The next version of Opera's browser adds support for more HTML 5 features, and is now available in beta, the company said. The hype surrounding HTML 5 is growing, but the standard also holds the promise to change the way the Web is used. It is a huge step on the way to turning the browser and the Web into a proper platform for running applications, according to Jan Standal, vice president of desktop products at Opera.

Implementing HTML 5 is, just like the standard, is a work in progress. In version 10.6 Opera has expanded the browser's video capabilities by adding the new, open WebM file format, which Google announced last month. Mozilla, Opera, Adobe and more than 40 other vendors back the standard, according to the project's Web site. The format is looking very promising, said Standal.

Opera has also added AppCache, which is one of the components that will make it possible to run web applications without being online, according to Standal. AppCache allows more data to be stored by the browser, which in turn will speed up access to web pages as well, he said.

In addition to these HTML 5 improvements, Opera has also implemented the Geolocation API, which is being developed by W3C, and Web Workers, developed by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG).

W3C's Geolocation API aims to provide developers with a uniform way to make web applications location aware. The API can be used to pinpoint the user's location or provide more relevant, local search results, according to Standal. Web Workers will let the browser handle processor intensive tasks, including image editing and gaming, without slowing down overall performance, he said.

The 10.6 beta can be downloaded from Opera's website, and a general release will become available in the next few weeks, according to Standal.

All major browser makers are implementing HTML 5 and other next-generation eb standards. The main thing isn't to be the first, but with every vendor working with the format it is going benefit end users, said Standal. Apple, Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera and Google may all be working on implementing HTML 5, but there have still been a number of controversies. Recently Apple drew the ire of web experts when it put up an HTML 5 demo that only worked with its Safari browser.