Opera 10.5 Debuts as Google Chrome Share Grows

New browser includes faster JavaScript and private mode, but rivals aren't standing still.

Opera Software today released version 10.5 of its namesake Web browser for Windows, with a new JavaScript engine as well as a new graphics library intended to make browsing faster than its competition. But it's got a lot of catching up to do before it can rival its competitors' market share -- a feat that's looking more difficult to pull off considering that Google Chrome continues its month-to-month gains.

At the heart of the new Opera 10.5 is the Carakan JavaScript engine, which has been in development for over a year. The first public alphas of Opera 10.5 including Carakan debuted at the end of 2009.

Thanks to Carakan and the new Vega graphics library, Opera is now claiming that its browser is the fastest.

"Opera 10.50 is the fastest browser in almost all speed tests," Opera CEO Lars Boilesen said in a statement. "But more important than any speed test is the real-world speed during use."

The race to have the fastest JavaScript engine is one that has consumed most of the major browser vendors over the last several years.

Apple's JavaScript engine is called Nitro, and made its debut last year in Safari 4, which Apple claimed at the time was the world's fastest browser.

Google has been pushing its V8 JavaScript engine for its Chrome Web browser while Mozilla has been making JavaScript claims of its own thanks to its TraceMonkey JavaScript engine in Firefox.

This week, Mozilla developers began experimenting with a new JavaScript acceleration technology called JaegerMonkey to further boost JavaScript performance on Firefox Web browsers.

In addition to the new speed improvements in Opera 10.5, the new Opera browser is now catching up to other major browser with the inclusion of a private mode for browsing. Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Firefox all already have some kind of private mode for browsing, which is intended to prevent history and cookie information from being stored during a browsing session.

As opposed to the other browser vendors, which provide their respective private modes in a separate browser window, Opera is enabling users to have a private tab for their private sessions.

Google Chrome browser share grows

The efforts come as Opera is still playing catch-up to its competitors in terms of market share.

The latest stats from Net Applications places Opera in fifth place for the month of February, with a 2.35 percent market share -- down slightly from the 2.38 percent Net Applications attributed to it in January.

Meanwhile, Internet Explorer weighed in at 61.58 percent in February, followed by Firefox at 24.23 percent and Apple Safari at 4.45 percent. Like Opera, IE, Firefox and Safari all lost share from January to February as well.

In contrast, Google's Chrome is gaining share with 5.61 percent in February -- an improvement over the 5.22 percent Net Applications reported for January.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: Firefox, IE, Chrome, Opera, Safari

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