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The Fox is Everywhere! Where is Opera?

November 17, 2004

By Håvard K. Moen

With the release of Firefox 1.0 (congratulations on that one!), the Internet is buzzing with talk about the new browser, and people are hoping that it will topple Microsoft’s browser monopoly. It receives a lot of press, both from the geek media, and from mainstream publications. But concerned voices from within the Opera community are asking where Opera is in all of this. Why isn’t Opera being mentioned? Why isn’t Opera Software out there with a major marketing push to let people know about Opera, too? Why is Opera left on the sideline?

The bad news is that Opera 7 is nearly two years old by now. What is the media supposed to report on?

"And in other news, the Opera browser is still at version 7…"

Not exactly enough to make a smashing headline. ("Opera seeing record losses" seems to be popular right now, though.)

The bottom line is that the release of Firefox 1.0 is a major milestone, and it came at the best possible time. US-CERT’s recommendation to use non-IE browsers got major press coverage, and people started looking for alternatives. Firefox 1.0 is introduced, and with a major PR campaign to spread the word, "everyone" is talking about it. The major milestone, combined with increasing awareness around Internet Explorer’s security problems, means that the timing is just perfect.

The good news is that this benefits Opera!

More people than ever before are made aware of the problems with Internet Explorer, and start looking for other browsers. When you see an article about the release of Firefox 1.0, you will often, if not usually, see that other alternatives are mentioned as well. It is obvious that different people have different needs, and while Firefox is a great browser in its own right, it is not necessarily the answer to everyone’s needs. Firefox offers a basic browser which can then be added to with extensions. Opera, on the other hand, offers a complete Internet package. Rather than having to "build your own browser", so to speak, Opera offers the convenience of an integrated package, full of useful features.

The fact is that people now know that they have a choice, and many actually choose Opera. If they try Firefox and find that it doesn’t really work for them, they may remember hearing about Opera too, and will try it out. In fact, in a Norwegian IT publication a while ago, a spokesperson for Opera explained that we saw increasing download numbers from opera.com.

What people also seem to forget is that Opera has already been in major publications around the world, such as BBC and CNN. It is not like Firefox is the first to be mentioned there. Just because Opera 7 isn’t the latest news, and just because Firefox is getting coverage today, that doesn’t mean that Opera hasn’t had coverage before. And as I mentioned, when they mention Firefox, they usually mention Opera and Safari as well.

There’s more good news. While Opera 7 is not exactly new, Opera 7.60 is on the way with many significant improvements, such as voice browsing, and a new "fit to width" feature which is useful for people with lower resolution screens. There are also plans for something which might have a serious impact in parts of the market, but the details on that will have to remain a secret for now.

Opera’s user base is growing, and the fact that Firefox is now available as a stable release does not mean that Opera is going to disappear. Opera has been around for nearly a decade, and free alternatives have existed for all these years. While Firefox is what’s hot today, we shouldn’t forget that Opera has been around the world already, and there hasn’t really been much to report lately. Still, Opera gets a "free ride" because of the timing of the Firefox 1.0 release.

The fox is everywhere, and so is Opera.

Håvard K. Moen is a Senior Technical Service Consultant for Opera Software. The opinions stated herein do not necessarily represent those of my employer. (This article was originally published on Håvard’s Journal)

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