Opera hits 300m users, switches to WebKit and Chromium

13 Feb 2013

Opera Software has reached a milestone 300m monthly users across all its browser products and has also announced it will no longer be developing its own rendering engine, but will instead switch to WebKit and Chromium.

Opera web browsers are available on smartphones, tablets, TVs and computers across a number of platforms. The most popular versions are Opera Mobile and Opera Mini, and the company is honing its sights on mobile web browsing.

“The 300m marks the first lap, but the race goes on,” said Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software. “On the final stretch up to 300m users, we have experienced the fastest acceleration in user growth we have ever seen. Now, we are shifting into the next gear to claim a bigger piece of the pie in the smartphone market.”

By switching to the open-source WebKit (and, to a lesser extent, Chromium), which Opera believes is becoming the standard for the web, the company will free up resources previously tied into developing its own engine and allow it to focus on creating new features and products.

“The WebKit engine is already very good, and we aim to take part in making it even better. It supports the standards we care about, and it has the performance we need,” said Håkon Wium Lie, Opera Software CTO. “It makes more sense to have our experts working with the open-source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium, rather than developing our own rendering engine further. Opera will contribute to the WebKit and Chromium projects, and we have already submitted our first set of patches to improve multi-column layout.”

WebKit currently powers Apple’s Safari and Google Chrome, currently the world’s most popular web browser.

Opera will make a gradual transition to the WebKit engine this year for most of its upcoming versions. The first of its products following this change – a new Android browser – will be on show at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.

Opera has been experimenting with WebKit in several R&D projects, such as one code named ‘ICE’ which involves developing a full-touch browser being developed for tablets.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.