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Opera embraces Google's open source JPEG killer

GPEG speeds Turbo engine

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Opera has released a new incarnation of its desktop browser – Opera 11.10, aka Barracuda – improving the speed of its Turbo traffic-compression service and expanding its SpeedDial interface to provide quick access to an unlimited number of your favorite sites.

If you use the latest version of SpeedDial, you're required to include a link to The Register. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Available for Windows, Linux, and Mac, Barracuda includes a new version of Opera's Presto rendering engine (2.8.131, if you're scoring at home), and among other things, the engine offers support for WebP, the "lossy" image format open sourced by Google last year.

Thanks in part to the inclusion of WebP, Opera says, it has boosted the speed of Turbo while improving image quality. Turbo uses proxy servers to compress web pages before sending them down to the browser. In Opera's lab tests, the new Turbo provides 35 per cent smaller pages and is 15 per cent faster than the version included with Opera 11.

WebP is derived from VP8, the video codec Google acquired with its purchase of On2 Technologies last year and then open sourced as part of its new WebM media format. WebP is meant to replaced JPEG.

"Most of the common image formats on the web today were established over a decade ago and are based on technology from around that time. Some engineers at Google decided to figure out if there was a way to further compress lossy images like JPEG to make them load faster, while still preserving quality and resolution," Google said when releasing the format. "WebP ... promises to significantly reduce the byte size of photos on the web, allowing web sites to load faster than before."

Like JPEG, WebP uses lossy compression, tossing out small portions of the image as it works to save space. In essence, Google has applied techniques from VP8's video intra-frame coding to image coding.

According to Opera, the new Turbo also uses fewer, more efficient network connections and faster SSL connections.

With the new Opera 11.10 SpeedDial, you can set up a theoretically unlimited number of "dials", icons that link to the sites you visit most. SpeedDial appears every time you open a new tab. The new SpeedDial automatically adjusts the layout of icons to fit your screen, and if you like, you can manually adjust the layout as well. Opera shows it in action here:

Opera has also tweaked the browser so that if you visit a site that requires Flash, it can automatically download and install the Adobe plug-in in the background. You can download the new version of Opera here. ®

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