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Opera update adds free VPN, built-in ad blocker to ChromeOS browser

The browser claims to be the first to be fully optimised for ChromeOS since the operating system launched in 2011

Opera's Chromebook web browser alternative

Opera has released a host of new features for its Chromebook web browser to position itself as a full-featured alternative to Chrome that's also fully optimised for ChromeOS.

The new web browser boasts tools that are not available in the standard Chrome OS, such as a free browser VPN, built-in messengers, an ad blocker, and five different colour themes.

Opera suggests that its tweaked Android version is a simple and fast laptop browser, with "custom-made optimisations that deliver a full-fledged laptop experience". The major changes will allow users more 'laptop-style' controls, including keyboard shortcuts such as 'Ctrl+T' for opening new tabs and 'Ctrl+L' for focusing the address bar.

What's more, Opera suggests it has developed the only browser that lets users access chat functions without disrupting their work or the browser itself. Apps for Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Telegram are built-in, so users won't have to reach for a phone or specifically go to the website of each service.

Dark mode on Opera's new Chrome web browser

The decision to develop an alternative for Chrome was largely based on a study conducted by Opera that found users wanted more than one browser, particularly for different purposes. Opera claims to be the first company to provide an alternative browser to Chrome that's optimised for ChromeOS, since the operating system launched back in 2011.

"Chromebooks, with their user-friendly interface and touchscreens, are excellent devices for people's everyday needs," said Stefan Stjernelund, product manager of Opera for Android. "We decided it's high time their users got access to an excellent alternative browser with a unique set of features they'll find both useful and fun."

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The timing is also key, with Chromebook demand reaching an all-time high during the pandemic; according to Canalys, 11.2 million units were shipped between October and December 2020, which represents a 287% increase year-on-year. According to Opera, this highlights how important Chrome OS has become as it offers convenience for workers and students alike.

The Norwegian firm also expects a further 40 million units to be shipped during 2021.

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