Dumb ideas? Facebook to buy Opera? Build own smartphone?

Dumb ideas? Facebook to buy Opera? Build own smartphone?

Summary: Rumors have it that Facebook is considering buying the company behind the Opera Web browser and it's working on its own smartphone.

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Facebook looks pretty the same on Opera as it does on any Web browser.

Facebook looks pretty the same on Opera as it does on any Web browser.

According to Pocket-lint, sources close to Facebook have told them that the newly IPOed social networking company is considering buying Opera Software, the Opera Web browser's parent company. Another rumor has it that Facebook wants to build its own smartphone. I don't see either move making a lot of sense.

If Facebook were to buy Opera Software, its price might be on the same order as the billion plus it paid for Instagram. Opera currently has a market cap of $679-million. In addition, Opera has a small, but loyal, number of users. Still, loyal as they may be, Opera has long trailed Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari in sheer number of users. In April 2012, by StatCounter's numbers, Opera only had 1.72% of the world Web browser market. This leaves it, as it has been for years, solidly in last place in the Web browser derby.

In short, Facebook certainly wouldn't be increasing its market-share with its own Web browser. Heck, Facebook doesn't even list Opera as one of its supported browsers.

Perhaps you're thinking that it might be nice to have a Web browser that's designed to make the most of Facebook. That does sound plausible... until you remember that there already is a Web browser just for Facebook: RockMelt.

RockMelt takes Google's open-source Chromium Web browser code, which powers Chrome, and pairs it up with Facebook, Twitter, and RSS integration to produce a dedicated social-network Web browser. It may sound good, but after being out for a year and a half, RockMelt still has a microscopic market-share. Flock, a similar social-networking browser, was discontinued last year and it has more market-share—a big 0.02%--than RockMelt does. No one is beating the doors down for a Web browser that's optimized just for social networking.

Might someone be interested in a smartphone just for Facebook then? According to the New York Times, a Facebook employee said, "Mark [Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO] is worried that if he doesn’t create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms."

Ah... and the problem with that is?? It's just a Web site. A very popular Web site, but still, it's just a Web site. Yes, you can use apps for it instead, but so what? I don't feel any need to trade my Droid smartphone in for a Facebook, eBay or Yahoo phone. Do you?

On the other hand, until recently Opera was the number one mobile Web browser. It might make some sense to have a paired Facebook smartphone and mobile Web browser.

And, lest we forget Facebook does have Mark Zuckerberg as its CEO. You know, the same guy who decided that Instagram was worth a billion bucks. So, why not? It's not like Zuckerberg has to answer to either his stockholders or his board. He doesn't. If Zuckerberg wants to waste a few billion on a dedicated Facebook smartphone and Web browser there's nothing to stop him.

I, for one, just don't see a lot of sense in either move. Facebook is just a popular Web site. Seriously, why would anyone want a Web browser or mobile device just for it when hundreds of millions of Facebook users use it every day with existing Web browsers and devices?

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22 comments
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  • Facebook now must perform

    o Innovate
    o Acquisitions

    Seems that there is a pile of cash now so acquisitions is going to be a regular happening. Hopefully they will improve the bottom line progressively.
    DTS - Your Linux Advocate
  • I hope not

    Opera is a great browser, I can't see an acquisition being a good thing for them.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: I hope not

      I agree with Opera being a great web browser. I will stop using it if Facebook acquires any kind of a stake in Opera Software.

      And if Facebook gets a stake in Opera Software, you can bet that the first thing over the wall will be Opera Unite (which is currently planned to be removed from the browser in version 12 and transformed into an extension).
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Not the stupidest ideas

    Assuming they don't overpay, buying Opera might not be a bad idea. Opera's technology is very good, it's at least as good as Chrome, so paying a normal premium (i.e. a billion for a company with a $679M valuation) isn't bad business assuming that they can retain Opera's engineering team. Opera's problem has never been their technology, it's that they have no of attracting mindshare. Google has shown that it's possible to grab significant market share if your brand name is strong enough. Facebook has a brand name, that alone might be enough to give Opera the opportunity it needs. It certainly makes more sense than Instagram did. At least Opera is a real company with nearly 700 employees, a decent product and revenue.,Instagram has 12 employees, no revenue and a crappy app that deliberately ruins your photos.
    bjrosen@...
    • I'm going to get rich buying Facebook stock...

      Google offers services that people use. They built their brand on web search. Facebook lets you know what your 'friends' are doing today. One of these is useful. You figure it out.

      If you want to know what your friends are doing, you could actually call and speak to them in person (I know, weird, right?). You can't search the internet one page at a time. Google seems to be good at web search, since most people use their services. Of course, you could use another search service. There's always Bing. Do you know anyone that has ever used Bing? I'd say a lot of people don't know what Bing is.

