Opera has taken another major step to differentiate itself from rival browsers with the addition of integrated free VPN functionality.
A VPN or virtual private network offers a secure connection – allowing for much improved security and privacy when web browsing, along with tricks like getting around region restrictions for certain content – and Opera has now built this directly into the newest developer version of its browser.
This means there's no hassle downloading or installing an extension if you need VPN functionality, and you get free and unlimited VPN coverage direct from your browser this way.
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Opera's virtual private network uses 256-bit encryption and the company notes that it offers the same level of coverage as paid-for VPN solutions.
It allows you to check if your IP is exposed and to hide your IP, block tracking cookies, and to change your location or bypass firewalls (to get around content restrictions). Of course, if you're using public Wi-Fi, you're also much safer from snoopers who might be trying to intercept and read your data, thanks to the encryption of the connection.
If you download the latest developer version of Opera, you'll find the VPN if you look under Settings (Preferences on OS X) and then Privacy & Security. Currently, you can only choose from three virtual locations – the US, Canada and Germany – but of course more options will be added soon enough.
Integrated ad blocking was also introduced to the developer version of Opera last month, and is another way the firm is attempting to stand out from the browser crowd. The advert blocking is a proactive system and Opera claims that having the functionality built in gives a big performance boost over third-party extensions when it comes to improving web page loading speeds.