Opera’s history began in 1994, the year when the browser market was just in its infancy. The leader was Netscape Navigator and it was during this period that Norway’s state-owned telecommunications company called Telenor began to develop a program to browse the intranet, the company’s internal network.
The birth of Opera Software
The two people behind the project were Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsoy. The business was so good, it grew so much and it worked so well that it became a different company to develop the browser in a commercial version for the public. The result came in August 1995, with the creation of Opera Software.
The first version took a little while to come out. It was called MultiTorg Opera 2.1, it was only available on a floppy disk for Windows 95 and OS / 2, and it was shareware – a word that many people haven’t heard in a few years.
It is a mixture of software with “share”, because the idea is that it would be distributed by the gang in borrowed copies. However, access to the program is charged at some point, generating income for the developer. Some freeze functions, others charge from the beginning and others release a free trial period. This was the case with Opera early in life.
This makes it one of the oldest browsers in the world still active. That’s because the vast majority of software from that period either simply went bankrupt, was absorbed by other projects or was discontinued by successors that have nothing to do with the original, such as Internet Explorer that became the Edge.
At the beginning, Opera was praised for being a browser built from scratch, which guaranteed some new and exclusive features for several years. In addition, he quickly understood that the future was also to offer a version for mobile devices, and that is what she did in 1998. Opera Mobile ran on Symbian devices, such as the Psion Series 5, in addition to other pocket computers or PDAs .
He was also one of the first browsers to support the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) standard and in 2000 Opera 4.0 already facilitated the expansion to other platforms and operating systems. Still in that year, Opera 5.0 arrived on the market with a novelty: it stops being paid and becomes free to download and use, but with ads.
Needing to create more and more resources to try to scratch the domain of Internet Explorer and AOL, in 2001 the company launched a platform called My Opera, a service that had a blog, album, email and more for those who were loyal users.
Another big change happened in 2003. This was the year of Opera 7 and the debut of the navigation engine Presto, which leaves it with an even more unique face. This engine was later used in the Nintendo DS and Wii Internet Channel browsers, in addition to Adobe Creative Suite applications. In good shape, the company entered the Norwegian stock market in 2004 and in 2005 the monetization model changed again. And due to a partnership with Google, which became the default browser search engine, it was able to remove the ads.
Opera Mobile Store (Image: Opera / Playback)
The arrival of the Opera Mini
In the same year, Opera Mobile’s successor came out. Opera Mini is an application for mobile devices that has become a phenomenon around the world, and is widely used today. The great asset is that it deals better with loading pages even on not-so-good connections, because it internally processes the pages and compresses images, in addition to having other resources.
Before Chrome became standard on Android, Opera Mini was one of the most recommended.
With the help of GeoTrust technology, in 2006 the browser gained an anti-fraud protection system. Over the years, she has focused a lot on privacy and security. In 2007, what is perhaps one of the most well-known features of the program was born: the Speed Dial, a home page with shortcuts and useful information that can be customized.
It was in 2010 that Opera 11 finally added a feature that was much requested by the community and had not yet been met: support for extensions. In the same year, the Opera Mobile Store was born, a virtual store of paid and free applications for mobile devices, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, Symbian, Windows Mobile or developed in Java.
During this period, Opera accumulated parallel resources, which worked embedded or were offered along with the browser. Of course you can’t name them all, but look at a few:
- Opera Turbo: which compresses the data of the pages accessed and allows viewing even on bad connections;
- Opera Link: which synchronizes browsers using a company account;
- Opera Dragonfly: a creation environment for compatible browsers;
- Opera Unite: which is a server for hosting services and storing files.
Opera TV Store
Needing to expand to other segments, the company created the Opera TV Store in 2012. A service that can be added to TVs, Blu-ray players and other devices to allow the reproduction of applications in HTML5.
In addition, in 2013 it replaced the Presto engine itself with WebKit – a Chromium engine, created by Google – which leaves the browser with more support for other features, but also less original as it was in the beginning. In the same year she experimented with Opera Coast, a new mobile browser made from scratch with gesture movements. But it did not work and was discontinued a few years later.
Opera TV (Image: Opera / Playback)
In 2014 the My Opera community was closed, but it won a spiritual successor: Vivaldi.net. Did you recognize the name? A year later, she became her own navigator, Vivaldi, which is still run by one of the co-founders of the original, Jon. He left the company in 2011, due to disagreements with the new management, after having already left the position of CEO and only acting as a strategic consultant.
In the same year, Opera Mini enters Nokia phones as a standard browser and the Opera Mobile Store replaces the store of the Finnish manufacturer, which in the period was finalizing its absorption by Microsoft. The year 2015 was full of news: the first was the launch of Opera Max, which reduces data consumption by those who access streaming services on Android to save on their plan.
The purchase of Brazilian Bemobi, a developer of a mobile application club platform, was also an important milestone. On the other hand, a good part of the projects of the past and the present was not paying off for investors. With that, Opera Software went into its worst financial crisis for not fulfilling the profit projection and the way was to change hands.
Under new direction
As a result, in 2016, the browser division was purchased by a Chinese consortium for $ 600 million. Virtually nothing has changed in the structure or quality of the browser. The head office remains in Norway and an office in Poland today shares the responsibilities. The Opera TV division was later sold to another group, as was developer SurfEasy, who was also hers and took care of a VPN.
Since then, it has undergone a major restructuring, focusing only on a few specific businesses of browsers and content applications. One of them was the VPN built into the browser, a simple but free and functional feature.
In 2017, the launch was twofold. There was “Neon”, a conceptual version with functions still in beta and “Reborn”, the main version that inserts shortcuts for messengers in the menu on the left side. Thus, it is possible to access web versions of WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Messenger quickly and even with notifications.
Opera News was also launched, a curatorship that brings together news and other published content. And, as the money was still in short supply, the brand started selling ad spaces so as not to depend only on the Google search engine. In terms of mobile, in 2018 we also had Opera Touch, a version of the browser focused on fluidity and multiplatform integration, even thought to be better used with just one hand.
The news of the last few years will pass quickly, but we can summarize saying that Opera was the pioneer, or one of the first to add several features in the browser. Just look:
Opera added native support for cryptocurrencies with a built-in Ethereum wallet and finally came to accept use of Chrome extensions. We also saw Opera mini become exclusive to Android and she added Opera GX, a browser for games with automatic optimizations and exclusive features, to the catalog. The Android version now accepts decentralized domains and expands the purchase of cryptocurrencies.
The company has already acquired YoYo Games, creator of the GameMaker Studio 2 engine, and launched a sub-brand in the fintech sector, Dify, with some virtual banking functions. Currently, Opera is the fifth browser on the market, behind Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Edge on the desktop. It accumulates 350 million users and is far from being the leader, but it has been doing its job since the beginning of the trajectory of browsers.