The niche but loved browser Opera got an AI makeover on Tuesday, with new and useful AI functions, as well as other tools to optimize your portal to the Internet. So far, most AI web browsing options we’ve seen from companies like OpenAI and Microsoft offer a gimmicky alternative to search engines. Opera One, the 100th version of the Opera browser, takes things a little further with tools that the company says will actually increase your web browsing.
“As people who are obsessed with browser innovation, we felt it was right to rethink the role of the browser in light of recent developments in the AI space,” Joanna Czajka, Product Manager at Opera, said in a press release. “Unlike other browser companies, Opera did not simply add AI services to its browser. We went back to the drawing board and redesigned our flagship browser. Opera One is built around Aria, our browser’s native artificial intelligence, and is the culmination of our work to date.”
Opera added its Aria chatbot to the browser in May with a sidebar that lets you talk to the chatbot, much like you interact with ChatGPT (in fact, Aria is powered by ChatGPT technology). But with Opera One, Aria doesn’t just run alongside your normal browsing activities. The most interesting feature is called AI Prompt, which allows you to pull up Aria by highlighting or right-clicking on text and delve deeper into the content you’re viewing online. You can also bring up Aria using keyboard shortcuts. Opera recommends that you use these features to work with artificial intelligence in tasks such as answering questions about products or generating text or code that you might enter on a website.
Microsoft’s Edge was the first major browser to incorporate artificial intelligence, but like the first iteration of Aria, Edge’s AI features live in a sidebar. To integrate AI features into the experience of using in the browser window itself there is a small but important distinction. You’re not using AI and browsers side-by-side, you’re using them simultaneously in a streamlined workflow.
As your browser becomes more sophisticated, you’ll need more tutorials on how to use its full capabilities. Aria will help you there too, as she has mastered all of Opera’s support documentation. Often, when you want a computer or app to perform a specific task, you have to Google it to find the exact name of the feature, which can be frustratingly time-consuming. With Opera, you can ask Aria a question about your browser’s features using the language you would use to ask a knowledgeable friend.
For some people, AI comes with an uncomfortable stigma. Like other companies that have added chatbot technology to previously AI-free products, Opera emphasizes that the new AI features are optional and you can turn them off, if you want.
Opera One has a number of handy new non-AI features too. Opera calls its new browser design “modular,” meaning you can move around buttons, tabs, and other elements of the browser on the fly. It allows you to hide features you don’t need in some contexts and show hidden features you want in others. The new “Tab Islands” feature is the best example, allowing you to group certain tabs together under one button and open or collapse those groups when you need. For example, you may need some special Google Docs and your email inbox when you’re working, but want to hide them when you’re shopping online. Opera says this modular design is the first step toward a browser that automatically adapts to your needs.
There are tons of options for how you can move different tools around that are easier to see than they are to read about. Check out the video below for a preview.
Opera One is part of a much broader effort to attend changing consumer needs on the Internet. The last major disruption to web browsing was the introduction of tabs in 1998. Since then, internet use has changed from a one-off activity to an all-day part of modern life. Right now, your browser is basically a box that allows you to view web pages. Opera and its competitors want to change that and turn your browser into a more versatile tool that allows developers to expand what’s possible on the web and allows users to build a custom portal tailored to their needs. There is a big change happening and in the next year you will see the companies that make web browsers experimenting with bold new visions about what it means to be online.
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