The Future of the Opera Brand (?)
I have been an Opera User since it's earliest days and at one point even paid for an "ad-free" version many years ago. When the move to Chronium was announced; like most, my reaction was a feeling of disappointment and concern. However, I decided to roll with the punches and try to use the newer versions with some optimism that they would eventually become something like the old Opera I knew and loved. Recently, I learned via these forums that now my "myopera" email accounts will now be canceled. Worse, I did not learn from a notification from Opera itself but from a mention in the user forums. You would think a company would email its email users to inform them --- it's sort of a fundamental of customer management if you are providing e-mail services.
It may seem like a small thing, but dropping the email service --- the latest in a succession of feature and service cuts -- was the last straw for me and now I have fully shifted back to Mozilla for both my web browsing and POP email. Vanquished from my computer is Opera 12, Opera 17, and Opera Mail; and Opera mobile in gone from my phone. I just felt that I had had enough with Opera and it's continued disregard for its user base. What is interesting, is that I found my decision to be as much emotional as it was rational. For example I could have kept the Opera mail client to use with my other accounts as I had become quite accustomed to using it and find it very intuitive to use.
My own feelings and the widespread negative and often emotional comments from many in Opera's forums caused me to reflect on why we care so much. I mean, as other users have pointed out --- it is only a browser -- find another! But Opera is not "only a browser" . For me. and I suspect many others, Opera was my "gateway to the internet" for many years and frankly my "Comfort Zone" for the many hours spent online. The "Value" of Opera cannot be defined in bits and bytes, or features and benefits alone, but by the good will it has developed within it's user base. Niche brands like Opera tend to have much more loyal and enthusiastic user bases. The "Brand Value" of such niche products lies in it's user base, not in easy to replicate features.
Why would a company destroy it's good will within it's long time hard core user base?
1) Perhaps it is facing financial difficulties and needs to cut back wherever it can. This is possible, but from what little information I have been able to find. The company seems to be doing pretty well financially.
2) It's management and (in particular) , marketing/PR people are incompetent to the point of historic proportions. I guess this is possible (Nokia comes to mind as a precedent) but I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt.
3) Opera is about to be absorbed by a larger entity that already has it's own user base and needs the Opera brand for other reasons (e.g., brand awareness, strong mobile presence, technical expertise in browser development.)
It is the latter point that I feel is most likely to be the biggest factor in Opera's decision to alienate its user base and also withdraw it's community oriented services, Admittedly this is only speculation, and I have no insider knowledge, but this really looks like a case of a company realigning it's assets and services to suit a potential buyer or partner. Most of us remember the Facebook rumors of last year and I can think of no company whose values run more counter to Opera's previously cherished values as a brand to be trusted. The mere prospect of having a browser owned by Facebook is enough to want it off my machine. Other possibilities? Maybe Yandex or even Yahoo who seems to be trying to reassert itself against Google and Microsoft.
If I were a gambling man, I would wager that Opera will be bought up by or otherwise joined with another major internet oriented player within the next 12 months. Of course I could be wrong, but the point is the brand has lost my trust. The fact that they are making internet privacy harder adds to this feeling. A Unified Search box is not a good thing for privacy. The fact that you cannot set DDG or ISQuick as a default search engine suggests Opera is moving increasingly selling out to the big guys rather than respecting user customization and privacy options. The problem with Opera is not their (probably over-worked) developers, but rather their management of their Brand reputation.
Opera is a business and nobody can begrudge them their efforts to make money. Change also is a fact of life, particularly in the technology sector. But when a company begins to take the trust of its users for granted, it is not a good thing; and an internet without the old Opera we knew and trusted, is a lesser internet.
Ps: A special shout-out and thank you to the many forum members who have helped me over the years --- the names "Burnout" and "Harvaard" come to mind in particular. I have never participated in these forums so never had the opportunity to say thank you for the many times I found useful information here.