Norway's Opera Software is targeting eastern European and Asian markets with release 6.0 of the Linux Opera browser, unveiled on Wednesday.
The new version is the first to support the Unicode Worldwide Character Set, which increases support for non-Roman characters, a development particularly important for Asian languages. Unicode will also make it possible to localise the browser for eastern European countries.
"We've especially seen that Asia is embracing Linux, and with our local partners we aim to deliver the best Linux Internet experience for Asian users," said Dean Kakridas, Opera's vice president of desktop products.
Localised versions of Opera for Japan and China will come soon, the company said.
Opera, along with the open-source Mozilla project and its proprietary companion software Netscape Communicator, have recently been turning up the heat on competition with the dominant Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. Both Mozilla and Opera are distributed for the Linux operating system, as well as Macintosh and Windows, while Internet Explorer leaves Linux off the map.
Mozilla, the result of collaboration by developers from around the Internet, is expected to reach a milestone 1.0 release shortly, and its technology could be distributed by Netscape parent AOL Time Warner with AOL's software.
Opera requires users to either pay a registration fee or put up with advertisements built into the browser window. However, it is considered fast and stable, and is available on mobile platforms like Symbian OS as well as on the desktop.
Opera's Windows, Macintosh and Linux versions are not exactly alike, and the new Opera for Linux version includes some features previously only found in the Windows edition, such as the ability to carry out particular functions with a single mouse click. This feature is known as "mouse gestures", and most of the Windows mouse gestures have been ported, along with some new ones, Opera said.
The software includes a new cookie editor, better bookmark management and plugin support, and an improved user interface, among other changes, Opera said.
It is available for free download from Opera's Web site. Registration costs $39, but registered users of the previous release can upgrade for free.
Opera 5.0 had more than one million copies downloaded and installed, Opera said.