With Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple, and now Google fighting it out in the browser arena, one could easily forget the perpetual underdog: Opera. Despite having been around for over a decade, ushering inventions like tabbed browsing, and becoming completely free in 2005, Opera still commands a tiny portion of the market. That doesn't stop Opera Software from continuously improving the browser, though. Today, version 9.6 of Opera has hit download mirrors worldwide.
Opera 9.6 is only a minor step up from the 9.5 release, but it does bring a handful of new goodies—most notably performance improvements, the ability to synchronize one's address bar history across multiple systems, and an RSS feed preview function. Opera Software comments, "You'll notice the Web is snappier in Opera 9.6 with faster page loading than previous versions." That certainly seems to be the case, although Firefox and Chrome still feel a tad snappier from a seat-of-the-pants perspective.
Opera's built-in mail component has also gotten several enhancements, too. Users will find a "low bandwidth mode" that reduces data downloads, a "follow threads" menu item that brings up related e-mails, and an "ignore thread" function that does just what it says on the label. For a detailed look at smaller changes and bug fixes, check out the release notes.
You can grab Opera 9.6 for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris from this page. The Windows U.S. download weighs in at just 5.4MB.