Is Facebook looking to enter the browser game?
Facebook has had its fair share of problems since it went public just over a week ago. Shares have been going down; there are already lawsuits and allegations of what could be considered insider trading. Amidst all of this turmoil it has been easy to miss one important fact; Facebook now has cash to burn. The big question is how Facebook will use this money to generate the sort of growth investors need to see.
One rumour is that Facebook is looking to buy the Opera software. If this is true it is an interesting change in direction for Facebook. Opera make an internet browser with an estimated user base of 200 million across a variety of platforms. Most interestingly it has a hugely popular and successful mobile browser with over 10 million downloads on the Google Play Store and over 80,000 ratings on the iTunes store. These numbers are formidable and do not include downloads from the Opera Software website or other app stores (including Opera’s own app store and others such as Amazon).
If Facebook do go ahead in purchasing Opera they will become a serious player in the browser wars. Google’s Chrome is currently the most used browser, just ahead of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (as of recent stats). Other popular browsers include Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox. In the past week Yahoo have also launched Axis which means the field is getting pretty crowded. Safari and Internet Explorer, as native browsers with their own operating system, are here to stay. Even Google Chrome is close to the point of integration with an operating system in Android (Google really needs to incorporate chrome into versions of Android other than Ice Cream Sandwich). Opera and Firefox already have a diehard supporter base which really leaves Axis fighting Netscape Navigator for crumbs. and crumbs they are.
Mark Zuckerberg has stated he is looking at better mobile integration for facebook, and by purchasing one of the most popular mobile browsers Facebook could become a serious power player in the mobile arena. Imagine a browser of Opera’s calibre with built in Facebook and Instagram capabilities (Facebook also recently acquired Instagram), it could become a must have mobile app for Android, iPhone and even Windows phones. As an Android user, I am not yet sold on the Chrome Beta, and a browser such as Opera could be exactly what is needed as the inbuilt Android browser is far from groundbreaking.
At this stage the rumour is just that, a rumour, but if I were a player in the browser market I would be seriously interested in any development on this front.