Apple iOS Gets New Opera Browser

By default, Apple iOS users on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad use the Apple Safari Web browser. Though Safari is the default choice, it's not the only browser choice.

Opera Software is now out with Opera Mini 6 for all iOS devices, providing an alternative option to Apple users to Safari. Opera Mini 6 is a free download from the Apple AppStore and provides iOS users with a different browser experience than what Safari provides.

"We have made the user experience much smoother in this release," Opera Chief Development Officer Christen Krogh told InternetNews.com. "We are doing a very aggressive server side compression that provides a good user experience."

As opposed to Safari where all the rendering of site content occurs on the browser side, Opera Mini 6 offloads the rendering to Opera's servers. Krogh explained that Opera Mini uses the same browser core as what Opera's desktop users get.

"So what you have on the iOS platform itself is a small render that can communicate and get the fully rendered page from our servers," Krogh said.

Krogh added that Opera Mini 6 is not using the WebKit rendering engine used by Safari, which is another key differentiator. He noted that Opera Mini 6 is using the Opera Presto rendering engine on iOS. As a different rendering engine, Opera Mini 6 can potentially display websites differently that Safari, as the two browsers may have different implementations for all of the various Web standards.

"If a Web site uses proper Web standards it should work in all major Web browsers," Krough said.

That said, Krough noted that sometimes sites can route users to a mobile version of a Web site that potentially could be affected by the server side compression that Opera delivers.

Even though Opera is doing server side activities, Krough commented that his company does not have any immediate plans to provide any kind of Flash service as part of Opera Mini. There is another iOS browser called Skyfire, which routes video requests through Skyfire servers and then sends back HTML5 compliant video to iOS devices.

Opera Mini 6 is the second browser release for iOS from Apple, following Mini 5 in 2010. Krough noted that it's likely that Opera will only have one major release a year for the Mini though he declined to provide a roadmap for what the next release might include or when it might be available.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.