      Google is so good at what they do, the act of doing it is called Googleing. Have you ever heard anyone say they are going to "Chevrolet over to the store"? And the advantage Google has by developing their own browser is they don't have to pay someone to make them first in line for search. That is Mozillas basic business plan: money from Google. In that context, what does Facebook have to offer?

      Nothing.

      Comparing Facebook to Google is just dumb. Of course, if you feel like you know more about the business world than everyone else, then buy stock in Facebook. It's down 17% from the IPO. And falling like a Chevy off a cliff.
      pishaw
      • Why would a site own its own browser?

        Your comment is really weird, pishaw. Google (with its web sites) owns a browser.

        Why should web site company Google be able to make its own browser, but not web site company Facebook?
        wuppez
  • May be this is just a training?

    To see if they can use the IPO money to buy real companies. If this works OK, the next step, they will buy a real big company with real assets, for example a car manufacturer. After that, they will just dump FB.
    RelaxWalk
  • SJVN wrote: "Facebook is just a popular Web site"

    Hmm... Wasn't Google just a popular website before Android, the Chrome web browser and Chrome OS?

    Why did Google get into the OS and browser businesses? To get more users to visit their Web site. And to gain a measure of independence from Apple and Microsoft (and Mozilla). After all, Android, Chrome and Chrome OS are all free. Well, except for Microsoft's license fee for Android.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Creating a browser and smart phone is dumb, unless you are Google

      Chrome OS is genius, just like Google+. Anyone can recognize the genius, just look at the market share of Google+ and ChromeOS.
      Your Non Advocate
  • Opera share, though small now, will continue to drop as WP

    market share increases. No major platform includes it going forward and it has no advantages anymore. It's share, small as it is, is based on history not the future. FB itself isn't enough to get people to change phone ecosystems. If they cut off other platforms they'll be doing more harm than good. Sounds like a fiasco on the scale of google docs.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Confused?

      You seem a bit confused.

      Opera's market share in the mobile browser market is 22%, up from 20% a year ago. It's the #1 mobile browser.

      Opera got 8 million new users just in March.

      Opera has deals with most of the major operators, and they distribute Opera on their phones.

      So what are you talking about exactly?
      wuppez
  • MZ has delusions of grandeur.

    He wants to be Google or Apple. Good luck there, Zucky.
    Userama
  • Maybe you don't see the big picture...

    "I, for one, just don???t see a lot of sense in either move. Facebook is just a popular Web site."

    Entrepreneurs tend to have a big picture in sight. Maybe it's right, maybe it's not, but they often see something we don't. Here's for the crazy ones.
    themarty
  • Facebook buying Opera??

    That's just wrong. Opera will become another Spam browser. Facebook needs to find a newer younger browser. So the can change it to whatever abomination they want.
    d4rkn1ght
  • You are all wrong!

    It is not mainly about the browser. Opera has long known that the future of their browser was limited. They have been learning how to monitize marketing on mobile devices. They are getting quite good at it, and Facebook needs that capability.
    robert.williams@...
    • Opera's browser future?

      Why are you saying that the future of the Opera browser is limited? That's not what Opera seems to think at all, and the growth is actually accelerating.
      wuppez
  • Dumb ideas? Facebook to buy Opera? Build own smartphone?

    Its a dumb idea for anyone to buy Opera.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Vive l'Opera

      Opera is the lab that cooked up all the best browser features that are now standard in the industry - truly multi-threading tabbed browsing (try cascading Firefox tabs within the same one window); easy, one-button zoom; searching directly in the address bar; etc.

      The internet is a better place because of Opera's being an independent and productive lab. The only dumb idea of any company buying Opera is the threat that Opera would no longer be able to innovate and drive progress.

      Kinda like when Microsoft bought Hotmail.

      Of course, since Opera has long showcased how dismally bad MSIE is (announcing "tabbed browsing" as a new feature over ten years after Opera developed it is hilarious), can we be surprised that Loverock Davidson should attempt to take a shot at Opera? Unfortunately, that shot is based on neither reality nor fact, which is par for the course with LD.

      It'd actually be smart for Facebook to buy good programming, because FB programming is horrid (chat, for example, is atrocious in every sense of the word, takes chatting back 10 years). And, as such, Opera is the best when it comes to building a small, fast mobile browser.

      Just, please don't.
      Non-techie Talk
      • Don't say his name

        ...or rather, his monicker.

        It just makes him obnoxious.
        John L. Ries
  • Most acquisitions don't make a lot of sense

    But large corporations make them anyway and some of them do it to disguise the fact that their core businesses just aren't all that profitable anymore (I suspect that's true of Oracle). But I don't think Facebook is in that situation (yet), so FB's M&A activity make no sense at all.

    If Mark Zuckerberg wanted his own browser, it would be a lot cheaper for him to hire someone to write one.
    John L. Ries