With a 25-year history as an alternative browser, Opera continues to innovate with an integrated crypto wallet and IPFS integration.
One of the challenges and delights of writing about the Web3 space is that you will get a different definition of Web3 every time you ask.
It's an understandable point of ambiguity since Web3 is still growing. Opinions are much more uniform on Web2 — centralized, monolithic and out of the user's control. In Web2, we users are the product, and our data is traded and sold for profit by nearly universally mistrusted big tech companies.
When we think of Web2, we think of Silicon Valley, not Oslo. Norway-based browser provider Opera has been one of the most agile and innovative players in the space for 25 years. With the launch of the Opera Crypto Browser in January and the March integration of a built-in crypto wallet, Opera is becoming one of the most established players courting the Web3 user.
We spoke with Susie Batt, Opera's Crypto Ecosystem Lead, to understand more about what makes a tech-forward, user-focused browser ready for the needs of the Web3 user.
BZ: What makes Opera the right company to help define the Web3 browsing experience?
Batt: "Opera has been one of the most innovative browsers over the past 25 years. I think it's Scandinavian innovation and the nimbleness to try and test things and build on them when they succeed and let them go when they don't. It's also very close to the mobile … Opera was the first browser natively integrated with a mobile phone. Our experience and technical know-how stem from the birth of mobile phones and having various browsers that interact on different platforms."
How does it tie in with Opera's mission?
"Opera's mission is to be a portal for all things on the web. That has evolved through the years, whether it's traveling in different parts of the world with different technical specifications, gaming, or accessing crypto products. Opera strives to offer trustworthy, safe, fun and innovative products. It's reflected in the broad palette of browsers that we have, whether it's shopping deals inside the main browser, gaming in the GX browser, or the crypto browser, which has an integrated non-custodial, multi-chain wallet for tokens and NFTs."
What did you see as the need within the Web3 space?
"Our goal is to be the one-stop platform to access a variety of coins and use a variety of wallets. We're chain agnostic and wallet agnostic. And if you want to understand more about NFTs or the metaverse, you can have your own journey through Crypto Corner — a Web3 content board we've integrated natively with the browser. We don't want to direct your experience, but we want to be the familiar first stop."
Isn't calling it a "crypto browser" potentially limiting if you have broader Web3 goals?
"Yeah, you're absolutely right. We will do a branded launch later this year, but we've been experimenting and making changes depending on usage and feedback. We will be dropping a new name for the crypto browser later in the year."
Dropping that name in favor of what new name?
"I can't tell you."
What do you hope to offer with the Opera Crypto Browser?
"We hope to bring in people from within and outside of the blockchain space, including those who want to learn but are reticent. We want to make the environment safe, welcoming, and fun so that they can get the information they need.
Many people have many different wallets and use them for different things. Likewise, you should be able to use your browser for many things and access various chains, depending on what you want to do and how you want to transact. So, we realize that the ordinary person who might not know that they will need to access Polygon MATIC/USD for XYZ and Ethereum ETH/USD for other things. In our wallet, which was launched at the end of last month, we also let users see their NFTs across each chain. It's not chain differentiated. There's potentially this sense of grief or shock when you can't see your NFTs, until you realize you're on the wrong network. It's those types of subtleties that add to the UI and UX.
Crypto users are used to many transactions and to waiting while checking Etherscan to see if transactions have gone through. We've removed some of that friction so that we'll have real-time alerts that say we've received a request, and it's going into the blockchain and then coming back for feedback. That feedback loop is missing in a lot of wallets."
What do you think of the Web3 browsing experience with other browsers?
"You have to know a lot more than you should. People have to put time into doing research with NFTs and where to buy them and how to buy them, and which wallet and which token. If you want to enter the metaverse, you've got to understand which platform to use and the drawbacks.
Crypto still doesn't have that 'AOL disk' moment where you can just put it in, and it configures and all of a sudden you have 10 free hours. It's just not there yet. And that's what we hope to be is the one starting point that you go to, and then wherever it takes you is your choice."
What is Opera's growth strategy?
"We are doing specific activations. Like this year, it's the crypto browser, but it's also the World Cup, and we have a big activation for the FIFA cup in November. So we hope to gain a lot of users from those two product events.
The real challenge is not converting users from other browsers. It's building the browser for Gen Alpha. What will our kids be using? Gen Alpha will number 2 billion by 2025. So that's three years from now, 2 billion new users. They will be doing things with a different perspective and mindset than we could imagine. So what browser will capture their interest? And who will be able to keep innovating as they change and move through the world? We are poised to capture their interest in their imagination now. And their trust, so that as they innovate, we innovate alongside them."
How is Opera expanding its functionality in 2022 to be a native Web3 browser?
"We are integrating the wallet in all of our browsers. So you will have access to your tools and wallets, whether you are using GX, mini, the regular browser, or the crypto browser. We want to have that uniform experience. It's been a process of integrating all these chains and moving the stack over. Hopefully, by the end of the year, you will have one experience across all platforms and across different chains on mobile or your desktop. And we're growing the number of chains that we integrate and the number of tokens that you can swap. So our latest integration is BNB Chain and we will also be integrating Algorand shortly.
IPFS integration and emoji domain integration are native to our browser. That is Web3 functionality that is not native in other browsers."
Why is Opera creating different versions of its browser if the goal is a uniform experience?
"There are different demographics. For example, gamers don't want crypto-centric skin. They want something that speaks to them. It's this tailored experience that makes the community and makes you feel like you're in a tribe with like-minded users to whom you can look for insights. Our goal isn't just to survive, it's to thrive through innovation. And I don't think one product can speak to everyone. Certainly, the technology behind all the different products will be synonymous with the Opera brand, but how you use it and how it looks should be nuanced."
For the sake of mainstreaming, wouldn't it make more sense to integrate these new features into the main Opera Browser?
"Well, the IPFS is integrated into the main browser, and the wallet will be in the main browser. So you have all the functionality, but it just will be called something else, and it'll look and feel different. What's underneath the hood is the same engine, but how it's packaged, how it looks, how it's developed, and how it's integrated will be different."
Is it your goal to become the de facto browser for Web3?
"I think we already are."
Are there any other Web3 browsers that you think are doing it well?
"They're probably doing it differently — maybe with token incentives. But we don't think it's a mutually exclusive space, and we don't want it to be that way. That's just not the culture of this technology. We think more browsers should be entering the decentralized browser space. We're surprised that more platforms aren't doing it."
In the Web3 world, we tend to talk about the limitless potential of the technology — while forgetting to deliver products and services that people will want to use. It makes sense for Opera, which has carved a niche as a tech-forward browser with its cross-platform work on the early mobile web, to lean into Web3 to differentiate itself in a space full of larger players.
Fortunately, a Web3-specific browser also makes sense for driving mainstream adoption. In March, Opera announced integrations with Solana SOL/USD, Polygon, StarkEx, Ronin RON/USD, Celo CGLD/USD, Nervos CKB/USD, IXO, and Bitcoin BTC/USD. As they add new chains, they can potentially make it easier for users to transact and see their holdings and transactions.
It seems inevitable that other mainstream browsers will follow Opera in serving the Web3 audience. Still, for now, Opera may hold a unique place in serving the Web3 community. I concur with Susie Batt — I am also surprised other browsers aren't already integrating wallets and supporting emojis. Yet, if history is any guide, they very soon will be.
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