While there are hundreds of web browsers, there are only a handful of engines all of these browsers run on, especially on the desktop.
Chromium alone is the building block for more than a dozen different browsers from Google's own Chrome browser over Opera and Vivaldi to Comodo Dragon, Yandex browser and SRWare Iron.
While there are certain advantages to that, compatibility comes to mind for instance, disadvantages such as visual limitations or similarity when it comes to features come to mind as well.
Even browsers that "do their own thing" such as Vivaldi are limited in what they can bring to the table without modifying core code of the browser.
But even across browser engines, similarities exist and it has become difficult to distinguish a browser from its competition.
There are still unique features like Firefox's customization options or the control it gives users over its feature set and interface.
One feature could rise to prominence in the near future: virtual private networks. Since privacy is a big topic on today's Internet, a VPN integration in a browser would not only improve user privacy but also be a feature that others don't offer.
Opera Software acquired the VPN provider SurfEasy recently for an undisclosed sum. While Opera Software has yet to announce any new services to come out of that acquisition, it would make sense to somehow tie the service to the web browser or at least its private browsing mode.
Private browsing is currently limited to reducing the local footprint when the mode is enabled. The addition of a VPN service would reduce the remote footprint of the user significantly as well.
Opera Software is not the only company developing a browser that could one day integrate VPN services in the browser. Recent rumors suggested that Mozilla might integrate the anonymity software Tor natively into its Firefox web browser as well but plans to do so were declined later on by Mozilla.
It should be noted though that the Tor browser uses a custom version of Firefox's most recent ESR (Extended Support Release) version.
Free basic integration of a VPN would certainly be appreciated by part of a browser's user base especially if it is offered as a free service. Opera could combine that with an offer to upgrade to the full VPN which would not only protect the browser but the complete system.
It remains to be seen if Opera, or any other company developing web browsers, will go down that route.
Now You: What's your take on this? If you don't think VPNs will be integrated into browsers soon, what is your take on the next big feature then?
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.