OperaMail Transitions to Fastmail, myOpera Integration Coming Soon

OperaUnknown to many, Opera Software has its own webmail offering called OperaMail (not to be confused with Opera’s inbuilt email client). Last year, Opera Software had acquired Fastmail, in an attempt to beef up its webmail offering. The newest generation of Web users will discover the Web through a mobile device. Having world-class messaging capability alongside a rich and compelling Web experience is essential. By combining forces, Opera and FastMail.fm can offer messaging on any device. This will enhance the value Opera provides to consumers, while assisting our operator partners in reducing customer churn, Rolf Assev, Opera’s Chief Strategy Officer had explained.

The integration of Fastmail with OperaMail took longer than expected (due to legal issues?), but it’s finally over. Opera Mail now uses the Fastmail backend, and all users should be able to login with their existing username and password. Existing users might notice missing emails; however, any missing mail will be forwarded to their new account soon. Unfortunately, some users were caught unawares by the switch, due to inexplicable lack of advance communication. Surely, Opera Software can be expected to be a bit more responsible, since they are dealing with something as critical as email.

Opera is also working on launching a brand new email service, which will be integrated with myOpera. “We will soon unveil a brand new webmail service where you will be using your existing My Opera username and password to log in”, teased Opera’s Haavard Moen.

GetJar Bans Opera for Bundling Opera Mobile Store

OperaYesterday, we reported that Opera Software had launched its own app store called Opera Mobile Store. It appears that within a day of its launch, Opera has managed to ruffle some feathers. Earlier today, Opera Mini was kicked out of GetJar one of the largest multi-platform mobile application repositories. The reason is quite obvious. Updated versions of Opera Mini and Opera Mobile include a speed dial entry to Opera Mobile Store, thus effectively bundling the app store with the browser.

While it’s true that Opera Mini violated GetJar’s ToS (Terms of Service), I find it hard to be entirely supportive of GetJar’s decision. It’s something I would have anticipated from Apple, but not from GetJar. Nevertheless, at least, GetJar isn’t trying hiding behind false pretenses. Patrick Mork, Chief Marketing Officer of GetJar admitted that competition is the reason Opera Mini was pulled.

The simple problem is that Opera mini decided to include a competing app store in its browser. Although we don’t have any issue with this in principle, in practice it means that consumers might start using this app store instead of visiting GetJar to get their favourite apps. This robs GetJar of traffic and therefore of the advertising necessary to keep our service free for the more than 25 million consumers that use GetJar. It also jeopardizes an ecosystem that has generated over 1.6 billion downloads for tens of thousands of developers who depend on us to make money from their apps. Don’t get me wrong: we’re happy to go head-to-head with any other app store and are certain that once you’ve tried the Opera App store you’ll find the depth of content, discovery and download from GetJar more compelling than ever. But it’s an another thing entirely to help competitors grow their business at our expense or that of our community.

Before being banned, Opera Mini was one of the most popular apps in GetJar, with a total of more than 30 million downloads. Apparently, GetJar and Opera has been in discussions for the past several months. The discussions are still going on, and Opera Software has indicated that it is interested in working with GetJar to find a reasonable solution. So, don’t rule out a comeback yet.

Opera Launches Platform Independent Opera Mobile Store in More Than 200 Countries

Opera Software has tied up with Appia to launch Opera Mobile Store, an app store for mobile devices that supports pretty much every popular mobile platform under the sun, except iPhone and Windows Phone 7. Of course, supporting those two platforms is more than a little tricky for third party application repositories due to their locked down nature.

Opera Mobile Store will be integrated with Opera Mini and Opera Mobile in the form of a speed dial entry. This means that Opera will have direct access to approximately hundred million users around the globe. During its trial phase in February, the Opera Mobile Store attracted more than 15 million users, from 200 countries, amassing more than 700,000 downloads per day.

Opera-Mobile-Store

Opera Mobile Store is available at mobilestore.opera.com and features both free and paid apps. The app catalog is automatically user tailored based on his operating system, device resolution, country, currency and language. Platforms currently supported are Android, Java, Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry, and Palm.

