Opera should give up on desktop browsers?

| 21 Comments

Nate Lanxon, over at C|Net, recently wrote an article titled Opera should give up on desktop browsers where he says "Opera should give up on the desktop browser market and focus its time on developing for mobile phones, media players and similar devices" and "It should take its clearly talented teams of developers and shift its focus to the mobile world where it can really thrive. It should focus on the types of devices it's already winning with -- the Nintendo Wii for one, and even the Archos handhelds -- and claim a dominant position."

I completely disagree. What Nate and others don't get is that Opera needs a desktop presence. Opera's vision of the Web, one I share, is that it's the same Web everywhere. This is really important. But today's mobile Web usage just isn't enough, even if you dominate the mobile market, to have a really thoroughly tested technology stack.

People just don't use the Web on other devices like they do the desktop. Even the most popular mobile Web experience, the iPhone, barely breaks half of one percent of Web usage. With that kind of usage, and the feedback that comes from that usage, a Web browser would not be able to keep up with the ever-changing Web.

Any successful mobile Web browser must embrace the full Web, the same Web that the desktop browsers experience. The only way to do that today is to bring the desktop technologies, proved out by lots of usage, to the mobile space. A mobile-only play just won't cut it.

Opera's desktop browser means millions and millions of desktop users logging hours and hours of testing and providing lots of feedback to the Opera team. That feedback allows them to keep their rendering engine, javascript engine, and other bits of the browser as functional as possible across as many Web sites and Web apps as possible. Take it away, and the Opera mobile efforts will slowly but surely fall behind the "one Web" as Opera calls it.

In addition to proving the technology, the ~30 million or so Opera users on the desktop provide tens of millions of dollars in growing and predictable search revenue from Google (and Ask, Yandex, Amazon, Baidu, and Allegro.) That was almost 25% of Opera's $70M in 2008 revenue.

Suggesting that Opera abandon the desktop when that is the primary proving ground for its core technology and when it's generating ~$16 million dollars a year in revenue sounds kind of silly to me.


This article and several recent other very confused and heavily flawed articles discussing the browser market place raise an interesting point, I think. The Web browser space, desktop and devices, isn't really very well understood by people who aren't directly involved in it. This leads people in the press and on blogs to write all kinds of strange analysis and to draw all manner of wrong conclusions and predictions.

Everyone uses browsers and most tech-savvy folks can follow the basics of browser releases and market share. But the Web browser space is a lot more complicated than that and people should be careful to not over-estimate their understanding of how the market actually operates.

OH, And a little research and asking a few people who do work in the industry the right kinds of questions really does go a long way.

21 Comments

In version 10, Opera is finally going to add a much better update system. Not implementing such a system prevented me from recommending it to many users.

There are also rumors that Opera wants to improve it's position on the desktop with the release of v10 greatly. Opera really deserves some part of the desktop market share. I hope they can take some from IE.

I agree with you Asa Opera should not stop with the desktop browser. They have invented many features that other browser later use. Do you want to explain to Nate what the IE issue is? I think Nate also missed that most people have cell phones that are not smart phones.

Asa have you every herd of Opera's Open The Web? (http://my.opera.com/community/openweb/info/) Would you help out with the fixing of the web?

asa i don't agree in many posts you wrote. but this was a really good one! please give nate a hint with a link to you blog entry ;)

Mr. Lanxon draws his conclusion based on two numbers: market share and speed test. Opera bad market share is product of restricted marketing funds not lack of quality. Second, speed tests are NOT measuring of quality. Speed is just one aspect of browsing experience. Today there are no slow browsers so what actually being fastest means??? Its like judging a car based only on its hp, 0-100 and max speed. Having 0-100 in 4 sec doesn't mean a lot if You leave kidney on every speed bump, 700hp on rear wheals is cool but You don't want to drive it on ice without electronic assistance etc.

Browser experience is not only speed.

Worst thing which could happen to Web is that Opera stops desktop development. I use Opera as my main browser and i have tried almost all other but none of them have all features which I use in Opera. In a few years they WILL have and THAT is the reason why is Opera so important. Many details of modern browsers are developed in Opera labs and i hope it will continue do enrich browser experience in this century (for start:) )

Sometimes I even think that their small market share is a bless which drives them to bring new ideas.

