When you browse the web, it’s possible to give a huge amount of information away to strangers. The sites we visit, the things we buy, the people we interact with, and the search queries we submit – all of them can be tracked, recorded, and sold for profit. And that’s not cool.

Insecure web browsing doesn’t just hand over valuable data for free. It also exposes us to cybercriminals, curious local users, and potentially official agencies. So what can we do?

Well, one first step is to use secure web browsers. Secure browsers can lock down your local data, erasing your history and password information when you log off. And they can usually encrypt the data you transmit – making you invisible to external observers.

Chrome, Firefox, Edge – all of them have security features. But what about Opera? A popular browser on a range of platforms, could it be the secure option you’ve been seeking? Let’s dig deeper and find out more in this Opera review.

What is Opera?

What is Opera?

First off, not everyone will be acquainted with what Opera is, and where it stands in relation to more popular alternatives like Chrome. Actually, it’s one of the oldest browsers of all, having been born way back in 1994 in Norway.

In 1996, the first Opera browser for Windows appeared, and versions multiplied around the turn of the millennium (even extending to Nintendo DS editions). All the while, the core browser remained free to use but has long been ad-supported as a result.

Into the 2010s, the browser changed dramatically, incorporating aspects of Google’s Chromium platform, and generally starting to resemble the search engine’s offering more closely.

More importantly from a privacy standpoint, the company behind the browser was purchased by a Chinese group in 2016. This might alarm some people, as China isn’t exactly known as a bastion of digital security.

But is this the case? We’ll find out when we check out the privacy features that Opera’s latest versions bring to the table.

How to use Opera

How to use OperaOpera is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and in a “portable” version designed to be stored on a USB stick. And a slightly different version is available for Android and iOS phones, while there’s even a “basic” version for older, less advanced smartphones. That’s a nice touch, and characteristic of the creative thinking behind the browser.

Using all of the versions should be fairly straightforward. They are available on the Opera homepage, and they’ll simply auto-install onto your chosen system.

When you’re up and running, plenty of features contribute to ease-of-use, including:

  • Swift load times, usually beating the performance of Chrome or Firefox.
  • An unusual sidebar setup where you can pin frequently visited websites as well as different settings, giving you flexibility about things like privacy and caches.
  • Like Chrome, but unlike Firefox, the address and search bars are combined, saving space and making it easier to find what you need.
  • The browser is fully compatible with voice commands, adding another dimension to web browsing.
  • Synching is available across versions of the browser on computers and tablets so that you can send over links and documents easily.
  • Icons can be pinned to toolbars in the browser, giving one-click access to external apps like email clients.

And remember, the basic Opera setup is modeled on Google Chrome. So if you’re familiar with Google’s browser, getting up and running won’t be a problem.

Opera browser for Mac

Why use a VPN for Mac

Some browsers offer a stripped-down version for Mac users, but that’s not the case here. In fact, this browser could be the ideal option for OS X users, for a couple of good reasons.

Firstly, it’s more memory-efficient than Chrome or Firefox. So your Mac battery should last longer. Secondly, Opera on Mac tends to be faster than the competition (even Safari). And the pinned tabs and favorite icons we talked about earlier add to the user experience in ways that Safari doesn’t. So it’s worth giving the Mac version a try.

Opera browser for Android and iOS

Opera has quite a few versions for mobile browsing, each built with a different goal in mind.

Opera Mini

Opera MiniThis mobile browser is built with the core goal of saving as much mobile data as possible. It works not only with iOS and Android but also older and basic phones. Opera claims that this browser can help save up to 90% of mobile data. It also comes with an ad-blocker, QR code reader, and unbeatable speed in case of a slow connection.

Opera Touch

Opera TouchAndroid and iOS users have a special version of the browser called Touch. Introduced in 2018, Opera Touch is being marketed as a fast web search browser that can be used with only one hand, and it definitely departs from the core Chromium-style model.

The one-handed mode allows quick browsing when you are out and about. Speed Dial provides rapid access to the sites you visit most often, and there are a solid ad-blocker and a special “cryptojacking” defender as well.

Opera browser for Android

Starting with the version 51, this Opera browser comes with a built-in proxy named “VPN,” just like the desktop version. It’s also free and easy-to-use.

Opera browser for Android has an ad-blocker, personalized news feed, syncing with desktop Opera, and speech-to-text input support.

Is Opera browser safe?

