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Free mobile browser adds “social networking”

Nov 29, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Opera Software has released a major upgrade to its free mobile web browser, claimed to be installed on some eight million mobile handsets. Opera Mini 3.0 adds an RSS feed reader, secure connections, and social networking capabilities such as photo sharing, according to the company.

(Click here for larger image of Opera Mini screenshot)

Opera Mini, introduced worldwide early this year, boasts a footprint of just 50-100KB, the company says, and supports J2ME (Java 2 micro edition) MIDP (mobile information device profile) 1.0 and 2.0. The normal Opera Mobile browser, in contrast, has a footprint of 1-2MB. The company claims that Mini offers a full web experience to some 700 million low- and mid-range phone that can run Java apps.

Mini 3.0 adds a number of interesting social networking features. For example, the new version lets users access and interact with community sites such as MySpace, Blogger, Flickr, Facebook, and My Opera. Using the browser, photos taken with the phone's camera can be “instantly published” via email, forum, or blog. Mini also offers secure access to popular web-mail services, including Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail.

Other touted new features in Mini 3.0 include:

  • RSS feed reader
  • Secure banking and shopping transactions
  • Faster, more efficient surfing through “content folding” and data compression

How it works

The Opera Mini browser works through proxy servers that are currently hosted by Opera. The proxies translate web pages into OBML (Opera Binary Markup Language) before sending them to the phone. OBML includes compressed images, and eliminates the need for the Opera Mini client to do error handling — since HTML is not a parsed variant of SGML, much of a normal browser's workload involves handling non-well-formed HTML.

The scheme compresses web pages by up to 80 percent, according to Opera, resulting in both faster browsing and “dramatically reduced” data transfer charges. The proxy servers run a large number of copies of Opera's web browser technology, which process the web pages on behalf of the mobile phones, according to the company.

Opera says this compression enables web pages to be accessed on “even basic phones.” Additionally, Mini employs a technique called “content folding,” to reduce the amount of scrolling required to reach the main content of a site. The technique collapses long menu lists into one expandable button, according to the company.

Testing web pages for Opera Mini compatibility

Opera says it offers a couple of ways for developers to validate their web pages with Mini. To verify that a page conforms to open web standards, display the page in the Opera desktop browser, right-click and select “validate.” A similar validation service is available online, here.

The Opera desktop browser also has a built-in small-screen emulator that uses the company's small screen rendering engine to show how a page will appear on a mobile device's screen.


Opera Mini 3.0 is available as a free download, here.

According to Opera, mobile operators such as T-Mobile and Telefonica have begun to pre-install Opera Mini on selected handsets. Additionally, content providers such as 4INFO and Mobileplay are branding versions of Mini, in order to deliver their own web-based content and services.

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