Opera Software has released a major update for its browser with improved aesthetics, features, security and performance. Unlike many previous revisions, Opera 12 doesn't seem to tweak the user interface much, but it does offer a new theme system with over 300 styles already added during the beta process.
Most changes have been made under the hood, including experimental WebGL hardware acceleration (read this to enable it), which uses your GPU to boost the speed of Web content as well as the browser's interface. Opera 12 also claims to have faster startup, page loading and HTML5 rendering speeds.
New security features include support for the Do Not Track header, which lets you block third-party data profiling such as for advertising purposes. Additionally, Opera 12 has revamped security badge icons, so it should be easier than ever to understand the security and privacy policies of the sites you visit.
The update also adds new HTML5 capabilities that let sites access your webcam and microphone (your express permission is required, of course). The company offered examples of how this can be used, including a browser-based photo booth, a "polaroid taker," and a game with head tracking controls.
Opera 12 has removed less used features such as Unite, Widgets and Voice. Unite was introduced in 2009 as a simple method of turning any computer into a server, making it easy to host content. Many disappointed users have somewhat unsuccessfully petitioned Opera to open source Unite's code.
In a separate development, Google has announced that the next version of Chrome will take advantage of the new super high-resolution displays being introduced on systems such as Apple's 15.4-inch MacBook Pro. Both the user interface and font rendering are being improved so they appear smoother.
**Chrome image via AnandTech