The launch of the Opera Mobile Store supports Opera’s core belief in an open, cross-platform mobile Internet experience by providing Opera users with an integrated storefront of mobile applications,said Mahi de Silva, Exec. Vice President, Consumer Mobile, Opera Software. Our partnership with Appia delivers to all Opera Mobile and Opera Mini users easy access to a wide variety of great content, on any device, all over the world.

Opera Software has also launched the Opera Publisher Portal, which allows developers to submit their applications. Developers will get 70% of the net revenue generated by them, while Opera Software will keep the rest. Unlike the Android Market, Opera Mobile Store is moderated, and every app is manually approved. In the past Apple has received a lot of flak for their policy on adult apps. Opera has taken a similar approach with Mobile Store by banning all erotic content. However, unlike the iOS App Store, Opera Mobile Store doesn’t charge any subscription fee, and is completely free.

Password Sync Coming to Opera, Soon

Opera With the introduction of Opera Link in 2007, Opera became one of the first browsers to support profile synchronization out of the box. Although Opera Link has received multiple enhancements since then, it still has a pretty big shortcoming. It can’t sync passwords. However, that might be about to change.

Last year Opera had explained that they wanted to support password synchronization; however, given the sensitive nature of the data, they wanted to get it absolutely right before launching it. It appears that the wait might finally be over. Favbrowser was tipped off by a reader that one of the Opera 11.10 snapshots contain a “SyncPasswordManager” setting buried inside opera:config.

Although this setting was removed in the most recent snapshot, I am fairly confident that the appearance of the setting is an indication that Opera is planning to launch this feature soon. In the meanwhile, you can install the excellent LastPass extension for Opera to be able to access your passwords from pretty much any browser and any operating system. The latest version can even import Opera Wand passwords. Roboform fans can also check out the new RoboForm Lite adapter for Opera.

Opera for Mac Now Available for Download from Apple’s App Store, If You Are Above 17 (No Kidding)

After becoming the first non-webkit based browser to be approved on the iOS App Store, Opera has also become the first non-native browser to be available on the Mac App Store. However, there is a catch. You have to be above seventeen to download it from the App Store. Opera has been categorized as an age restricted download due to “frequent/intense mature/suggestive themes”, to use Apple’s words. Of course, given that Opera is simply a web browser, it should be obvious to any sane person just how ridiculous Apple’s categorization is.

Opera-Mac-App-StoreAlthough insane, this bit of news isn’t exactly surprising. It has been Apple’s long standing policy to categorise any app that allows access to the internet as an age-restricted download, as it’s possible to browse adult themed websites with such apps. Apple had earlier classified Opera Mini for iPhone as a porn app due to the same reason. Of course, every Apple operating system ships with Safari pre-installed, and Safari can also be used to open any website on the interwebs. To be honest, the entire thing reeks of double standard, but being fair isn’t exactly Apple’s strongest suit. In fact, it’s almost unreasonable to expect that from a high-handed company like Apple.

Opera Software reacted to the classification in its characteristically funny way. Jan Standal, VP of Desktop Products for Opera Software, expressed his concern by saying that, “Seventeen is very young, and I am not sure if, at that age, people are ready to use such an application. It’s very fast, you know, and it has a lot of features. I think the download requirement should be at least 18.”

One of the reasons why Opera might not be complaining is because they might be pleased to get approved in the first place. Opera for desktop includes an inbuilt torrent downloader that makes torrent downloading so simple that even my grandma could do it. In the past, App Store reviewers haven’t been too kind to torrent clients, given that Apple views torrents as a vehicle for infringing third party rights.

If you are a Mac user under seventeen, you can always download Opera from the official website, where no one will ask you to furnish your credit card information just to download a free web browser.

Opera Gets Hardware Acceleration, Finally!

As todays browsers gear up to become the app platform of tomorrow, performance is more important than ever. We have already seen browser-makers fighting it out over JavaScript rendering performance. Whether it is Chrome with Crankshaft enabled V8, or Opera with Carakan, or Safari with Nitro, browsers of today are light-years ahead of browsers from even a couple of years back. The next big step for browsers is hardware acceleration. Chrome 9 already supports it through flags, Firefox will support it with v4, and Internet Explorer will do the same with v9. Now, Opera Software is also gearing up to join the club.

