Opera, makers of mobile web browsers popular on those platforms that don't yet have a WebKit browser (ouch, but yeah) has announced that they're going to show off a version of their Opera Mini proxy browser at Mobile World Congress (MWC) to partners and press.

I'm not a huge fan of proxy browsers in general -- where web data is rendered on Opera's servers, compressed, and then sent down to your phone. They remind me of those old "dial-up internet accelerators" that just cached everything locally. As broadband grew, the need for them evaporated. They also break secure connections, since they're doing the actual web calls on their server, so things like online banking become an issue for the paranoid.

Opera makes a good point, however -- for people in countries where data isn't "unlimited" but paid-per-megabyte, or for people roaming in other countries, proxy and compression can be a big money saver.

In general, while Opera has been responsible for a lot of innovation in the web space (like tabbed browsing) they haven't succeeded on the desktop the way Firefox has. Smartphones have been a different story, however, especially on BlackBerry and Windows Phones where the built-in browsing experience has been crippled for years and Opera Mini and the full on Opera Mobile have been alternatives of choice. With IE6 Mobile and RIM's purchase of a WebKit browser, that might be changing, and that could be why Opera is looking to link itself with the massive hype-pipe that is the iPhone.

Of course, Opera announcing a browser for the iPhone and Apple approving it for the App Store are two very different things. Currently, you can only make a custom rapper around the built-in Mobile Safari/WebKit/Nitro rendering and JavaScript engines. With browsers being one of the primary attack vectors for malware and viruses, the prohibition against code-interpreting in the iPhone SDK, and Apple's strong desire to control and be responsible for their own core technologies, it's quite possible Opera Mini won't get approved. Either way, Opera is likely to get a lot of publicity out of this, which is likely the intent.

For now, our own Dieter Bohn and Phil Nickinson will be on the ground at MWC and will bring us back their impressions of Opera Mini for iPhone.

[Thanks Christian for the tip!]