"It feels good to be able to do this, because we think it will give users a better experience," said Opera communications director Tor Odland. "For us, it will help us increase market share and make ourselves available to those outside the technological world."
The strategy shift was possible as a result of a boost in its search-related revenue stream, noted Odland. In the past, Opera relied on search as only one part of its model but has now made agreements with search firms like Google, allowing the company to drop banner ads and user fees.
Opera also expects to gain revenue through its fee-based support services, which are available to users for $35 per year.
In making the shift, the company expressed confidence that more users will soon be singing Operas praises.
"Its an excellent time for browsers that are an alternative to Internet Explorer," Odland noted. "Were joining Firefox in the crusade to win IE users."
Currently, Opera commands a very thin slice of the browser market pie, noted WebSideStory analyst Geoff Johnston. Operas numbers are tricky to pinpoint due to some browser cloaking tactics the company uses to be compatible with Web applications, but Johnston estimates that the browser commands between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent of the market.
Although it has expressed kinship with Firefox, Opera may actually find that it will have to battle that browser for more market share rather than IE, Johnston said.
"At one point, Opera had the room to eat away at IEs market, but it could be that now its too late," he said. "Adoption with Firefox is slowing as the early adopter crowd is drying up. That means Opera and Firefox will have to compete for the mainstream, where there are fewer converts available for alternative browsers."
In addition to its model change, Opera also noted that two security vulnerabilities reported by Secunia on Tuesday have been patched in the most recent browser, Opera 8.50.
Rated as "moderately critical," the flaws are in the Opera Mail client, and can be exploited to spoof the name of attached files and to conduct script insertion attacks.
In its fix, Opera noted attachment URLs are now used instead of cache URLs for viewing attachments.
Other security changes include a fix for a drag-and-drop vulnerability that allowed unintentional file uploads and improvements to handling of must-revalidate cache directive for HTTPS pages.