Innovation case study: Opera Web browser

Of all the stories in the web world, the story of the Opera web browser is one of the most interesting, and least frequently told when it comes to understanding innovation.

Today they’re celebrating their 15th year, and it’s clear they’re going strong, claim to have market share growth and still have a sense of humor.

They’re a fascinating story because in the early browser wars (’94-’00) they were the third horse, but they consistently took larger risks, made bigger bets on design changes, bet heaviest of all players on web standards,  and were the first of the major browsers to implement now standard features like tab browsing.  But they rarely got much credit for their innovations or their intensely progressive attitude then, or perhaps even now.

Why? Did they not innovative enough? or too much? Do they need to be in the U.S. to get more attention? Or are  there other issues? There are tons of lessons to be learned from the case study of Opera, both for the 90’s and for the present.

Until someone writes one, you can do a small, fun one of your own.

If you’re interested in UX design or understanding innovation, I highly recommend giving their latest release a spin: it will be the most interesting software you’ve installed in some time.

Download Opera 9.6


4 Responses to “Innovation case study: Opera Web browser”

  1. Jorge

    I tried it… 300Mb with gmail, vs the already unexplained 120Mb Firefox. It’s a mem guzzler!
    Innovation wise, if it happened as you said, then it’s easy to see Opera was the leader, everybody followed it, and now it’s not distinct from the pack. Being innovative and not able to protect it, it’s a bitch.
    I see gestures, something I long incorporated on Win. using StrokeIt (check it out).
    Productivity Widgets are scarse and dubious (nice to have “Chuck Norris Facts”, although there are websites dedicated to that).

  2. Percy

    Opera is a superb browser. I’ve been using it since version 5 (or thereabouts) and I’ve never stopped using it since.

    Opera’s free version was ad-supported for quite a while and only later did they give away the browser for free. Also, they’ve not open sourced their browser like Firefox. I think Firefox’s marketing blitz ( coupled with its openness probably made it a more compelling “sale” over IE. Plus, the open source community’s always stoked about taking on Microsoft.

    I’ve heard good things about Opera’s mobile browser as well. It’ll be interesting to hear other people’s thoughts why Opera has never been able to dominate the market.

  3. Divya

    Oh I am SO glad you did this for Opera! I love opera and have been using it since 2003. I hated the ad-supported version, but the new ones are really great and best browser for having 10 tabs open at one go!



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