The Opera Browser: It’s Bigger Than You Think

This is a guest post from D. Salmons over at TestFreaks – a one-stop resource for the real geeks. Not sure what’s the best printer to buy? TestFreaks will help you to choose the right model.

Okay, let’s play a game. Name the major web browsers in use today. If you are on a Windows machine, Internet Explorer may come to mind quickly. If you consider yourself to be web savvy, Firefox may spring from the lips. And if you are on a Mac, Safari is right there. And each of these have their strong and weak points, so there are no wrong answers. But how many of you answered Opera?

Well, if this article was as popular as the web itself, then there would have been a good chance that over 100 million of you would have chimed in. With 100 million users strong, it’s hard to believe that one could overlook Opera as the browser of choice. Yet it commands only 2% of the web, as shown below:

Where Can Opera Be Found?

According to Opera, the 100 million is split fairly even between desktop (including laptop) users and the mobile crowd. On top of that, Opera can also be found in many appliances, including game consoles, smart TVs and set-top boxes.

While it is still the web underdog, being completely dwarfed by Internet Explorer, Firefox, and even Chrome, Opera is still smiling. In fact, the Oslo, Norway based browser has a good reason to smile, and that is due to its expanding customer base.

Strong Segment Growth

In fact, Opera’s growth in the PC market, at 30% year over year, is allowing it to play catch up to the big guys at a comfortable rate. While it still leaves the top three battling it out for market supremacy, Opera is apparently doing quite well picking up the (rather voluminous) strays and building up a reputation as a solid browser alternative.

iPhone Tsunami

Just recently, Apple approved the Opera mini-browser for distribution on the App Store. The response was overwhelming, and over a MILLION copies were downloaded for the iPhone in a single day (source), allowing the app to rocket to the top of the download charts. With that kind of documented response, it is easy to imagine that there is a tidal wave of Opera users out on the web.

Opera Features

Obviously to have a 100 million plus customer base, you must have some interesting features to go on top of a fairly solid product – otherwise the fickle web will respond harshly. But if you look at the features of Opera 10, it might be easier to see why the user base is swelling.

For example, Opera Turbo allows for compression, which would help with a slow connection (perfect for mobile users?). And there are visual tabs along with a new speed dial mechanism. Plus you have a brand new JavaScript engine (named Carakan) that promises a fast execution, something browser users always welcome.

Strong Support: A Key To Steady Growth

If there is anything that could make or break a user-based piece of software, it’s software support. And as I write this article, Opera is advising upgrading to version 10.53 to fix a security threat that is present in 10.52. If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest updating your opera browser, but it does show that the folks from Oslo are responsive to issues.

After all, it is not a question of if a browser is going to have a security update need, it is a question of “when”. The response time for a solid fix is going to weigh heavy on the minds of the users when it comes to the most effective kind of advertisement, word of mouth.

Acquisition Expansion

As if the recent million plus iPhone release wasn’t enough to bump up Opera’s mobile presence, they have also recently purchased Australia’s FastMail cross-platform email and messaging provider. This has the capacity to speed up email and messaging across PCs, mobile devices, smarts televisions, and gaming consoles. In other words, you will find the Opera browser pretty much everywhere. This gives Opera an even stronger mobile tool set.

Another acquisition that may broaden the Opera name, and its bottom line, is the recent purchase of mobile ad provider Ad Marvel for roughly $23 million. This would allow for a unique ad placement channel that Opera could offer to advertisers, once the details are worked out. I hope that Opera does not roll ads into the browser itself, but it could be used in other ways that still have value add to the user. For example, in the instance that a compressed web page is being delivered to the mobile user, the compressions actually takes place on Opera’s servers. To offset this expense, it would be easy to insert an ad.

Poised for Growth?

It would appear that Opera is positioning itself for a strong growth period. It has expanded its user base to over 100 million, strongly placed itself as a substantial mobile browser of choice, and purchased major mobile market tools (messaging and mobile ads). If anything, it would seem that Opera is happy to be working to expand its user base – even if they are not the major browser on the web. But they just might be bigger than you think.

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