Opera-logo-new200The H-Online: A beta of version 12 of the Opera web browser has been released with privacy and security-focused improvements. Code-named “Wahoo”, the Opera 12.00 beta now runs plugins out-of-process and includes optimizations for better SSL handling. Running plugins in their own process not only improves the smoothness and stability of the browser but can limit the damage some plugin exploits can do. Privacy is enhanced with support for the “Do Not Track” (DNT) header, which is used to tell web sites that the browser user wishes to opt-out of online behavioral tracking.

Opera_12_BetaThe DNT header is designed to help users retain their privacy when faced with online advertising networks that use cookies and other web technologies to recognize them and serve them tailored advertising. Users can enable the header, which is currently disabled by default, in the preferences dialog by selecting Preferences –> Advanced –> Security –> “Ask websites not to track me”. “Do Not Track” requires web sites and services to acknowledge the header, but a number of advertising companies have said they will adopt it and Yahoo plans to roll out support across its sites. The Whitehouse has also proposed wider use of “Do Not Track” and the US Federal Trade Commission has called for its use. To make it easier for users to see the privacy and security settings on sites they visit, the security badges that appear in the Opera address bar have been redesigned and color coded.

Non-security related changes in the Opera 12 beta include 64-bit support on Windows and Mac OS X, faster startup times and page loading, new themes, and experimental hardware acceleration and WebGL support (off by default). Support for several other web standards, such as CSS3 Animations and Transitions, HTML5 Drag and Drop, and Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) have also been added.

Some features found in previous versions of Opera are being discontinued in the new version. These include the Opera Unite personal cloud media platform and Opera Widgets, which are removed by default for new users. Support for the built-in speech recognition and text-to-speech technologies is also being phased out.

More details about the beta version of Opera 12, including download links, can be found on the company’s Opera Next web site. The current stable release is Opera 11.62, a security update from late March.