You know, when I read the first part of this post I thought you'd totally lost it and went bye bye into 'tard-land. Thankfully that was just me being presumptuous in thinking you agreed.

Your explanation was the first thing that came to mind when you mentioned it, and to add something you're forgetting their philosophy about a browser that works everydamnwhere and on pretty much any device.

Opera's minor presence on the desktop pressures them to do work harder, especially since they're competing with a massive open source community as well. As a user of Opera I'd say their size has so far been a boon, rather than a curse.

Thanks for a great post :)

Furthermore, competition is always good to drive more innovation, so Opera should not giveup desktop browser.

"search revenue from Google (and Ask, Yandex, Amazon, Baidu, and Allegro.)" Unfortunatelly, AFAIK, Allegro doest not pay for entires from search engine. This is only a handy option for users from Poland, where Allegro has most of the market.

Jurgi, OK. I'll take your word on that even though Opera says otherwise.

- A

As long as the revenue is being generated, they will be fine.

@Asa Dotzler: is there anywhere official statement of Opera in this case? It's a bit strange to me too, such words, that Allegro doest not pay Opera were spoken by one of Opera official during visit in Poland. But it was in an unofficial talk with one of Polish bloggers, so it is not for sure.

I hadn't read the original article you were commenting on, so when I read the title, I had a bit of a fit.

There seems to be some kind of lobby against Opera these lasst few months, pushed most probably by those that fear it and its overall superiority.

Shifting its efforts to mobile by dropping the desktop would only make it fragile, especially as mobile devices are bridging the gap much better these days between what is the mobile and the desktop experience, what with the advent of Atom, Nano, netbooks and the very promising ARM development lately.

On the flipside I'd say that Mozilla should just drop Fennec and concentrate on Firefox, even though that one makes more sense than Opera dropping the desktop.

darko says..

Opera bad market share
Bad? Maybe in the US. But according to European stats, Opera has 5-10% and even more in Europe, and the same in other parts of the world except the US. In some countries like Russia Opera has more than 20% market share.

Bad? Maybe in the US. Not so bad in the rest of the world.

Why does CNET have an "expert on digital music and portable media" reviewing browsers? Enough said.

The worst part about Netscapes failure and the oligopoly of that time was an almost complete lack of innovation in the browsers as applications (while there was plenty of energy put into improving html / the web in general).
Opera has and will spark a lot of ideas, and drive competitors to improve their products (sometimes oc outdoing the original inventor).
Think about tabs, speeddial, gestures, fast forward.
I think if we lost Opera as a desktop browser we would loose a major innovator on that field.

I am sure Asa knows it and most technical users interested in Opera Mini magic knows it but let me tell one thing which will surprise the digital media guy.

Opera Mini can't function without Opera for desktop. Opera Mini is a shell for a grid like Opera desktops (running on linux). So if there wasn't Opera desktop, Opera mini wouldn't exist. Check Gemal's new http://browserspy.dk with Opera Mini to see what I talk about.

Opera for smart phones and devices and whatever they support is running the same engine (think like gecko.dll), the exact same super portable C code as the desktop version. That is why some ''super fast javascript accelerator'' kind of things takes a while to implement. They have to care about 200 mhz ARM running with 256MB of RAM (add OS kernel etc) doing the same thing. That is Opera 9.5 for UIQ3. That presto.c must compile, function on such a comical limited setup.

I am kind of nostalgic guy and it is plain sad that CBS takeover didn't change a thing at CNET which is slowly fading.

As a developer I tend to use mostly the keyboard, thats why I love Opera. No other browser has the same mouseless browsing capabilities like Opera, so I would be disappointed if they would drop the desktop version.

"I tend to use mostly the keyboard, thats why I love Opera."

Me too. Also, I hate extensions and that's not necessary in Opera.
#3, Opera takes about 5 seconds to open at first try.

"I tend to use mostly the keyboard, thats why I love Opera."

Me too. Also, I hate extensions and that's not necessary in Opera.
#3, Opera takes about 5 seconds to open at first try.

"Opera's vision of the Web, one I share"
I am dreaming.
Asa, is that you ? Are you actually kind of... defending Opera ? Whoa. You must be tired, rest a little. :D

me Gusta este sistema no puedo dejarlo

Monthly Archives