologies.”

Controversial Waters

Opera is the first to add BitTorrent support. Instead of having to use a separate BitTorrent application for downloading large files, users can now simply click a torrent file and start the download. That could spark controversy from file sharing critics, analysts said, but it could also attract a young demographic to the Opera browser.

“The presumption is that much of BitTorrent’s traffic is from young consumers,” Wilcox remarked. “The rule of thumb is that it’s easier to keep a customer than to acquire one. Everybody wants to catch them while they are young.”

Opera Beta 9 also removes ads or images according to user preferences and offers improved rich text editing, according to the company. Right-clicking on the site’s search field and select “create search” from the menu allows users to customize their search engines. Finally, Opera rounds out its latest version with the ability to hover any tab to see a thumbnail preview.

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