Opera Software has just released a Labs build with full hardware acceleration support. This has been in the cards for a long time. Opera had released an experimental build with 3D canvas as far back as in 2007. In 2008, it had published a video demonstrating Opera with hardware acceleration. Then in 2010, it released Opera 10.5, which featured a highly optimized Vega graphics render. We had mentioned in our original coverage that the new optimized software renderer meant that Opera Software was preparing to add hardware acceleration. Opera Software stated as much in its Up North Web event. Unfortunately, they could not get hardware acceleration ready in time for Opera 11.

Opera’s hardware acceleration feature is superior to what is present in Firefox and Internet Explorer. Opera Software’s Tim Johansson explained:

Like IE9 and Firefox 4, we do full hardware acceleration of all draw operations – but unlike those browsers, who only offer this acceleration on Windows Vista and Windows 7, our implementation will run on any OS with sufficient hardware support. This means we can have full hardware acceleration on Windows XP, Linux, Mac OS X and OpenGL ES 2 capable devices such as recent smart-phones and web-enabled TVs.

Opera-Hardware-Acceleration

Currently only OpenGL backend is supported; however, Direct3D support is planned for future builds. If you wish to try out Opera with hardware acceleration, head over to the Core Concerns blog. To confirm that hardware acceleration is indeed working, open “opera:about” page. If it mentions Vega backend as OpenGL, you are good to go. Otherwise, you will have to download the latest drivers for your graphics adapter. However, keep in mind that this is a lab release, and might be even more unstable than standard snapshot releases. Opera has stated that they don’t plan on including hardware acceleration in 11.10, and given their track record, I don’t expect to see this feature graduating from labs to regular builds within the next couple of months.

Opera Software’s Revenues Surge On the Back of Operator Tie-ups

Earlier in the week, Opera Software released its quarterly financial report. The final quarter of 2010 saw Opera increase its user base to 170 million, out of which 53 million belonged to Opera for desktop. The past year also witnessed Opera Software going from being the the red to recording record revenues. One of the most significant contributors to its turnaround was operator tie-ups, which Opera had been focusing on during the past few quarters. Opera’s partners include several big names like Vodafone and MTS. While mobile service providers benefit from the partnership by being able to provide its users a customised version of Opera Mini, which reduces bandwidth costs, highlights their web-properties (through speed-dial), and encourages mobile surfing, Opera Software profits from the licensing fee. The number of operator-branded Opera Mini users jumped from 2.1 million in Jan 2010 to 11.5 million in Jan 2011. Other than that there were approximately 90 million Opera Mini users last month.

Opera-Key-Performance-Indicators

Although partnerships with operators helped Opera generate a significant amount of revenue, the Norwegian browser maker credits stronger than expected desktop and device revenues (chiefly gaming consoles and connected TV) for the higher than expected total revenue. AdMarvel also made a significant positive contribution.

Opera-Operator-Tieups

As expected Opera’s profits also saw a sharp increase. However, one-off expenses like closing of Czech offices, and shifting of Opera’s server park from Norway to Iceland pulled down the profit percentage. In the near future, Opera aims to refresh its mail offering by leveraging the previously acquired Fastmail, develop Open Mobile Ad Exchange to generate revenue from mobile browsers, popularize Opera Mobile Store, and aggressively monetize Opera for desktop (see screenshot embedded below).

Opera-Desktop-Monetization

Firefox Planning to go on Steroids, Versions 4, 5, 6 and 7 Coming in 2011

After seeing a sluggish development and embarrassing speed improvements over time, Firefox has finally set its biggest overhaul plan ever, this time. This 2011, Firefox is planning to go right from version 3 to 7.

firefox-logo

Image via: ie7
The entire roadmap of Firefox for 2011 has been laid out and it stands as,

  • Ship Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the 2011 calendar year
  • Always respond to a user action within 50 ms
  • Never lose user data or state
  • Build Web Apps, Identity and Social into the Open Web Platform
  • Support new operating systems and hardware
  • Polish the user experience for common interaction tasks
  • Plan and architect for a future of a common platform on which the desktop and mobile products will be built and run Web Apps

The disgustingly slow speed on Firefox has led many users to move to better alternatives like Chrome and Opera. This problem will be resolved with the 50 ms response time.

