Opera Software is one of the original companies behind the global internet.org initiative, and to that end, many of our solutions are developed with an eye toward how to fulfill our ambitious objectives. We sat down with Opera Software VP of Product Partnerships Jan Standal to talk about Opera’s plans for bringing the next billion online through internet.org and our own products and services.
Internet.org is often thought of a Facebook initiative, yet there are many other large companies involved. How has Opera been a leader in this effort so far?
Jan: Last year Facebook presented a huge problem on how to grow the internet. What we saw in the challenges they presented, and how they were going to address them, fit perfectly with what we as a company were already doing at Opera. Addressing connectivity issues by bringing the internet to more people; growing it faster; giving people access to a faster mobile internet experience at a lower cost. This is exactly what we have been doing since the launch of Opera Mini in 2006. It made sense for us to join this consortium of companies, internet.org, and become part of something bigger in how we operate.
What are Opera’s goals as a founding partner?
Jan: We believe there are three fundamental issues. The first is how to bring a better internet experience to people all over the world, and secondly, grow the internet by providing people with faster internet access at a cheaper cost.
To do this we have the unique compression technology that we have been working on for many years that is built into our mobile products. On top of this compression technology we also provide new ways for people to purchase new data plans through Opera Web Pass and now also with the new Sponsored Web Pass offering.
The third and final issue is that we also believe that the internet is a fundamental and important part of peoples’ lives. We believe that the internet is something that everyone should have access to, and that we, as a company with products that provide access to the internet, have a responsibility to educate people about what the internet is. The new users coming online today don’t have the same experience that many of us with years of understanding what the internet is all about, so we need to educate people also. Part of what we do is that we work with certain organizations and companies to not only provide the most popular services in our products but to also work with organizations like Wikipedia (by giving it a default Speed Dial in our products) in order to help distribute Wikipedia in many of the countries we are in – and in turn, educate the new people coming online.
How does Opera hope to achieve these goals?
Jan: On the consumer side, the most important thing for us is to provide our users with fantastic products. We make great end-user products that are very popular worldwide. These products also need to provide a faster internet experience, especially in emerging markets. We have been working hard on making our turbo compression technology faster and more efficient than ever before. We also work to take our unique Rocket Optimizer technology, which enables video compression, and are brining that into our consumer products. Our latest product, Opera Max, not only compresses web pages and images, but compresses practically all data traffic that goes through the device – including video traffic.
Why is Sponsored Data an effective means of bringing the internet to the next billion users?
Jan: Brands are constantly searching for new ways to reach and engage with consumers on their mobile phones. Sponsored Web Pass allows brands to easily reach new users by providing something extremely valuable to consumers: free internet access. The reason Sponsored Web Pass is effective in growing the number of people getting online from their phones is because it’s free. Many people still have reservations about using the internet, especially from their mobile phones. The reasons for this are two-fold; many people have problems understanding the concept of confusing, megabyte-based mobile data plans and what they’re all about. Secondly, they don’t understand what makes the internet worth engaging in. So these are two fundamental issues we need to address. The first issue we address via Opera Web Pass, which presents users with mobile data packages that are easy-to-understand and affordable. The second is taken care of with Sponsored Web Pass, which makes it easy for people to get online, often for the first time, and try out the internet without being faced with the costs.
What are your goals/next steps for moving Opera’s involvement in the internet.org initiative forward?
Jan: Internet.org fits very nicely with what we do at Opera today. It allows us to find out how we can improve as a company. One of the things we found so far is that internet.org is a fantastic vehicle for putting emphasis on how important it is to grow the internet population, and how we are going to bring the next billion online. I think our role as a company is going to focus more on the web part of this and raise these questions about what is really good with the web; why we are providing access to the web, and what kind of content we are helping people drive access to on the web. This latter part is where we are going to see Opera differentiate, and this is where our focus will be going forward.