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Opera 9.0 Enters Beta

Among Opera's new features are "widgets," small Web-based applications similar in function to the same-named applets in Mac OS X and to Yahoo's Widget Engine.

Norwegian browser maker Opera Software on Thursday unveiled the first public beta of its namesake, Opera 9.0.

The 3.7MB beta, which can be downloaded from the Oslo-based company's Web site, follows a rougher technical preview that debuted in October 2005.

Among Opera 9.0's new features are "widgets," small Web-based applications similar in function to the same-named applets in Mac OS X and to Yahoo's Widget Engine. Windows Vista, Microsoft's next-generation operating system, will also include widget-like capabilities.

The browser also boasts support for BitTorrent, an advertisement- and image-blocker, search engine customization, and thumbnail previews of pages open in the tabbed interface.

"Opera 9 unlocks new levels of productivity for the Internet ecosystem," boasted chief executive Jon von Tetzchner, in a statement.

Although Opera was once the dominant alternative to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, it's been supplanted by Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox. Even after Opera went from ad-supported to a free download last year, it remained a small player.

The most recent numbers from Web metrics vendor NetApplications, for instance, pegged Opera as accounting for just 0.54 percent of all browsers. Firefox, meanwhile, owns 10.05 percent, second to the overwhelming favorite Internet Explorer, which has an 84.7 percent share.

The Opera 9.0 beta is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris, and FreeBSD.

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