The web browser Opera has allowed pirates to avoid ISP blocks, but this may soon change.
Opera is a web browser which holds a few percent of the market. While it is not nearly as popular as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, it has found a niche of dedicated users among pirates. One of the browser’s features is “turbo mode”, a setting which helps improve browsing speed. A side effect of turbo mode is that the browser circumvents blocks placed on certain sites by ISPs. It is becoming more common for pirate sites, such as bittorrent trackers, to become blocked following court orders. As a result, Opera has found a cult following among pirates in the UK, central Europe, and Russia, where many sites have become blacklisted. The UK’s recent announcment that they will begin blocking adult sites, may increase that following as well.
Earlier this year, Opera’s owners were contacted by Roskomnadzor, a Russian telecoms company, who shared their concerns with the browser’s ability to avoid blocks. The owners were urged to introduce some kind of filtering system into turbo mode to maintain the ISP blocks. Opera has confirmed that this kind of filtering is possible to implement, and Roskomnadzor’s Vadim Ampelonsky says “We are ready to periodically send a list of sites to enter into such a filter at the conclusion of a bilateral agreement,” and that discussions continue with the owners of the browser.
No agreement has supposedly been met between Opera and Roskomnadzor as of yet. Negotiations were slowed, partially due to one part of Opera’s business being sold to Chinese company Qihoo, and further due to Opera’s Russian offices closing. A source from within the company claims that there is no final agreement “because there is no deal with the new shareholders.”
If an agreement were to be met, Opera’s reputation among pirates may take a hit. However, earlier this year, Opera launched a free VPN service, which is also able to circumvent the blocked sites. So far, the discussion has not broadened to include the VPN.