Opera, the browser, is made by Opera Software, a Norwegian software company. Opera was originally released in 1997, but unlike the American browsers, it had no ads, and it was not free. Instead, it only had a free trial, and then it was expected that you would pay for it. Apparently, ads were not a problem for the vast majority of people the world over: Opera has never had more than a single digit usage rate for computer users. In 2000, they went free, but accepted advertising sponsors in a big way. In 2005, they finally gave up on the unsolicited ads and accepted revenue from Google, their default search engine.

Opera is also suspected of being a major player in lawsuits against Microsoft, at least in the European market. They received a $12.75 million dollar payout in 2004 from an otherwise unnamed “international corporation,” and in 2010, the EU determined that Microsoft’s bundling of IE together with its operating system in new machines really did give it an edge (no pun intended) in the browser market. This is funny: the EU required new devices to display a notice advising users of their browser choices, and required Microsoft to manage a website, BrowserChoice.eu, to facilitate independent, informed browser selection. Three years and nine months later, the obligation expired, and the website went offline shortly thereafter. Although there was an initial uptick for the non-IE browsers, interest soon sputtered out and usage rates resumed their former trajectories and positions.

Personally, I find this odd. Opera first built their product to work exclusively with Microsoft’s operating system, knowing that Microsoft was already providing its own browser. Certainly they also knew there were other players in the browser field, all pretty much on American soil. And all those new devices need something to allow the non-tech-savvy user to initially connect with the internet. Should Microsoft be required to randomly install various browsers so that every browser company is equally represented? Would it make sense that the purchaser gets to pick their chip speed, their laptop color, and their virus protection, but their browser has to be determined by random chance? I think not. I might be a little whelmed by the behemoth, but I accept prepackaging the same basic product, and then trusting the consumer to learn a little on his or her own. Like reading these pages. Or even just talking to the teenager next door.

This scrappy little player nonetheless contributed to overall browser development by introducing features such as pop-up blocking and browser tabs, innovations quickly adopted by other browsers. The decision to branch out into non-desktop devices was probably a good one because they are moving up in the phone world, with top market share in much of Africa and Asia, and even being the featured browser in certain non-pc Microsoft devices. Opera consistently wins awards for innovation, and maintains usage stats keeping it in the top 5 worldwide, despite the low stats. Even the store brand generic cola product makes money.