08 November, 2010

The power of Opera's caching and its business model

The Register's journalist visited Opera and wrote this very interesting story, Shhh... Opera holds the web's most valuable secret.



Some history of Opera's web compression technology 
End users know this as Opera Mini:
Six years ago, two Opera engineers came up with a way of saving mobile operators money, by compressing web pages and sending them over slow, high-latency 2G cellular links in binary chunks. WAP had tried to do the same thing with WSP, but nowhere near as efficiently, and WAP required websites to created content in the WML format.
Opera's insight was that CPU time on servers was cheap, but on a humble mobile phone, CPU and bandwidth were very expensive. A web page may need to talk to 20 other servers, and some of these need to talk to other servers. This bricolage then needs to be reassembled locally, a task that has increasingly taxed CPUs over the years. (A CSS file contains conflicting positioning information using several co-ordinate systems - these are resolved locally.)
Opera initially offered the technology as a caching proxy to operators, called Mobile Accelerator. Then it decided to offer it directly to end users, via a new small lightweight browser that talked directly to a proxy hosted by Opera itself [ie Opera Mini].

Opera's Web Cache is growing 
From the report by El Reg:
Google currently handles 85 billion transactions a month. From 2008 to 2009 Opera grew from 21 billion to 36.9 billion. It is growing faster than Google, and at some point in the not-too-distant future, on current trends, Opera will overtake it.

Opera's Revenue Model
The crux of the article is that Opera has chosen not to monetise this advantage (eg by injecting ads into this cache).

The article lists Opera's revenue sources:
  1. licensing and royalties 
  2. income from active users and transactions 
  3. "internet economy" income such as driving referrals to search engines 

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