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Opera is the oldest browser, and it is still surviving

The 42-year-old Von Tetzchner may have stepped down as CEO of Opera Software in January, but is still actively involved with the firm’s policy and marketing.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 09, 2010, 09.09 AM IST
Jon S Von Tetzchner and a colleague, Geir Ivarsoy, developed a Web browser while working for Telenor in 1994. In 1995, they founded Opera Software and launched their first public browser, Opera, a year later. It is the oldest-surviving browser company. The 42-year-old Von Tetzchner may have stepped down as CEO of Opera Software in January, but is still actively involved with the firm’s policy and marketing.

What was your experience in creating one of the early browsers?

After developing the browser, the two of us negotiated a deal with Telenor to take it outside the company. We took up the challenge of competing with browsers like Mosaic and Explorer. We started with two people and a capital of $7,000 and it is now one of the oldest surviving browser. Down the years, IBM, Apple and Oracle have all launched their own browsers but were not able to keep them running.

Where is the Web headed?

Browsers are the foundation of the Web and are very clearly affecting lives of people significantly. There is a vast set of people who can’t imagine life without Web although it has a history of just about 15 years. I feel, in the next few years, it will start creeping into Cellphones, TV and other gadgets in a big way and PC will no more be the mainstay for browsers.

How was the start-up environment when you started off?

Ours were a fairly unique scenario. We started with two which was doubled to four the next year. We were actually doubling our head count each year for the next few years. Location for us did not matter because of the net.

Opera may be the longest-surviving browser but its market share had remained at less than 5% globally. What went wrong?

IBM, Apple and Oracle all gave up on their browser projects since the market is really very competitive. Google’s browser is part of its operating system and remember, Google is financially a very strong company. Despite all this, Opera now has 150 million users for its desktop browser and mobile browser, Opera Mini. To boot, it is the world’s most popular mobile browser with a 71 million active user base.

What’s your strategy for the Indian market?

Apart from our focus on the desktop segment, we are also focused on mobile, TV, set-top-box and media players. Opera is working with national brands like Nokia, Samsung and LG. Mobile is expected to be the big in the next few years in India and it is expected to grow at a very fast pace. We already have a range of browsers for all range of cellphones, from mid range to the premium segment. Our cell phone browsers use a data compression technology which allows faster browsing.

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