Apart from this, other features like saving of sessions and states will prevent users from losing important work. With the recent beta of Firefox 4, Android support has also improved drastically.

The sole reason for users to stick to Firefox was the support for add-ons. Now that has been incorporated into both Google Chrome and Opera, Firefox is losing users gradually. In short, users have no reason to stick to Firefox as most other browsers offer what it has to offer. However, what is disturbing, is that users do have a definite reason not to use Firefox anymore, as it is slower than both Chrome and Opera.

The roadmap is only as far as paperwork goes. We expect the developers to follow the roadmap too, and get back a significant number of users Firefox lost to its competitors over time.

Opera 11.01 Released, Fixes Critical Security Vulnerability

Opera Opera’s customary point release to tidy things up is here. Opera 11.01, which was released earlier today, includes critical security patches, much needed stability updates, and a few other minor changes.

This build closes the security hole discovered by Vupen that could allow hackers to gain control of a user’s system. Another critical vulnerability that could be exploited to load files (with potentially confidential information) from the user’s computer as web page resources has also been patched. The security fixes in Opera 11.01 affect Windows, UNIX as well as Mac.

One of the major new features introduced in Opera 11 was visual mouse gestures. While the idea behind the feature is excellent, Opera tweaked the mouse gesture sensitivity to accommodate users unfamiliar with gestures, which peeved several experienced users. Opera 11.01 restores the old sensitivity settings for mouse gestures, while retaining the intuitiveness of visual gestures.

The nagging crashes that plagued Opera 11 also seem to have disappeared in this version. There are dozens of other minor improvements. For a detailed overview of what is new in Opera 11.01 check out the change logs for Windows, UNIX, and Mac.

[ Download Opera 11.01 for Windows, UNIX and Mac ]

Why Is Opera Not Popular?

Lets get this straight. Even though I find browser quite  feature rich when I compare it to other browsers, it is not one of the most popular browser as you know it. As a matter of fact it only has 2% of browser market share. I have been closely following topics related to Opera on Quora (my new love! but more on that later) and found few interesting topics about Opera!

Opera Logo

But let’s discuss Why is Opera not popular?

Xudong Yang, a Web Developer, has jotted down exactly my thoughts in a blog post. To Quote him:

Poor advertisement: IE is the default on Windows, Safari the default on Mac, Firefox/Chromium the default on several Linux distributions. Moreover, we see IE9 ads, Chrome ads, and (rarer these days) Firefox with Google Toolbar ads. I’ve practically never seen Opera ads. Whether this is due to poor finance or bad marketing strategy I’ve no idea, but Opera sure could be much better off if it were in the first place more widely known.

I won’t quote his entire blog post as I’m only interested to concentrate on the advertisement part. But I really suggest you read his blog post. He makes a lot of good points.

Recently, I had a once in lifetime opportunity to meet the founder of Opera; Jon Von Tetzchner, during his Mumbai Meetup. I had always wanted to ask Opera why they did not spend money on advertising and what’s better than asking the man himself. So I did.

Jon Von Tetzchner explained that for spending money, Opera needed money, which they didn’t have. And that word of mouth publicity has worked for them. Bullshit I say. Opera recently announced that Opera had reached a new milestone of 150 million users and here’s the breakdown of it.

For the uninitiated, Opera, for the major part, earns from the search bar on the browser when you make a search query. Assuming 75% of Opera Desktop users use the search bar  at least once a day it’s freaking 37,500,000 searches a day. Now we know that users do not search that freely on their mobile device than they do on desktop. So let’s consider 25% of Opera Mobile and mini users use the search bar daily. That’s again 25,000,000. That makes it a total of 62,500,000 searches EACH DAY! So, don’t tell me you don’t make money!

And if you remember, Mozilla’s Firefox initially rose to popularity because Google promoted it. It has come to the point that Firefox has actually overtaken Internet Explorer as Europe’s dominant browser.  As much as I like Opera browser it really hurts to see the other below standard browsers winning more market share. Opera really needs to do more than Potato videos when it comes to marketing and be more visible to internet users.