Opera Adds Built In VPN and Ad Blocking To Web Browser

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | October 28, 2016 - 12:46 AM |
Tagged: editorial, web browser, vpn, Privacy, Opera, Blink

It has been some time since I last looked at Opera, and while I used to be a big fan of the alternative web browser my interest waned around the time that they abandoned their own engine to become (what I felt) yet another Chrome (Webkit) clone. Specifically, it looks like the last version I tested out was 12.10. Well, last month Opera released version 40 with just enough of a twist to pique my interest once again: the inclusion of a free built-in VPN.

Opera 41 Built In VPN.png

I (finally) got around to testing out the new browser today, and it works fairly well. While setting the default to share usage data is not ideal, offering to enable the ad blocker after installation is a good touch. The VPN feature is a bit more tucked away than I would like but still accessible enough from the settings menu. Further, once it is enabled, it is easy to turn it off and on using the icon in the search/address bar.

According to Opera, the built-in VPN (virtual private network) comes courtesy of SurfEasy – a company that Opera acquired last year. SurfEasy uses OpenVPN and 256-bit encryption and also lauds itself on being a no-log VPN (they do not maintain logs tracking users' usage). Opera is not currently imposing any restrictions on the free VPN built into Opera with bandwith and data usage not being capped. Not bad for a free offering! For comparison, I've used the free version of ProXPN on occasion (public Wi-Fi mostly), and while the VPN is for the entire PC (not just the browser like in Opera's case) they heavily throttle the download speeds to entice you to pay (heh).

In a quick test, I got the following results:

  Ping (ms) Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps)
No VPN 13 90.26 12.14
Opera VPN 108 89.72 12.06
ProXPN Basic 38 1.74 11.19

Considering the exit point was much further away (SpeedTest chose a Kansas test server, and it looks like the VPN server may have been in Houston, TX), the performance was not bad. Download and Upload speeds were only slightly slower, but (as expected) the ping was much higher.

Opera offers five locations for its free VPN: Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, and the United States.

Users can enable the VPN by browsing to opera://settings and clicking on Privacy & Security in the left hand list then checking the box next to "Enable VPN."

On another note, the included ad blocker seemed to work well (it apparently has already blocked 86 ads even though I only hit up a couple sites!). My only complaint here is that it does not make it as easy as AdBlock Plus to block/unblock specific elements (or if there is a way it's not intuitive). It is only a minor complaint though, and not really relevant for the majority of users.

I am by no means a browser benchmarker, but it feels fast enough when switching between tabs and loading websites. Fortunately, Michael Muchmore and Max Eddy put Opera through its paces and compiled the benchmark results from several synthetic tests if you are into the nitty-gritty numbers. From their data it appears that Opera is not the fastest, but by no means a slouch. The one test it fell hard on was the Unity WebGL benchmark, though it was not the only browser to do so (Opera, Chrome, and Vivaldi were all close with FireFox and Edge getting the top scores).

Other features of Opera 40 (41 in my case) include a personalized newsfeed that can be fed with any user-supplied RSS feeds, a new battery saver mode, hardware accelerated pop-out videos, Chromecast support, and a number of under the hood performance and memory optimizations (especially with more than 10 tabs open).

I am going to keep it installed and may switch back to using Opera as my daily browser. It looks like it has come a long way since Opera 12 and while it is similar to Chrome under the hood, Opera is doing enough to set itself apart that it may be worth looking into further.

What are your thoughts on Opera 41? 

Source: Opera

Blink and It's Gone: Google Forks WebKit

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | April 6, 2013 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: webkit, Blink, Android, Google Chrome, ChromeOS

There once was a web browser named Konqueror which was quite common in the Linux community. At its core was the KHTML rendering engine, a nice standards-compliant layout package; KHTML was so nice that Apple decided to create WebKit based on it. Since then, WebKit has been the basis of Google Chrome and other applications such as Steam as of a few years ago.

And even though the project maybe never be done, Google stuck a fork in it.

Blink is a new layout engine, based on WebKit, soon to be implemented in Google Chrome. By soon, I mean practically the next release. It stands to reason, too: a forked project by definition starts out looking nearly identical because they both start from the same point. The two projects will be able to evolve in different directions as each begin to differ in needs and desires.

So what does it mean? Firstly, web developers do not need to worry about a new vendor-prefix until at least Google starts to worry about one. According to their above Q&A, they currently seem more interested in reducing prefix support rather than adding new ones. Personally, I expect that at some point they will likely need to add some as standards evolve.

In terms of the future: I feel that multiple rendering engines will only be better for the future of the web. Sure, it can be difficult for web developers to test their products across a variety of devices but that is a drop in the bucket compared to the misery caused when a dominant player gets complacent. A noncompeting player will stop innovating and maybe pull away from open standards.

Then again this pretty much always happens: no-one is satisfied with monopolies. Thankfully the WebKit license made it easy for dissatisfied parties to take action. In turn, WebKit can benefit from many of these developments at their leisure, particularly before their products look too dissimilar.

Source: CNet