The browser to win more awards than any other. Clocked faster. With more features copies by other companies than any other. Still one of the smallest files sizes too.

It's now completely free. No banners. No ads. No licensing fees.

Firefox...Internet afraid....very afraid.

Download a Banner Free Version of Opera Right Now.


Opera Browser Is Now Free

To increase market share, the underdog browser company offers Opera for free.
September 20, 2005

Ten years after it launched the first version of its browser, Norwegian software company Opera Software said Tuesday it will start giving away its underdog browser Opera for free as it seeks to catch up with its nearest rival Firefox and capture greater market share.

The move means that Opera, which has a relatively small but fiercely loyal fan base, will remove the ads from the basic version of its browser and will no longer charge a licensing fee for the premium ad-free version.

“The idea is to get a lot more users than we have currently,” said Opera CEO Jon S. von Tetzchner. “Removing the ad banner and licensing fee will encourage many new users to discover the Opera browser.”

Opera’s stock rose 11.34 percent to close at NOK 21.60, up from NOK 19.40 on the Oslo Stock Exchange.

Mr. von Tetzchner said the decision to give away the browser is a reflection of how the company’s business model has evolved over the years. The current online landscape has made it possible for Opera to develop alternate revenue models that no longer have to depend on revenue from users, he said.

Banner ads and user fees are estimated to have accounted for more than half of Opera’s revenues in 2004, but the company said it hopes to make that up through revenue-sharing arrangements with online giants like Google, eBay, and Amazon.

In one of these arrangements, Opera has built in a Google search toolbar into its browser. Every time an Opera user does a Google search and clicks on advertising posted by Google, Opera will get a percentage of the ad revenue.

“We believe that the revenue from third-party offerings will increase in proportion to desktop revenue as more users adopt Opera,” said Mr. von Tetzchner.

If Opera wants more support for the browser, it will have to pay. For $29, Opera will include support for installation, migration, configuration and customization, and resolution of any other issues that may come up.

Alternate Browser

Opera was started in 1995 with the idea of offering an alternate browser to the then-dominant Netscape (see Opera: Mobile Browser Diva). The company got its name as it is recognizable across many different languages. What’s more, the company’s chief technology officer, HÃ¥kon Wium Lie, is a huge Opera fan, particularly of Richard Wagner.

In its early days, the company initially charged users $39 as a licensing fee to use the browser. In 2000, it released a free version but displayed advertisements in the form of banners through the browser window.

Finding widespread user acceptance for its product has been an uphill task for the company. Opera never managed to capture beyond 1 percent of the total market and its share has fluctuated significantly. In July, Opera had a 0.5 percent market share of the browser segment, according to NetApplications, a company that does a monthly analysis of the market share of various browsers.

JupiterResearch estimates Opera has about 16 million users. In July, Firefox, Opera’s closest competitor, had a market share of about 8 percent. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer remains the dominant browser in the market, with about 87 percent market share.

Lately, Opera has been burnishing its reputation as a creator of browsers for mobile and home media devices. Overall, fans have said that Opera offers greater security, browser speed, and ease of use than larger browsers.

Opera enthusiasts are confident that it is still not too late for the browser to catch up to its rivals.

Opera’s decision to stop charging for its browser could help the company catch up to rival Firefox, said Daniel Goldman, who runs “Operawatch,” a blog dedicated to news about the browser. The move will level the playing field, as Firefox is also free, said Mr. Goldman. It could also attract more users who were initially reluctant to adopt a browser that forces them to view banner ads.

Gaining Acceptance

More users could also lead to an increase in Opera’s market share and help the browser gain wider acceptance. Currently, many sites are incompatible with browsers with smaller market share like Opera and Firefox and do not display information and layouts correctly in these browsers.

“Having a big market share is not just for bragging rights,” said Mr. Goldman. “It’s almost essential for every browser. Web masters would naturally be forced to make their web sites Opera compatible, if Opera were to have a bigger market share.”

Mr. Goldman estimated that it would take Opera more than a year to catch up with Firefox.

“I think it will take a couple of months before we see a substantial increase in the Opera market share,” he said. “It took Firefox about a year to get around 7 percent of the market, so I would say it would take Opera perhaps a bit longer than that.”

Opera and its users consider Firefox their primary competitor over Microsoft, though a new version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is in the works. In July, Microsoft released the test version of its upcoming Internet Explorer, IE 7.0, to 10,000 developers along with a test version of its new operating system, Windows Vista.

IE 7.0 is expected to have tabbed browsing, improved security, and RSS capabilities, features that rivals like Opera and Firefox tout to attract users (see Microsoft Shows Its Vista).

Despite the upcoming launch of IE, Opera said it considers Firefox its main rival.

“The plan now is to become the No. 2 browser in the market by getting higher market share than Firefox,” said Mr. von Tetzchner. “We would like to be No. 1, but toppling Microsoft will be tough.”

Firefox executives were in a meeting and were unavailable for comment.

Download a Banner Free Version of Opera Right Now.