Opera updates Linux browser

A test version of Opera 7.20 adds improvements for Unix-like platforms - but surveys show Internet Explorer's market dominance remains overwhelming

Opera Software, one of the only serious rivals to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, has brought Linux and Unix users on board with its latest browser test version, hot on the heels of the company's latest Windows test release last week.

Norway-based Opera released the beta, or public test version, of Opera 7.20 for Linux, Solaris and FreeBSD on Tuesday. It is the first release in the 7.x series to be available across all three Unix variants, the last having been 6.12. (Opera 7.11 came out earlier this year for Linux.) The update increases speed and performance, improvement in features related to handheld computers, as well as support for languages that read from right to left, such as Arabic and Hebrew.

Opera's "technological lead is further expanded with today's release," Jon von Tetzchner, the company's chief executive, said in a statement. "The feedback from our testers has been in unison: Opera 7.20 significantly boosts speed and performance."

The Mozilla project, which develops an open-source version of the Netscape browser, released the beta of its version 1.5 software on Wednesday.

For years, Mozilla and Opera have been largely responsible for supporting the population of Web surfers who don't want to use Microsoft's Internet Explorer. But that group remains small. According to OneStat.com, more than 95 percent of Web surfers use Microsoft's browser today.

By contrast, about 1.6 percent of surfers use Mozilla, and just 0.6 percent use Opera, OneStat estimates. Those figures may be somewhat undercounted, since Opera users often set their software to tell Web sites it is actually Internet Explorer in order to avoid configuration problems.

Opera said earlier this month that the most recent generation of its Web browsing software had been downloaded from its site more than 10 million times.

The Mozilla and Opera releases were incremental, without the major advances associated with a new generation of software. According to the project's release notes, the new Mozilla beta release offers better Internet Relay Chat support, a spell-checker for the email software, better XML support, and faster loading and improved standards support.

CNET News.com's John Borland contributed to this report.

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