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Interview with Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner

November 17, 2006

Earlier this week I caught up with Jon von Tetzchner, the founder and CEO of Opera, at the Webmaster World PubCon conference, where he gave a keynote address. I posted the video of our interview a couple days ago, but now that I have a bit more time, I transcribed it. It was a long and busy week here in Las Vegas.

Daniel Goldman: Why is it that Opera is here [at the Webmaster World PubCon conference] today?

Jon von Tetzchner: We’re reaching out to web developers, so this is a great conference to do just that. We’re getting the word out to web developers about the way the world is evolving. We’re on a mission.

Daniel Goldman: One of the biggest complaints that I get and I’m sure that a lot of Opera users get it as well is that Opera does not work in some sites. Opera has less than one percent of the desktop market share, why is it important that developers focus their attention on Opera?

Jon von Tetzchner: I believe we have something like 10 – 15 million active desktop users. That is actually quite a lot of people.

If you try to think about it, the place that I’m come from is Iceland. I was born in Iceland, that’s three hundred thousand people – we have a lot more. The place I live is Norway – we have a lot more. Actually if you look at it, the US has about 300 million people that live here, 50 states, about 6 million in each state on average. So which states have people that you would like to ignore?

So even on the desktop we have a lot of people, and we are working very hard to grow that. In addition to that, there are 40 million people that have Opera on their mobile [phones] – the full version, and there are 7 million people using Opera Mini. Opera is getting out on the [Nintendo] DS and the like.

So there are a lot of reasons why you should be supporting Opera as a product. But in addition to that, you should be supporting Opera because of web standards, and we do take web standards seriously. We actually support them better than, I guess, anyone else.

Daniel Goldman: How can Opera compete with Firefox? Firefox seems to have been catching waves lately; it seems to be the latest ‘hip’ thing to use Firefox. Can Opera compete? Is there room for another Firefox?

Jon von Tetzchner: I think there is always room for a better browser. And there are a lot of reasons why people are choosing Opera. We have the speed of the browser. We have the fact that we have a very good security record – actually the best in the industry. We have the flexibility of the browser, and we have the fact that if you would like to use the browser across platforms, then ours is the only solution.

So we have a lot of things going for us, and a lot of people are switching to Opera – especially after we decided to make the browser totally free without ads, which we did last year. And we’ve seen a nice uptake from there.

Daniel Goldman: And what about IE7 (Internet Explorer 7) now that they’ve awakened from the dead? Is that a good thing for Opera? Or not so good?

Jon von Tetzchner: It’s a great thing. What this means is that web standards are moving forward now [that] IE7 has better support than IE6.

I think you’re also finding that a lot of people are downloading IE – or being forced fed IE7 – and they’re seeing that there are some improvements in the browser. And some of them will be thinking ‘okay this interesting. Why didn’t I know about these things before? Is there more about where it came from?’ And a lot of those things came from us.

Daniel Goldman: How does Opera plan on growing its market share? Are there any ‘bigger picture’ plans besides for the techie community?

Jon von Tetzchner: The community is very important to us – the techie community, but also the overall community. And working through the community is something that is very central to us. So that mean giving to the community what they want when it comes to features and the like.

But we’re finding that a lot of people then go and talk about the fact they like Opera, and that spreads the word.

In addition to that, we’ve been hiring a lot of people. We are going to shows. We are talking to people. We’re talking to the press. We’re pounding the message. And we’re putting more resources than ever before.

Daniel Goldman: What’s next for Opera? What are the big plans for Opera coming up?

Jon von Tetzchner: There is the short term and the slightly longer. In the short term there’s Opera 9.10, which is a great new release. We’re adding fraud protection and the developer toolbar. And we have Opera Mini 3.0, which is faster, more secure, and it has a number of other things we’ve been adding. So those are some things you can download this month.

And when it comes to the slightly, further into the future [plans], we’re adding the capability to synchronize things between the different offerings, whether you’re using Opera on the mobile or the desktop and the like, which is going to make the experience of utilizing the internet across platforms seamless. And I think that’s a great thing and something to be excited about.

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Categories: Interviews
  1. Dan
    November 20, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    Bookmark and contact syncing (with hosting through Opera) would be great.

  2. ian Phillips
    January 3, 2007 at 9:48 am

    “Spread the word” Well plug Opera on the PortableApps and U3 sites. Firefox has got them to itself at the moment.

    Bookmarks and settings management is essential! Including backing them up properly. It is INSANE that, today most browsers and email clients have no easy way to back up all those important things!

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