After an ad blocker, Opera bakes a free VPN client right into its desktop browser

Norwegian browser software and mobile advertising company Opera this morning announced that it is adding a free built-in virtual private network (VPN) client to its desktop browser, in a first among major browsers.

Last month, Opera already raised eyebrows when it baked ad-blocking technology directly into its desktop browser engine, and today it is taking the wraps of a free VPN client with unlimited data usage and 256-bit encryption.

Opera says VPN clients from other browser makers are actually extensions, offering limited data usage and often charging via a subscription model. The company is instead integrating the VPN client right into the browser engine, albeit only in its latest version for developers for the time being.

Much like other VPN clients, Opera's software lets people hide their IP address, unblock firewalls and restricted websites, and protect personal info on public WiFi networks.

“Everyone deserves to be private online if they want to be," said Krystian Kolondra, SVP at Opera. "By adding a free, unlimited VPN directly into the browser, no additional download or extensions from an unknown third-party provider are necessary."

"So, today, our Opera desktop users get a handy way to boost their online privacy, as well as easier access to all their favorite online content no matter where they are,” he added.

Opera’s market share is tiny relative to the size of Google (Chrome), Apple (Safari) and Microsoft (IE), but its user base is nothing to sneeze at, either.

The company, which recently received a $1.2 billion buyout offer from a consortium of Chinese Internet firms, claims its products enable more than 350 million Internet consumers to browse the Web today, and it has deals with more than 120 carriers around the world.

Also read:

Group of Chinese Internet firms to acquire Opera Software for $1.2 billion

Former Opera CEO launches Vivaldi, a browser that’s not for the masses

Pushing to protect online privacy – A look at emerging encryption startup ZenMate

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