Long-surviving Opera browser deserves a better market share

From time to time I look at statistics related to my blogs. Today I looked at browser percentage of page views on one of my blogs. Opera was over 40 percent. Over a longer period it runs at about one or two percent.


The statistic does not mean much. Maybe one person using Opera simply read a number of pages, but it piqued my curiosity about the Opera browser and led to my decision to write a short article on it. As compared to other browsers Opera is at present in fifth place on desktops with Chrome being the most popular according to most surveys, with venerable Internet Explorer in second, closely followed by Firefox, the Apple operating system in fourth and then Opera.
 As this article points out calculating the share of the market for each browser is difficult to estimate. Methods used give different results. However, the four different estimates shown here are not that different, except for one company that has Internet Explorer much more popular than any of the other three companies that made estimates. Three out of four estimates have Chrome as the top browser with the highest measurement being almost half 48.7 percent market share earlier in June this year. Opera's share estimate ranges from 1 to 3.2 percent. Opera itself claims to have more than 350 million users globally. However, many of these users are on mobile, 276 million of them as of August this year. Opera not only will operate on many mobile devices but will operate on Apple and Linux operating systems.
 The popularity of browsers varies from one country to the next. In Belarus, Opera is actually the most popular browser. Opera is the second oldest web browser and was launched in 1996 by Norwegian techies in competition with the big guns then — Internet Explorer by Microsoft and Netscape. Explorer later became dominant as it was bundled with computers that run Windows. Safari was bundled with Apple computers. The Chrome browser has the advantage of being integrated with Google. Finally Firefox was popular because it is open source and has a huge array of community-made add-ons. Opera could offer only special features and speed.
 The attraction of Opera in Belarus is that it has special features that allowed users to strip out images and other items that used up a lot of bandwidth. The state monopoly service provider charged hefty fees for use of the Internet. Opera allowed users to save money. Opera was also a leader in encryption another feature attractive to users in Belarus. The situation in Belarus has vastly improved in terms of cost. In 2009 a 1 Mbps connection cost about $45 dollars a month and the average salary was about $342 a month. This year the cost for the same plan is about $7 and the monthly salary average is $470, but Opera continues to be the most popular browser even though there is less concern about cost. Probably this shows that people use web browsers they are used to.
 In my own experience, I used Internet Explorer for years simply because it was the browser that came with computers I purchased. From time to time I would hear of people who used Firefox claiming it was much better. However, why bother changing when what you are using and comfortable with is working. I finally did try Firefox and then Chrome. I now use Firefox and its totally open source clone Ice Weasel on all my computers. I just found it easier to use the same browser no matter what computer I am on. Years ago I did try Opera but did not adopt it because it had compatibility issues with a few websites. However, perhaps I will try out Opera again.
 The review of Opera here is quite positive. Another article claims that Opera should have a larger market share and explains why it does not:
 On paper, Opera should have a massive market share – It’s updated regularly, fast, secure, customizable, introduces lots of new features first, and looks great. It’s also an absolute pleasure to use. So why does it only have a market share of 2.4%? To me, it looks like a matter of branding. Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome are products from Microsoft, Apple and Google respectively, and Firefox has built up a great reputation over a long time. Opera, however, does not have a massive corporation behind it, nor does it have Firefox’s levels of marketing. No matter what the reason really is, you shouldn’t let Opera’s low market share discourage you from giving it a shot.

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