Opera Software today upgraded its namesake browser to version 64 and joined rival Firefox in tackling ad trackers.
"We consider ad blocker and tracker blocker to be basic privacy features," Joanna Czajka, product director, wrote in a post to a company blog. (Opera has had a baked-in advertisement blocker for more than three years; only the anti-ad tracker is new.)
Details about the ad-tracking mechanism were surprisingly sparse. Unlike Mozilla, which has repeatedly detailed its efforts to curtail tracking, Opera did not describe what kinds of trackers - there are many - it would block.
Opera 64 arrives with its ad tracker (and ad blocker) turned off by default. To switch one or both on, users must select the menu at the far right (a trio of horizontal arrows) and under Privacy & Security toggle the Block trackers and/or Block ads switches. The browser does not need to be relaunched for them to take effect.
According to Czajka, Opera's tracking blocker is powered by the EasyPrivacy Tracking Protection List, an open-source blacklist and companion to a similarly-named ad blocking list best known for its support of the AdBlock and AdBlock Plus extensions. While Czajka highlighted the new tracking blocker, Opera put more emphasis on the performance benefit of enabling it (and the ad blocker) than on the boon to privacy.
"Opera 64 is faster, more private and more fun," Czajka's blog post was titled, leading with "faster" over "private." And in an Opera press release touting the upgrade to version 64, Czajka added, "People should be aware that they can save a lot of time simply by switching on the tracker blocker."
While that's true - as it is when using an advertisement filter or blocker - one would gain the same performance benefit by not downloading chunks of a page's content, like images or layout composition components.
"Once switched on, the tracker blocker can speed up page loading by roughly 20%," Opera said in the release. "Coupled with Opera's built-in ad blocker, the speed gain can reach up to 23%." Only in the last line of the paragraph did Opera remind users that, "These features also increase the users' level of privacy."
According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Opera accounted for approximately 1.4% of global desktop browser activity in September.
Opera 64 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from the firm's website.