Opera is a Norwegian software company that specializes in web browsers, FinTech, and other services such as Opera News. The company's total user base, including users of its desktop browsers, mobile browsers and other services exceeds 380 million monthly active users.
Opera is headquartered in Oslo, Norway, with additional offices in Europe, China, and Africa. On July 27, 2018, Opera Software went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange, raising $115 million in its initial public offering.
Opera Software was founded as an independent company in Norway in 1995 by Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsøy. They had initially begun development of the Opera web browser while both working at Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor.
Opera Software's first product, the Opera web browser version 2.10 for Windows, was publicly released in 1996. Opera began development of its first browser for mobile device platforms 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 February 2004, Opera Software announced it was preparing for an initial public offering on the Oslo Stock Exchange in March. On March 11, Opera's IPO opened, trading under the symbol OPERA.
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".
In 2016, the company changed ownership when a group of Chinese investors purchased the web browser, consumer business, and brand of Opera Software ASA. The remaining assets were renamed as the Otello Corporation. The ownership change was initiated in February 2016 when 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. After divesting itself of the Opera browser and brand, Opera Software ASA[note 1] changed its name to Otello Corporation ASA.
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, 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 July 2018, Opera filed for an IPO. The company went public on the NASDAQ on July 27 and raised over $115 million.
In November 2019, Opera launched a new project called Opera News Hub. The platform helps bloggers create and share content. In January 2020, Opera acquired PocoSys, an Estonian startup that developed banking-as-a-service software. The deal also included an agreement to take over Pocopay, PocoSys's sister company. In June 2020, Opera partnered with APO Group to provide accurate information about COVID-19 in Africa. News articles from different health authorities are collected by APO and made available to Opera users through the Opera Mini browser and Opera News app.
Opera acquired YoYo Games from Playtech in January 2021 for US$10 million, from which the company also announced the launch of its Opera Gaming division to promote game development within the Opera GX browser with YoYo Games and its GameMaker game development software.
In January 2020, short-seller Hindenburg Research, a forensic financial research organisation, claimed that Opera offered 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."
Hindenburg Research also disclosed that they were holding short positions in Opera's shares, indicating that the organization would benefit financially from Opera's declining stock. 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.[better source needed]
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.