Opera made quite the announcement a few moments ago – in a press release that doesn't betray the gravity of the situation, it revealed that the Opera desktop browser, not the most popular but loved by many, will cease to exist. Opera will make a gradual transition this year towards a desktop browser based on Chromium.Basically, the Opera desktop browser is dead. It's unlikely that any new major version will see the light of day; there will be a few more bug-fixing releases in the coming months, but developers are most likely already working on rebranding Chromium.
Chromium is the open source version of Chrome. It is very similar to Chrome, though a few Google-specific features and the built-in Flash are missing.
Since it's an open source project, Chromium is already the basis for several "browsers" with varying degrees of modifications compared to the original.
Given that grabbing the source code, replacing the Chromium graphics and strings with Opera ones and maybe changing the tint from blue to red shouldn't take too long, the new browser may show up sooner than you may expect.
Granted, Opera will probably be doing quite a few more modifications to the Chromium source, implementing some of the features Opera users love perhaps, but that's more a hope than a certainty.
Opera hasn't actually said anything about the new browser other than the fact that it's working on a Chromium-based one. It hasn't even said that it was killing the desktop browser, not in so many words.
"To provide a leading browser on Android and iOS, this year Opera will make a gradual transition to the WebKit engine, as well as Chromium, for most of its upcoming versions of browsers for smartphones and computers," was all it said.
But Opera will have to add some amazing features to Chromium if it hopes to keep any of its users, otherwise there will be little reason not to just use Google Chrome rather than a Chrome clone.
Hopefully, Opera will surprise us all, but users should probably start looking at alternatives at this point – not that there are many.