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Opera releases Coast, an iPad browser that turns the web into a home screen

Opera releases Coast, an iPad browser that turns the web into a home screen

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Opera Software wants to make a browser that’s nothing like what came before it. The web has evolved from bland text and blue links to the rich graphics and interactive sites of today, and Opera doesn't think that the browser has properly evolved to keep up. "That’s the internet of now," Opera's Huib Kleinhout tells The Verge. "We wanted to make a browser for that.” The culmination of that desire is a brand-new browser for the iPad that does away with the long-time name of Opera in favor of something different: Coast.

Coast looks and acts just like an iPad home screen

Despite the grandiose thinking, Coast isn't actually all that unrecognizable. While it eschews almost all interface chrome, its main screen still resembles the smart new-tab pages in modern browsers that automatically fill in your most visited sites. Perhaps more aptly, it looks and acts just like the home screen of an iPad. Websites appear as app-icon style squares; tapping on an icon opens up a site, pressing and holding on one allows them to be rearranged, and swiping side to side switches between additional screens. And like iOS at large, browsing on Coast is a single-pane experience too. One website takes up the entire screen, and you either have to go back to the home screen or navigate to a discrete page switcher in order to jump around to another site.

Opera’s hope is that it'll allow the web to feel a lot more like a series of distinct applications than one application that’s opening up separate pages. "We believe it's very futuristic," says Kleinhout, who headed up the Coast project. "We want to push the web forward." Coast will also run Web of Trust — a browser extension that calculates the trustworthiness and safety of web pages — on every site you visit. Opera says that it won't slow things down while browsing, but because Coast is based on the WebKit and Javascript engines built into iOS, its performance will already be hindered by Apple's speed constraints on third-party browsers.

Other mobile browsers by Opera are still sticking around, but the company seemingly views Coast as its main entrant for mobile browsing dominance. It’s been in the works since at least last winter when it showed up in a leaked video, and while it’s only now been finished, Opera's giving no word on if or when it'll expand to other platforms. Coast will available to download today, only on the iPad. "It really felt like browsers were stuck," Kleinhout says. Whether version one of Coast is the answer or not, Kleinhout seems to see it as problem worth solving: "We want to lead the way."