Case in point: Earlier this spring, von Tetzchner vowed to swim from his native Norway to the United States if the Opera 8 browser was downloaded a million times in its first four days of release.
It wasn't even close, and a few days later von Tetzchner had to jump into a "freezing Oslo fjord" to begin his dog paddle to America.
As he celebrates Opera Software's 10th anniversary, co-founder von Tetzchner is naturally ready to make some big claims about the company's next decade. Too big for his britches? Maybe so, but after all the ups and downs of the first decade of the Internet Age, von Tetzchner can lay claim to an accomplishment that's beyond the reach of most of his colleagues from the Class of 1995: His company survived.
CNET News.com recently spoke with von Tetzchner about the future of browser development, Opera's competition with Microsoft and how he plans to morph the company into more than just the "alternative" to the mainstream.
Q: As you consider Opera's future, how much of your user base is made up of people who are always going to look for the alternative because they just hate Microsoft?
Von Tetzchner: Microsoft hasn't really improved on their browser for five years. That's a long time not to update a product and especially when it's the most used product in the world.
But that isn't anything new. What do you think will shake more peoples' thinking to adopt something that is not in the mainstream?
Von Tetzchner: When it actually comes down to governments saying, "Hey, there is a security problem," then things will change.
The next version of Internet Explorer is supposed to have enhanced security features, and Microsoft says that will take care of most of the complaints people have had with IE. Let's assume for the sake of argument that that's true. Where does that leave Opera?
Von Tetzchner: What you're describing is, I think, an unrealistic situation. I don't think Microsoft is capable--or even willing--to fix their security issues. If they do, it's great. I think it's good for the Internet and for the community that security is good in all browsers.
Now, security is not the real issue why people have been using Opera. Most of it has been because of functionality. We had things like sessions long ago, for example. I don't know about you, but I always have something like 10 or 20 Windows open at any one time, and if I have a power failure, I would like to get those Windows open at the same time--and I do because with Opera it's not a problem. If my machine hangs or there's some kind of problem, I just turn off the machine, turn it on again and I'm there.
How does the presence of alternative browsers like Mozilla and Firefox affect Opera? It seems that you'd all be fighting for that audience of people open to using alternatives to Microsoft.
Von Tetzchner: There are obviously some users who go between Opera and Mozilla. They have Opera one week, Mozilla the next week, and back to Opera....But we have a shared common goal: We would actually like to see open standards prevail.
Has it helped with sites that don't render well in Opera?
Von Tetzchner: There's been some of that. In some cases, sadly, they fix the site for Firefox and not for Opera. Obviously, as our market share grows, the problem becomes less and less. Mozilla is struggling with this. We've struggled with this.
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