Opera releases first test version of new browser

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Norway's Opera Software released on Wednesday the first test version of Opera 10, the newest version of its browser, promising faster downloads, new design and new features.

Opera is the world's third-largest browser maker, but is far behind Microsoft and Mozilla Foundation.

Competition in the browser market has escalated lately after Google launched its own Internet browser, Chrome, in 2008.

Your Web browser is the most important piece of software you will ever use, Opera's Chief Executive Jon von Tetzchner said in a statement. We think Opera 10 will redefine how you can enjoy the Web.

Opera said the new browser is more than 40 percent faster than its previous browser on resource-intensive pages such as Gmail and Facebook, and adds features like full thumbnails of all open tabs.

Companies usually release several successive test versions of their browsers so they can incorporate user feedback in a series of improvements before their final launch.

Microsoft launched its latest IE8 browser in March after a year of public beta testing.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer is used for about 60 percent of global Internet traffic, Mozilla's Firefox has about 30 percent, and Opera is at 4 percent, just ahead of Google and Apple, according to Web analytics firm StatCounter.

Opera, Mozilla and Google have protested Microsoft's dominance in the browser market to the European authorities.

Microsoft has run afoul of U.S. and European antitrust regulators for bundling its browser with its operating system, which competitors say is an attempt to drive them out of the market.

In January, European regulators brought formal charges against Microsoft for abusing its dominant market position by bundling its Internet Explorer Web browser with its Windows operating system, which is used in 95 percent of the world's personal computers.

Opera has a small share of the desktop browser market, but its mobile browser is the most widely used browser on handsets.

(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Gary Hill)

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