What about security though? If Opera fails here, we can write it off for good. But that’s not the case. On the contrary, the browser has some great security features:

  • Private browsing – As you’d expect from a Chrome clone, users can hide their local activity via a form of Incognito mode. This erases history, cache data, and cookies for good.
  • Password manager add-ons – If you want to add extra protection for passwords, good add-ons like Bitwarden integrate seamlessly with the browser.
  • Security badges – When you visit sites, the security badge icon lets you know straight away whether it uses HTTPS and other forms of certification.
  • Google safe browsing – Opera takes advantage of the Google connection to mine a vast database of known attack sites, helping to guard against phishing.
  • Crypto-wallet – Android users can also connect their cryptocurrency reserves with the browser, giving them the opportunity to make virtually anonymous mobile payments.
  • Free VPN – at first offered as a standalone service, Opera VPN is now a proxy in the form of an extension that doesn’t work with other browsers. The first mobile version was launched in March 2019 for Android, but it remains to be seen if it’ll be successful enough to make the iOS version as well.

As for the Opera Privacy Policy, this is a pretty tight document as far as browser privacy goes. For instance, it’s nice to read a policy which starts with the statement “As a general rule, users of our software applications and services are anonymous to us, and we have no feasible ways to identify you.”

There are some data collection procedures, but these are anonymized as much as possible. Mobile versions may also use localization techniques to extract data if users provide permission.

Opera includes a long list of third parties who use the browser and its apps to collect data

However, there’s one big issue to think about. Opera includes a long list of third parties who use the browser and its apps to collect data. It’s good to see this level of transparency, but it’s not encouraging to see names like Facebook, “Yandex Mobile Ads,” and Google Analytics.

What are the most common Opera browser issues?

What are the most common Opera browser issues?

Opera is generally seen as a reliable app, with relatively few major operational problems. Having said that, errors can arise, and here are some to be aware of:

  1. Opera won’t open

Sometimes the browser simply freezes and refuses to play ball in any way. That’s something all browsers do from time to time. Thankfully, the solution is generally easy. Just reinstall your browser and choose the option NOT to remove your personal files. That way, your passwords and bookmarks will be retained.

  1. Excessive memory usage causes poor performance

This doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, the causes can generally be traced to your cache. Try erasing the cache and seeing how performance changes.

  1. Can’t access Gmail

This is a common issue for Opera users, and a really frustrating one. It’s also not hard to fix. The culprit tends to lie with your cookie settings, and by turning off “Block third-party cookies,” the problem can usually be solved.

Opera vs Google Chrome

Opera vs Google Chrome

Finally, we need to know how the browser stacks up against the competition (in this case Google Chrome and Firefox). So let’s do that to round things off:

Opera

  • Owning company: Golden Brick Capital Private Equity Fund I Limited Partnership
  • Launched in: April 1995
  • Security features: Private browsing, VPN compatible, free Opera VPN, password manager, crypto wallet, security badges, phishing protection, ad-blocker
  • Private browsing available: Yes
  • Custom extensions available: Yes
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android, portable USB, basic phones
  • OpenSource: No
  • CloudSync: Yes

Google Chrome

  • Owning company: Alphabet
  • Launched in: September 2008
  • Security features: Private browsing, VPN compatible, sandboxing, security badges, phishing protection via Google API, ad-blocker
  • Private browsing available: Yes
  • Custom extensions available: Yes
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android
  • OpenSource: No
  • CloudSync: Yes

Opera vs Mozilla Firefox

Opera vs Mozilla Firefox

Opera

  • Owning company: Golden Brick Capital Private Equity Fund I Limited Partnership
  • Launched in: April 1995
  • Security features: Private browsing, VPN compatible, free Opera VPN, password manager, crypto wallet, security badges, phishing protection, ad-blocker
  • Private browsing available: Yes
  • Custom extensions available: Yes
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android, portable USB, basic phones
  • OpenSource: No
  • CloudSync: Yes

Mozilla Firefox

  • Owning company: Mozilla Foundation (Non-profit)
  • Launched in: Sept 2002
  • Security features: TLS encryption and HTTPS Everywhere, “bug bounty” to detect flaws, private browsing, Do Not Track feature, malware and phishing protection, can install VPN add-ons
  • Private browsing available: Yes
  • Custom extensions available: Yes
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android
  • OpenSource: Yes
  • CloudSync: No

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