It’s been over three months since Opera announced it was dropping its own Presto web rendering engine in favor of Webkit, the same used by Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome. Although an Android version has been around since March, today the company is finally announcing a brand new release for Windows and Mac desktops. Dubbed Opera Next, the browser was reportedly built from scratch based on Chromium 28.
Download: Opera Next 15.0
This particular version of Chromium is already running Google’s fork of WebKit, which means Opera Next is powered by the new rendering engine as well. The company noted that while the software is very stable, it’s being released as beta software, and says we can expect rapid updates in the weeks to come.
The first change you’ll notice with Opera Next is a simplified UI. The address and search bar are combined into one, while bookmarks are merged into the Speed Dial function with the ability to group multiple items into a folder -- a design change that first appeared on the Android version.
Also borrowed from its mobile counterpart is the new Discover tab that displays curated content from popular news sources. Meanwhile, Stash lets users save pages for later, but unlike Instapaper or Pocket it doesn’t seem to be geared for reading by stripping most visual content. Instead Opera only says it will record the location, meta data, and a screenshot of a page, then place this information into a collapsable list entry on the browser's Start Page. Your Stash can be searched by keyword and/or scanned visually by screenshot.
Other notable features include off-road mode -- a proxy-browser mode that uses server caching to save bandwidth -- private browsing, pop-up blocking, and Opera Link for synchronizing settings.
It should be noted that with the move to Chromium and Blink, Opera extensions are no longer supported, and instead only a subset of Chromium extension APIs are available right now. Among them the company mentioned Evernote, Feedly, Disconnect, LastPass, WOT, Ghostery, and cottonTracks.
Although there should be a noticeable an improvement in speed and compatibility, long time fans of the browser will also notice several missing features, like Opera Notes, RSS, and customization options, among others. It’s unclear if the company plans to implement some or all of these features in the final version of Opera.