Opera 12 went into beta back in April. The newest version of the underdog browser brought along some great new features like improved HTML5 support and better security. Opera 12 is now out of beta and brings along with it all the great stuff from before, plus a few new tricks.
Outside of the improvements from the beta, Opera 12 has added three features that are great for developers and users alike. One of the features in particular is pretty exciting from a development standpoint.
First up is the obvious change for every new browser - speed enhancements. Opera 12 promises "faster startup and quick page loading." It will do this through a new responsive tab loading sequence that allows the browser to start up or shut down relatively fast. The improvements also extend to general browsing with page load speeds being increased.
Opera 12 now has support for new themes. It has borrowed from what both Firefox and Chrome has done in the field of themes to allow users to create their own or use one that has already been created. What's even better is that Opera can update themes without having to restart the browser. Check out the community to see the themes that are available.
The most exciting new feature of all, however, is the browser's ability to use your webcam. Web sites with support for the feature can take control of your webcam for all kinds of applications. The most obvious of course being on the spot photographs for new profile pictures on social networks. It could be applied in many other ways though. One inventive idea would be to figure out how to make gamified apps using the webcam as the input method. I'm sure somebody will figure it out.
Features carried over from the beta include the aforementioned security badges and HTML5 support. It doesn't stop there, however, as the browser is also host to new APIs, right-to-left script support, experimental WebGL support, and the discontinuation of Opera Unite, Opera Widgets and Voice.
It's easy to see why Opera has such a fervent fanbase even when its user count is far below that of Firefox, Chrome and others. I've always appreciated the browser for its dedication to quality by making sure everything is in perfect working order before shipping the stable version of its latest release.
You can grab Opera 12 at the official site. If you haven't used it before, I suggest giving it a try. I'm still a Firefox diehard, but I appreciate Opera and what it does. Besides, it's still one of the only browsers to ship a stable 64-bit version. That's worth all the praise in the world.