Sunday, November 06, 2005

Opera Mini: Free Web Browser for mobile devices

In one of my previous posts i have noted about lack of good, free web browsers for the mobile devices. Opera has come up with a new version of web browser that is specifically meant for the mobile devices which have difficulty in installing its 'Opera 8 for Mobile' web browser : Opera Mini. The installation of this browser can be done only through a mobile device(cannot be downloaded from the PCs) by browsing to from the mobile device. It is absolutely free to use and runs on any mobile device that supports J2ME. Do note that the software is currently in its beta stage. More questions are answered here.

This would raise some eyebrows:
"Opera Mini will keep a record of your phone number, make, and model for use with maintaining your history, cache and cookies."

To understand it fully, we need to understand how Opera mini works. With this web browser, whenever a request is sent to some web site, the request is first recieved by an intermediary server. This intermedairy server then sends the request to the actual web site, gets the response, proecesses it such that it can be rendered properly on a small screen and then sends it to the mobile device. The obvious advantage is that navigating through the web pages will now be more convenient - the pages are specially customized to be rendered on the mobile devices. On the downside, response time may increase because of the overhead at the intermediary server. And ofcourse the privacy concern noted above; no idea how Opera plans to use the data collected from our mobile phones and archived at the intermediary server.

You may also be interested in Opera Accelerator which aims at increasing the browsing speeds (using an intermediary proxy server that does caching etc) on mobile devices and can be installed from the Opera browsers by going to for a 14-day trial .