There's no getting around it - Opera is the iconoclast of the group. It was the underground browser long before the rise of Firefox, and, well, it's still the underground browser. That said, it has a devout and influential following among the geekiest echelons of the tech world.
Despite a number of innovative features like "turbo mode" - which uses Opera's own servers as a compression proxy to help users on slow connections - and powerful integrated features like a mail client and BitTorrent support, Opera has struggled to build much of a user base outside of Eastern Europe. It is the leading browser in just one country - Belarus.
It may be that Opera has simply missed the boat - even though it pioneered features like mouse gestures and a speed-dial home screen, its more popular rivals have simply adapted too quickly to be caught. Still, Norwegian parent company Opera Software has created many mobile versions of the browser, which could prove important if smartphone and tablet use continues to increase dramatically.
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