Execs are hoping that today's announcements, which rid the browser of both licensing fees and ads, will win over new converts.
Opera Software wants to be the world's number two browser, said the Norwegian company's chief executive, and one step in that direction is to dump ads in its software.
"Our goal is to become the number two browser," said Jon S. von Tetzchner, Opera's CEO. "It's going to be tough to get the number one spot from Microsoft."
That means supplanting Mozilla's Firefox, which by all metrics owns second place. As of last week, NetApplications pegged Firefox with 8.3 percent of browser market share, compared to Microsoft Internet Explorer's 86.3 percent.
"We just want to have more users than Firefox," said Tetzchner. "I hope they have a significant market share as well."
Chutzpa aside, Tetzchner said he's counting on the removal of ads from Opera to grow his browser's user base. That, he said, is more important than the revenue from the ads once placed in the program.
"Over time, our revenues through third-party agreements, such as with Google and eBay, grew more than the revenues from the ads within the browser," said Tetzchner. "Right now, 45 percent of our revenues are coming from things other than ads, including search deals [with Google]. It's these improved agreements that allowed us to go free."
The more users for Opera, he said, the more lucrative those deals become.
But Tetzchner has a hard row to hoe. By NetApplications' count, Opera has a very small slice of the browser market: just 0.62 percent.
"With the additional users we'll gain from taking Opera free, we'll make more revenue in the long run," Tetzchner said.
Opera 8.5 can be downloaded from the company's Web site.
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