Opera Orchestrates Free Browsing Strategy

Opera Software today permanently removed the ad banner and licensing fee from its Web browser. The ad-free, full-featured Opera browser is now available for download at no charge.

Opera was previously available free of charge with an ad banner. Users had the option of paying a licensing fee to remove the ad banner and receive premium support.

The move comes just two weeks after the Norwegian company celebrated its 10th anniversary: On August 30, Opera gave away complimentary registration codes for its browser for 24 hours.

Gaining Popularity

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox told TechNewsWorld that the company had a fairly good response to its anniversary promotion. “The response to Opera’s free offer was probably a catalyst in this position,” he said. “It may have confirmed a strategy that the Opera folks were already thinking about.”

Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software, is personally inviting the entire Internet community to use Opera and experience the browser firsthand: “Removing the ad banner and licensing fee will encourage many new users to discover the speed, security and unmatched usability of the Opera browser.”

Opera’s browser, available in 20 languages, features navigation through intuitive mouse gestures and browser tabs and allows users to start from where their last browsing session ended or save the entire session.

Crossing the Threshold

Opera also touts quick access to downloaded files with its transfer manager and includes integrated security features designed to protect against identity theft and phishing.

Opera users can also use a function called “Speak up” for hands-free Web surfing using voice commands, and a notes feature allows users to set reminders for Web pages they visit. The Opera browser also allows users to shop Amazon, browse Ebay and search the Web with Google from the address bar.

Analysts said Opera has reached a threshold of popularity that allows it to unshackle the browser from fees and ad support and recoup the revenues through paid search, marketing relationships and other avenues.

“There are a number of ways Opera can make money off the browser, but all that requires volume,” Wilcox said. “Removing the price tag and the banner ads increases the likelihood that more people will use the browser. More eyeballs means more revenue off the browser without charging for or putting banner ads in people’s faces.”

The Cadillac of Browsers

One question that arises is whether competing browser makers such as Microsoft and the Mozilla Foundation should be concerned that Opera’s new strategy will allow it to gain market share. Analysts said, however, that it is not about how much market share Opera grabs. It’s more about how much money can be made with its offerings.

“Look at the auto industry. Do people fault Jaguar for selling fewer cars than Dodge?” Wilcox asks. “Opera in some ways is a Cadillac browser. You have a lot of extra features built in. The volume might be with the Caravans and the SUVs, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be made on the other vehicles. Of course, the analogy here is with Web browsers.”

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