Stuck with tiny usage share, Opera is taking a step that other web browser makers are unlikely to embrace: It is adding native ad-blocking functionality to its flagship browser.
No worries if you’re only vaguely familiar with the name Opera: It’s a favorite with a core group of tech enthusiasts, but an also-ran with the broader web browsing audience. Which means that Opera commands a Windows phone-like 1.68 percent of the market for web browser usage, according to the reliable data from NetMarketShare. And that’s a one-year high.
That said, Opera is a credible alternative to mainstream browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, and in recent years, the browser has been adapted to use the same basic web rendering technologies as Chrome, aiding compatibility.
And it’s about to get a lot more credible: Opera announced today that it is testing native ad-blocking functionality for its browser, meaning that it will be able to block ads “out of the box,” without the need for any add-ons or extensions.
“If there were no bloated ads, some top websites would load up to 90 percent faster,” Opera’s Krystian Kolondra explains. “Today, we wanted to share with you a native ad-blocking technology in our Developer channel for Opera for computers. ‘Native’ means unmatched speed vs extensions, since the blocking happens at the web engine level.”
As Opera notes, it is the first major web browser vendor to integrate ad-blocking directly into its product. And it is doing so because its users demand it, a decision that is much easier to make when you don’t dominate a market or, in the case of, say, Google, don’t rely on ads to drive your business.
“Bloated online ads use more download bandwidth than ever, causing web pages to load more slowly, at times covering the content that you’re trying to see or trying to trick you into clicking ‘fake download buttons’,” Kolondra continues. “Another rising concern is privacy and tracking of your online behavior.”
Ad blocking is turning into a key tech trend, with Apple opening up its iOS mobile OS to ad-blocking add-ins in the most recent release. And now I’m wondering if maybe we’ll see others—most obviously Mozilla and Apple—follow in Opera’s footsteps and make this native browser functionality.
According to Opera, the ad-blocking feature will be deactivated by default, but users can easily enable it via a new button in the address bar. (In the current preview, you have to enable it in Settings, however.) Opera’s ad blocker will also provide statistics about the number of ads its blocking on the current page, and how much time you’ve saved by not loading them with the page.
And the native implementation apparently pays off: According to Opera, ad blocking in its browser is 45 percent faster than using Chrome with the popular AdBlock Plus extension (which I do use).
Very interesting. And cause to evaluate Opera again, I think.