There are now more people using Android’s web browser than there are people using Opera Mini

There’s a tiny company in Norway that’ll forever remain in my heart, Opera Software. Back in August 2005 they released a beta version of Opera Mini, a browser that let anyone with a feature phone surf the internet. What made this possible was server-side rendering technology. Instead of a device grabbing all the HTML, JavaScript, and images that make up a website, and then parsing it to make it readable, Opera Mini did all the heavy lifting in their server farms, compressed the final result, and then sent it back down to your phone. Sure, there’s some latency involved, but when you’re eliminating 90% of the “useless” data that makes up a website you’re doing a huge service for people who spend a significant amount of their disposable income on their phone bill.

Technology being what it is, things get better with time. Networks get faster, processors get faster, screens get bigger, the list goes on and on. Whereas before Opera Mini was my default browser, today it’s something I rarely use, but I still have it on my iPhone in case I find myself in the few remaining parts of Finland that don’t have access to a 3G network. With time we’ve also seen companies clone the Opera Mini concept, most notably Nokia, who purchased an American company called Novarra in March 2010. Several months later, in July, Nokia released “Ovi Browser”, which GSMArena rightfully called an Opera Mini impersonator. Even Amazon cloned the Opera Mini idea with the “Silk Browser” in the Kindle Fire tablet that launched a little over three months ago.

Anyway, back to Opera, they invented Opera Mini because the technology available over half a decade ago just wasn’t up to snuff for tackling serious web browsing. Since that’s no longer the case, their software has slowly been losing market share. According to StatCounter, which provides an analytics service for websites, last month Android’s built-in browser surpassed Opera Mini to become the most used mobile browser on the face of the planet. The exact numbers are: Android 22.67%, Opera 21.7%, and right behind Opera is the iPhone, with 21.06%.

This is a milestone I’ll never forget. To me it signifies the beginning of the end of feature phones, the beginning of the end for Opera’s current business model, and the genuine start of what analysts have hyperbolically been calling the “mobile internet revolution” for the past few years.

Disclosure: The image above is from an event Opera held in Oslo last November that I attended. They paid for my flights, hotel, my meals, everything. Back in the summer of 2009 I also interviewed with Opera, to be a part of the Opera Mini team, but I (sadly) didn’t get the postion.

  • Benjamin

    Hi Stefan, 
    great article. I was wondering if you know what it the everange income per unique visit in a mobile browser. I have been researching the mobile browser business model in order to understand what should be my marketing goals. Looking forward for your feedback. 

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