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01 June 2011, 11:16

Beta version of Opera adds password synchronisation

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Opera Logo Four weeks after releasing an alpha version, Opera Software has made version 11.50 of its web browser, code named "Swordfish", available as a beta. The beta's most important new feature is the capability to synchronise passwords that are stored in the browser. Introduced in 2007, the synchronisation feature saves various types of user data on the Opera servers with password protection – currently, this includes bookmarks with Speed Dial, stored addresses, notes, search engines and content blocker rules – and synchronises them across multiple installations.

Passwords are encrypted on the client using a key that is generated on the Opera server when the password synchronisation feature is first used. This key is also stored on the servers, but it is itself encrypted via the Opera account password. When synchronising, the browser retrieves the password and encrypted key from the server, decrypts them both and saves the password locally (as before). Opera QA engineer Esteban Velázquez says that this means that Opera has theoretical access to the user data, but that in practical terms the data is distributed across various departments at Opera. However, the engineer also emphasised that the Opera password therefore needs to be guarded particularly well. Plain text passwords are neither stored on the client nor on the server.

The second important advancement of Opera 11.50 is dynamic Speed Dial pages: using browser extensions, the Speed Dial feature will in future be able to display not only static URLs, but also dynamic content such as news feeds. The Presto rendering engine, which has been upgraded to version 2.8, now supports various new standards including HTML5 combo boxes, browser history interfaces and the <time> element for encoding time and date information. Improvements have also been made to DOM event handling.

Details about Opera 11.50, including a download link for the latest beta, can be found on the Opera Next web site. As with all development releases, use in production environments and on mission critical systems is not advised. The latest stable version of Opera is 11.11 from mid-May.

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