In an ideal world, good things would get the attention they deserve and crap would disappear.

For proof that this isn't an ideal world, check out NetApplications' browser market share stats.

Internet Explorer 6, the gurning half-wit of the browser world, has nearly 17 per cent of the market. Opera, a truly great browser, has 0.72 per cent.

That's lower than Netscape (0.74 per cent), which was shot and turned into glue months ago.

To say that Opera is better than Netscape or IE6 is like saying having sex with the love of your life is better than being boiled in oil while being stabbed with knives, or living in Doncaster.

Opera is fast, flexible and free, and more often than not its features end up being imitated by rivals. And yet the stats suggest that on the normal web, Opera's less popular than Hitler.

Even when Opera's doing well, nobody appears to notice. On mobile phones Opera has more market share than the iPhone (24.6 per cent compared to 22.3 per cent, according to StatCounter Global Stats). It's four times more popular than the Blackberry browser, significantly more popular than Nokia's browser and miles ahead of Android.

Those are serious numbers. Does anybody care?

We suspect not. Opera clearly has an image problem, and we think we know why: it's not that people have tried it and didn't like it - anybody who thinks IE6 is a better browser than Opera 9 should be banned from the internet - but that people simply haven't considered it.

Hands up, we're guilty, too: when we benchmark the big browsers, Opera tends to be absent. That's partly due to timing (we don't like comparing final versions against betas, or stable betas against experimental alphas) and partly because our stats show that people are more interested in Firefox, Chrome and IE.

That's unfair on Opera, so today's an excellent day to change things. Opera 10 has just been released as a stable beta for Windows, Mac and Linux, and you can download it right now.

Don't just download it, have a quick play with it and dump it, though. Use it as your main browser for a few days. Import all your bookmarks and try your favourite sites. Play with the zoom controls and the page width view.

See how it compares to Firefox when you're browsing dozens of pages simultaneously. Use the search shortcuts and mouse gestures. Experiment with the integrated email and feed reader. Try Turbo to see how it improves things on slow Wi-Fi connections. Experiment with the integrated content blocking.

If you're a designer or a developer, see how it renders your carefully crafted code. And once you've done that, ask yourself: do you still miss Firefox, IE or Chrome?

We suspect that for a lot of people, the answer will be a resounding no.

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