Opera Software AS was founded as a Norwegian software company, primarily known for its desktop Opera web browser, and its mobile counterpart Opera Mini. It was demerged from its parent company Otello Corporation as part of the latter's divestiture of its web browser business. Opera browsers have more than 350 million users worldwide across multiple platforms.
|Traded as||NASDAQ: OPRA|
The company changed ownership when Otello (at the time, Opera Software ASA) sold its web-browser and consumer businesses along with the Opera brand to a Chinese group of investors in 2016, with the deal completing in November of that year.
Opera Software was founded as an independent company in Norway in 1995 by Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsøy. The company was created to continue what was originally a research project at Telenor, the largest Norwegian telecommunications company.
Opera Software's first product, the Opera web browser version 2.10 for Windows, was publicly released in 1996. Opera Software had an IPO in February 2004, and first released on March 11, 2004.[contradictory]
In an attempt to capitalize on the emerging market for Internet-connected handheld devices, a project to port the Opera browser to more platforms was started in 1998. Opera 4.0, released in 2000, included a new cross-platform core that facilitated creation of editions of Opera for multiple operating systems and platforms.
Up to this point, the Opera browser was trialware and had to be purchased after the trial period ended, however this ended with version 5.0, released in 2000. Instead, Opera became ad-sponsored, displaying advertisements to users without a license, which was commonly criticized as a barrier to gaining market share. In newer versions, the user was allowed a choice of generic graphical banners or text-based targeted advertisements provided by Google based upon the page being viewed.
In 2004, Opera Software settled a lawsuit with an "international corporation" paying $12.75 million USD to Opera. It was speculated that the "international corporation" named in the statement announcing the settlement was Microsoft, which had previously blocked Opera users from correctly viewing MSN.com.
On 12 January 2005, Opera Software announced that it would offer free licenses to higher education institutions — a change from the previous cost of US$1,000 for unlimited licenses. Schools that opted for the free license included Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, University of Oxford, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Duke University.
With version 8.5 (released in 2005) the advertisements were removed entirely and primary financial support came through revenue from Google (Opera's default search engine).
In August 2005, the company introduced Opera Mini, a new Java ME based web browser for mobile phones originally marketed not to end users but to mobile network operators to pre-load on phones or offer for their subscribers.
In 2007, Opera filed a complaint against Microsoft in the European Commission, alleging that bundling Internet Explorer with Microsoft Windows is harmful to both the consumer and to other web browser companies. The complaint resulted in the creation of BrowserChoice.eu.
In 2012, Opera Software and Bharti Airtel signed an agreement to provide Opera Mini browsers to Airtel mobile customers.
In 2013 Opera Software decided to not use their in-house rendering engine for the Desktop Browser anymore. From Version 15, the Opera browser for computers would be using the Blink rendering engine, a fork of Webkit developed together with Google.
In March 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Opera won Global Mobile Award of Best Mobile Product, Initiative or Service in Emerging Markets for Opera Web Pass and Sponsored Web Pass. In April Opera Software decided to centre development of the Opera Desktop browser in Poland. On April 12, Opera TV AS (now Vewd Software AS) was established to separate TV-related business from all other assets, which became part of Opera Software AS; both companies became wholly owned subsidiaries of Opera Software ASA (now Otello). In September, the company announced a rebrand with a new three-dimensional “O” logo and brand identity. In the process, the company logotype changed from "Opera Software" to “Opera”.
On 10 February 2016, a group of Chinese investors offered US$1.2 billion ($8.31 per share) to buy Opera Software ASA,[note 1] though the deal reportedly did not meet regulatory approval. On 18 July 2016, Opera Software ASA announced it had sold its browser, privacy and performance apps, and the Opera brand to Golden Brick Capital Private Equity Fund I Limited Partnership (a consortium of Chinese investors led by Beijing Kunlun Tech Co and Qihoo 360) for an amount of US$600 million. The transaction for sale of Opera's consumer business was approved on 31 October 2016 by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. On 4 November 2016, Golden Brick Capital Private Equity Fund I L.P. completed the acquisition.
In January 2017, the company introduced Opera Neon, a new concept browser that is intended as an exploration of browser design alternatives. The browser is built on top of the Blink engine similar to the original Opera browser, and it is available for Windows and macOS.
In January 2018, Opera launched Opera News, an AI-driven news app dedicated to African users. It reached more than a million downloads in less than a month.
In April 2018, the company released a new mobile browser called Opera Touch. It includes an innovative user interface focused on ease of use and one-handed browsing.
In September 2019, the company reported that nearly $56.4M of its revenue was made from their Fintech business area, which now comprises over 42% of its total revenue, after its combined browser market share fell around 30% since its IPO in mid-2018. In January 2020, Hindenburg Research, a forensic financial research organisation, revealed that this is mainly related to predatory short-term loan products in Kenya, India, and Nigeria. According to the report, "most of Opera’s lending business is operated through apps offered on Google’s Play Store. In August , Google tightened rules to curtail predatory lending and, as a result, Opera’s apps are now in black and white violation of numerous Google rules," and that the company's "entire line of business is at risk of disappearing or being severely curtailed when Google notices," as well as the fact that "instead of disclosing to investors that its “high-growth” microfinance segment could be imperiled by these new rules, Opera instead immediately raised $82 million in a secondary offering without disclosing Google’s changes to investors." Opera Software's CEO and Chairman, Zhou Yahui, was also recently affiliated with Qudian, a Chinese firm also involved in loans, which saw its US stock plummet after accusations of fraud and illegal lending practices.
In February 2018, after previously announcing that the service and app would be shut down, the Opera Max app, a VPN based mobile data compression service, was sold to Samsung. It was rebranded as Samsung Max, but will only be compatible with eligible Samsung Galaxy smartphones going forward.
- Opera Software ASA (now Otello Corporation ASA) and Opera Software AS are different companies.
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- "Opera: Phantom of the Turnaround – 70% Downside". Hindenburg Research. 2020-01-16. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- "Samsung rescues data-saving privacy app Opera Max and relaunches it as Samsung Max". VentureBeat. 2018-02-23. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
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