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A new version of Opera, the browser developed in Norway, has been released in beta. Although it still lacks some highly desirable features, like a good email subsysten, it has features not to be found in the big two. The new features include an implementation of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS1 and part of CSS2), closely following the W3C spec. Opera is often used as an independent chek for standard Web page rendering. On the security front, Opera is believed to be the only browser offering 128-bit encryption. In addition, it has the most recent SSL encryption protocols and is claimed to be the only web browser supporting Transport Layer Security encryption, which is expected to replace SSL. Opera says that these levels of security "are considered impossible to hack". Version 3.5 is faster than earlier versions (we found), and still fits on a floppy (it is a mere 1.15MB). On installation by downloading from www.operasoftware.com it does not interfere with the operating system, like other browsers. Opera 3.5 also supports Java applets using the Sun Java Plugin, and the PeopleLink service for instant messaging online. Bugs -- there are a few -- are discussed openly in a forum and fixed. There are versions for 16-bit and 32-bit Windows and OS/2, with Mac, Amiga, Psion, Linux and BeOS versions in the pipeline, in several languages. It is amusing to see Opera refer to "American competitors", yet the earlier versions of Opera have attracted a cult following and been well-reviewed, despite it costing $35 after a month's free trial. A major usergroup is those with older PCs or limited disk space. ®

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