Web browser developers already had some heavyweight competitors: Microsoft, Apple and the Mozilla Foundation. Publically, at least, the smaller browser developers are backing Google's entry into this long-fought-over Internet field with its Chrome web browser.

One such player is Norway's Opera. Opera started out as a research project in Norway's largest telecoms company, Telenor, in 1994, and branched out into an independent development company named Opera Software ASA in 1995. Its multi-platform Opera Web browser is popular for its fast speeds.

Google Chrome review

Indeed Opera claims that it is the fastest browser in the world. It's currently the fourth most widely used web browser for PCs, behind Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari, but its market share is obviously dwarfed by the big hitters. (It is, however, a bigger player in the mobile sphere, including devices using Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems, as well as Java ME-enabled devices.)

Opera co-founder and CEO Jon von Tetzchner told PC Advisor that he welcomes Google's Chrome web browser, even though he notes that it appears to "borrow" many ideas from Opera itself.

"We will continue to innovate. We see that Google Chrome borrows many ideas from Opera such as Speed Dial, the placement of tabs and our Quick Find feature in the address bar.

"We will continue to innovate the same as we always have by keeping a relentless focus on the user and giving them the tools to make browsing safer, faster, more productive and more personal," he said on the day Chrome was announced.

Von Tetzchner pointed out that to "protect free competition" Google now "has a new responsibility to make sure all browsers are supported by all its Web services."

But the Opera CEO maintains that Google remains "a strong partner to Opera", noting: "Opera Mini, Opera Mobile and our desktop browser all include Google as the default search. We are also working with them to bring Gears into our desktop and mobile products."

Google's Chrome web browser is expected to be released in beta form later today, for Windows - and later for Mac OS X and Linux.

Microsoft, Mozilla & Opera respond to Google Chrome