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Apple Approves Opera Mini Browser for iPhone

Back in March, Norway’s Opera Software made what some thought was a gutsy move in submitting their Opera Mini browser to the Apple App Store. The gamble has paid off: Opera Mini is now available for the iPhone, marking the first time a third-party Web browser is available for Apple’s popular smartphone.

“We are delighted to offer iPhone and iPod touch users a great browsing experience with the Opera Mini App,” said Opera CEO Lars Boilesen, in a statement. “This app is another step toward Opera’s goal of bringing the Web to more people in more places.”

The iPhone might boast innumerable applications, but some developers have expressed frustration with Apple’s poorly-articulated and ever-shifting requirements for iPhone applications. iPhone apps have been rejected for a number of seemingly-arbitrary reasons, such as accessing potentially offensive Internet content, overt sexuality, or duplicating core functionality of the device (Google Voice being the highest-profile example).

Some industry watchers thought Opera Mini was a sure candidate for rejection by the App Store because it duplicated the functionality and Apple’s own Safari Web browser, and Apple wouldn’t want to dilute part of the core iPhone experience. However, Opera Mini’s application model—whereby content is interpreted and optimized for Opera Mini by Opera’s servers before it gets sent to the phone—means that Opera Mini isn’t running Javascript code on the iPhone, and thereby violating one of Apple’s firm rules about iPhone apps: they cannot offer interpreters of any computer language, whether it be JavaScript, BASIC, or something else entirely.

Opera Mini’s approval might be a major step towards opening up the iPhone—and iPad—to alternative Web browsing experiences.

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