Opera Web Browser Goes Freeware

Following a successful 24-hour giveaway last month, Opera Software has decided to drop the banner ads from its Web browser and permanently nix the licensing fee. Opera 8.5 is now available for download free of charge, putting new pressure on Firefox as it nears version 1.5.

"Today we invite the entire Internet community to use Opera and experience Web browsing as it should be," said Jon S. von Tetzchner, Opera CEO. "Removing the ad banner and licensing fee will encourage many new users to discover the speed, security and unmatched usability of the Opera browser."

Version 8.5 also brings to the table a number of other minor improvements, including Browser JavaScript for fixing broken Web sites on the fly and four security fixes.

Opera will continue to offer paid "Premium Support," but the company is likely to refocus its business around volume - much like Microsoft has done with Internet Explorer and Mozilla with Firefox.

"Some people might speculate that Opera couldn't compete by charging when AOL, Apple, Microsoft, Mozilla and most other browser developers give away software for free. Not so. Just the opposite is true," explained Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox.

"The Opera folks are betting their browser has reached a threshold of popularity where they can unshackle it from the fees. This clearly is a volume play that could pay off if enough people use the browser. Opera would be able to drive revenue through affiliate relationships, for example."

Opera spokesman Thomas Ford said the move to freeware was not made in response to the success of Firefox.

"This is really an opportunity to provide choice. Now users can select the safest and fastest Internet browser. Increasing our market share allows Opera to play a stronger role in shaping the future of Web innovation," Ford told BetaNews.

Opera 8.5 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and FreeBSD in 20 languages.

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