Why does Facebook want to buy Opera?

The word around the campfire this week-end is that Facebook wants to buy Opera Software. Given the recent high-profile acquisition of Instagram (Facebook.com) for $1B, the whole IPO debacle (Forbes.com), and the release of a clone of aforementioned Instagram, I guess everything’s possible.

But actually I think it makes a lot of sense for Facebook to buy Opera Software. Part of the reason the IPO is such a mess is that the expected profits for H2’12 won’t be as high as expected. The reason for this? More and more people connect to Facebook using mobile devices (tablets are included in this). And it so happens that Facebook makes less money when you connect in this fashion rather than with a regular PC computer.

Why? Two words: less advertisement. In order to speed up page load times and such, FB made a “product decision” to remove some of the advertisement. With the advent of the Rise of the Tablets, this is a strategic error from Facebook.

They need new means to capitalize on their users grow the company. And Opera is already built in a way that would completely work in the way Facebook makes money. See, FB is successful as a business because the ads they display are (supposedly) directly targeted at the users that look at them. FB studies what you like, what you comment on, what groups you joined, what pages you visit (using the “Like” buttons and such now on most websites), and so on. They can then sell that profile to advertisers, and make them pay a premium for it.

How can you go from there? Well Opera Mobile, for a few years now, has got the capability to off-load some of the rendering and parsing and all that to Opera’s servers. If these servers are managed by Facebook, they could be assured that they don’t miss a thing from your online browsing activities. They would not depend on webmasters they don’t control anymore, they would not depend on you being connected to the website.

So it makes complete sense for Facebook to acquire Opera. Probably less than it would to build it from scratch – Google’s immensely popular browser is open source, and that must have helped development a lot. I don’t see FB going the open source way.


About acastaner

I'm the EMEA Technical Lead for Application & Security at Spirent. I specialize in layer 4-7 technologies, Cloud, Programming and CyberSecurity.
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